PERTH Rare earths developer Vital Metals has started mining operations at its Nechalancho project, in Canada.
The ASX-listed company on Friday said that the mining fleet has been mobilised to site this week, with mining contractor Det’on Cho Nahanni Construction to start operations at the North T zone within the next few days.
All plant and equipment, including an ore sorter and associated infrastructure, will arrive at the mine site by the end of March, in preparation for rare earth production.
“We have been progressively achieving all the steps necessary to commence mining and rare earth production at Nechalanco over the past 12 months, and mobilization of the mining fleet is another important milestone,” said Vital MD Geoff Atkins.
“We are excited to be commencing operations at Nechalanco rare earths project and following our recent A$43-million raising, proud to be fully funded to become Canada’s first rare earth producer.”
Nechalanco will be developed in two stages, with Stage 1 focusing on the North T Zone resource and Stage 2 on the development of the much larger Tardiff deposit.
The North T Zone ore will be transported to Vital’s ore sorter on site at Nechalanco, creating a product suitable for further off-site processing at Vital’s rare earth extraction plant, in Saskatoon, which will produce a mixed rare earth carbonate product for sale to separation facilities.
The contractor is expected to undertake mining and crushing in a single campaign between March and September this year, with mined ore to be stockpiled for use in ore sorting operations between 2021 and 2023.
A second mining campaign will be required in 2024 to replenish stockpiles.
Vital aims to produce a minimum of 5 000 t of contained rare earth oxide by 2025 at the Nechalancho project, and has signed an off-take agreement with REEtec for Stage 1 production with the supply of 1 000 t/y for an initial five-year period.