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Press release from CNW Group

Frontier Rare Earths provides an update on its Zandkopsdrift project and other corporate activities

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Frontier Rare Earths provides an update on its Zandkopsdrift project and other corporate activities07:00 EST Wednesday, November 07, 2012TORONTO, Nov. 7, 2012 /CNW/ -Frontier Rare Earths Limited (TSX: FRO) ("Frontier" or the "Company") is pleased to provide a progress update on the Preliminary Feasibility Study that is being carried out at its Zandkopsdrift rare earth element project in South Africa ("Zandkopsdrift") and on the Company's other exploration, development and corporate activities.Preliminary Feasibility Study UpdateIn March 2012, Frontier published a National Instrument 43-101 ("NI 43-101") compliant Preliminary Economic Assessment ("PEA") on Zandkopsdrift, the results of which confirmed the proposed development to be both technically feasible and economically robust with a low risk profile.The PEA was based on an open-cast mining operation using conventional truck and shovel equipment, with minimal drilling and blasting.  A concentrator plant was to be located at Zandkopsdrift, designed to treat a target run of mine throughput of approximately 1 million tonnes per annum. The concentrator plant comprised crushing, flotation, acid cracking, leaching, thickening and filtration plants. Provision was also made in the PEA for an on-site sulphuric acid plant and a dedicated water desalination plant to be located at the coast close to Zandkopsdrift. Mixed rare earth carbonate produced at Zandkopsdrift was to be transported to a dedicated rare earth separation plant facility located at Saldanha Bay, 300km south of Zandkopsdrift. The plant had an output capacity of 20,000 tonnes per annum ("tpa") of separated total rare earths oxides ("TREO"), comprising two parallel 10,000 tpa production lines, with production scheduled to commence at the end of 2015.Following completion of the PEA, Frontier commenced work on the wide range of studies necessary to complete a NI 43-101 compliant Preliminary Feasibility Study ("PFS") on Zandkopsdrift in April 2012.  These studies are being carried out by the same multidisciplinary team of specialist consultants that was used by Frontier for the PEA. Good progress has been made on the PFS in the seven months since work commenced, with most of the requisite studies now either completed or at an advanced stage. The PFS is now targeted for completion in Q1 2013.  The highlights of the PFS work undertaken to date are summarised below:Geology, Drilling and ResourcesA revised mineral resource estimate (the "PFS Resource Estimate") is being prepared as part of the PFS.  This estimate will be based on the results of an extensive drilling program (the "PFS Drilling Program") that was completed after the PEA cut-off date and comprising 5,563 meters of diamond core drilling and 8,632 meters of reverse circulation percussion drilling.  The PFS Drilling Program, which is the final phase of resource drilling required at Zandkopsdrift prior to the completion of a Definitive Feasibility Study ("DFS"), has allowed Frontier to develop a very detailed understanding of the geology and controls on mineralisation at Zandkopsdrift.The majority of the rare earth mineralisation at Zandkopsdrift has been confirmed to be contained in monazite, which is hosted in weathered carbonatitic phlogopite breccia ("CPB") and rare earth enriched calcio-carbonatite dykes ("RED's") of up to 20 metres in thickness that have intruded the CPB.  Assay results from the PFS Drilling Program confirmed the presence of extensive high grade rare earth mineralisation and the continuity of mineralisation from surface to an average depth of about 80 meters, with very high grades in excess of 10% and as high as 19.5% TREO identified in many holes. Full details are available in the news release dated June 29, 2012.  The Company expects that the PFS Resource Estimate will result in the majority of the Zandkopsdrift mineral resource being upgraded to the measured and indicated categories and, on completion of the PFS, converted into proven and probable mineral reserves.Metallurgical Test WorkThe metallurgical test work program for the PFS (the "PFS Test Work") is being carried out by Mintek in South Africa and SGS Minerals Services in Canada, who are two of the world's leading rare earth metallurgical test work laboratories.  The primary focus of the PFS Test Work has been on optimisation of the flow sheet that was used for the PEA, the replication and confirmation of results from bench scale PEA test work at a pilot scale and the evaluation of process alternatives that could provide advantages in relation to capital expenditure, operating costs, metallurgical recoveries, impurity deportment and other factors.In order to supply sufficient representative material for the PFS Test Work, a 174 metre long trench was excavated to a depth of between 1.5 and 2.5 metres across the centre of the Zandkopsdrift deposit.  The sampling protocol followed was for the surface material to be discarded, the middle layer to be laid out and compacted to create a platform, with the lowest layer of material excavated from the trench being placed on top of the platform to be made up into the test work sample.  The trench intersected the principal rock types that comprise the Zandkopsdrift deposit, including the CPB and RED's, and the average grade along the floor of the trench was estimated (using a handheld x-ray fluorescence spectrometer ("XRF")) to be 2.8% TREO.  This has allowed a sample of 135 tonnes to be prepared for the PFS Test Work that is considered to be representative of the material to be mined at Zandkopsdrift in terms of both lithology and average TREO grade.A significant amount of optimisation and confirmation test work has been undertaken over the past six months as part of the PFS Test Work, the results of which confirm that the sulphuric acid-based flow sheet that was used as the basis for the PEA provides the optimum route for the processing of the monazite-hosted rare earth mineralisation at Zandkopsdrift.  Test work at a bench scale has also identified a number of improvements to the flow sheet.  These include:Beneficiation via wet high intensity magnetic separation ("WHIMS"), which test work results indicate can provide similar mass reduction and rare earths recoveries compared to flotation, but with lower expected capital and operating costs.A manganese pre-leach circuit prior to the cracking circuit, which provides a significant mass reduction with low rare earths losses, and a consequent reduction in both capital and operating costs of the cracking and other subsequent downstream processes.A flow sheet has been selected for the purposes of the PFS based on the test work that has been completed to date.  This flow sheet, which is currently undergoing a final continuous pilot plant test operation, comprises the following processes:A front-end physical upgrading section, which will include a crushing and milling section and beneficiation of a <15μm de-slimed fraction through a WHIMS circuit.The non-magnetics from the WHIMS circuit will be recombined with the de-slimed fraction and fed to a manganese pre-leach section, the output from which will be fed to the acid cracking section.The acid cracking section will be supplied with concentrated sulphuric acid to be produced onsite at Zandkopsdrift, which will be mixed with the feed material and baked in a rotary kiln to decompose the rare earth minerals.The baked concentrate will be water leached and the REEs precipitated as a 99% pure mixed rare earth carbonate. Thorium, uranium, iron and other contaminants will be removed by precipitation and disposed of to a lined tailings disposal facility.The mixed rare earth carbonate will be transported by road to the Saldanha Separation Plant.Mine DesignAn extensive program of work has been undertaken by Frontier's consultants on the mine design for Zandkopsdrift and all necessary mine design, geotechnical and related studies required for the PFS have now been completed, including:Full geotechnical investigation of the Zandkopsdrift deposit.Mine optimisation inputs and mine design work.Mine pit design.Surface layouts supporting the final mine pit design.Proposed production schedule.Processing plant layout.Tailings Disposal FacilityThe geotechnical investigation of the Tailings Disposal Facility ("TDF") site at Zandkopsdrift has been completed and soil samples have been submitted for analysis.  Sterilisation drilling of the TDF footprint has also been completed. The TDF site layout drawings indicating the final footprint as well as the preliminary layouts of waste dumps and haul roads have been completed. The TDF design basis for the PFS is unchanged from the PEA, and the capacity of TDF has been confirmed as sufficient for a life of mine of 30 years.Environmental Impact AssessmentThe Company has made considerable progress in relation to the required Environmental Impact Assessment ("EIA") since the PEA was completed, including a full legal review of the proposed activities at Zandkopsdrift. The EIA application was submitted to the Department of Environmental and Nature Conservation in the Northern Cape Province in June 2012 in accordance with the National Environmental Management Act ("NEMA"). The Company is continuing with all the monitoring and baseline assessments that are required to complete the EIA.  Activities required for a Scoping Report, including the necessary public participation documents, are at an advanced stage of preparation.Mine Access and Road DesignAssessment and preliminary design work for two access routes to/from Zandkopsdrift have been completed. An alternative access route to that used in the PEA is being investigated and appears, based on the preliminary assessment undertaken, to have good potential to reduce the capital and operating costs related to this aspect of the planned Zandkopsdrift operations.Sea Water Desalination PlantA suitable site for a sea water reverse osmosis plant to supply 2.0Mm3/year of water to Zandkopsdrift has been identified on the coast approximately 35km south-west of Zandkopsdrift.  The land on which this site is located has recently been acquired by Frontier. A cadastral survey of the site has been completed and a preferred water pipeline route to Zandkopsdrift identified. Lead consultants have been appointed for design of the desalination plant as well as for the water storage and transfer station, bulk power supply and access roads, and work is progressing well. Frontier's consultants are also progressing the EIA for the proposed water desalination plant together with all relevant permits and licences.GeohydrologyThe PEA assumed that all process water required at Zandkopsdrift would be supplied from the sea water desalination plant. As part of the PFS, the Company has undertaken a considerable amount of geohydrological work, including geophysics and drilling, to identify and test potential supplementary or alternative local groundwater sources. This work included long-term aquifer tests, which have now been completed, and submission of water samples recovered for analyses to determine the water's origin, quality and isotopic signature. A full sustainability analysis and modelling of groundwater to assess the potential for an alternative bulk water supply to the mine is at an advanced stage and will be completed once the final laboratory sample results are receivedSaldanha Bay Rare Earth Separation PlantDesign work for the Saldanha Bay Rare Earth Separation Plant ("SSP") for the PFS has recently been completed.  Mixed rare earth carbonate will be transported from Zandkopsdrift to the SSP, where it will be dissolved in hydrochloric acid into an aqueous solution.  The resultant solution will undergo a multi-stage solvent extraction and stripping process to produce ten separated saleable REOs, from lanthanum to dysprosium, plus yttrium, at purities of between 99% and 99.999%.Frontier has identified an alternative site for the SSP to that proposed in the PEA.  This site is also located within the proposed industrial development zone at Saldanha Bay, but is better situated in relation to proximity and access to power, water, road and rail, and has been selected as the site on which the SSP will be located.  The site, which is approximately 60 hectares in size, has been secured under option, with exercise of the option by Frontier conditional upon the securing of the requisite planning and permitting for development of the SSP and the provision by the landowner of certain infrastructural upgrades and improvements to the site.Discussions are at an advanced stage between Frontier and an established South African chemical company in relation to the development and operation of a dedicated chlor-alkali plant to be located on the Frontier site and adjacent to the SSP, in order to secure a supply of hydrochloric acid on an 'over-the-fence' basis. As reagents account for the majority of operating costs of rare earths separation plants, with hydrochloric acid being the single biggest contributor thereto, so it is expected that the proposed arrangement, if finalised, will provide significant advantages to the Company in relation to securing a long term supply of hydrochloric acid for the SSP at competitive prices.As part of its long term planning for the SSP, Frontier has already secured access to the following infrastructure and services that will be required for both the SSP and the associated chlor-alkali plant:50MVA (11kV) bulk power.Access road connecting the site with the existing tarred road.Provision for traffic capacity of ± 2,200 30t trucks/year.Supply of 1,900kl/day process water and 20kl/day potable water.Removal and disposal of 8.6kl/day of sewerage.Mining Right ApplicationWork on the mining right ("MR") application for Zandkopsdrift has progressed well and is now at an advanced stage. The MR application is scheduled to be completed in Q1 2013, after which it will be submitted to the South African Department of Mineral Resources (the "DMR").  It is expected that approval of the MR application and issuance of the MR will take approximately 12-15 months.Social and Labour ProgramA Social and Labor Plan ("SLP") is one of the key documents required to be submitted as part of a MR application. The purpose of an SLP is to specify the commitments that an applicant for a MR is prepared to make in relation to the development and support of the community in which the proposed mining operation will be located.  An SLP contains comprehensive human resource development programs, including an employment equity plan, a mine community development plan and a plan to manage downscaling and retrenchment when mining operations are concluded. These programs are aimed at promoting employment and advancement of the social and economic welfare of all South Africans whilst ensuring economic growth and socio-economic development and minimizing the impact of cyclical commodity price volatility, economic turbulence and physical depletion of the mineral resource on effected individuals, regions and local economies.As part of the process of development of the SLP, the Company has held more than 170 consultation meetings over the last 15 months with more than more than 1,000 people representing a very broad range of interested and effected parties in the Zandkopsdrift area.  Through this process Frontier has engaged with, and established widespread support from, local communities, political, business and traditional organisations and leaders.  The Company believes that this consultation will ensure the fullest support from local and central government for the development of Zandkopsdrift. The Zandkopsdrift SLP has now been completed and is ready for submission with the MR application.PFS Schedule As detailed above, significant progress has been made on the PFS since work commenced seven months ago, with most of the requisite studies now either completed or at an advanced stage.  Due to delays in the commencement of the final phase of metallurgical test work which is currently under way, the target date for completion of the PFS is now Q1 2013.  The Company intends to commence work on the DFS immediately on completion of the PFS, with the DFS schedule currently estimated to be 9-12 months.Specialist Rare Earth Consultants The Company has recently significantly increased its rare earths processing expertise and capabilities by the retention of two senior technical consultants, both of whom have extensive experience of the development and operation of rare earths processing and separation plants. One consultant has more than 30 years' experience across all aspects of rare earths processing and separation.  The second consultant has almost 50 years' experience in the rare earth sector, with a particular focus on rare earths separation, including rare earth separation from monazite ore.  Monazite is estimated to account for approximately 97% of the rare earths at Zandkopsdrift. The addition of these consultants has brought significant additional experience and operational expertise to Frontier, and is expected to be of great value as the development of Zandkopsdrift progresses.Working CapitalFrontier remains well funded, with approximately $29m cash (excluding the $23.8m to be received in November 2012 from Kores under the Strategic Agreement, as described below) and no debt. The Company's strong working capital position is expected to be sufficient to finance the Company's proposed exploration and development work programs and corporate overhead through the completion of a Preliminary Feasibility Study and a Definitive Feasibility Study for Zandkopsdrift. Since July 3, 2012 Kores has been responsible for 10% of all operating costs and expenses related to Zandkopsdrift.Kores Joint VentureFollowing the signing in December 2011 of a definitive strategic partnership agreement (the "Strategic Agreement") between Frontier and Korea Resources Corporation ("Kores"), Kores acquired an initial 10% interest in Zandkopsdrift, along with an off-take right and obligation for 10% of rare earth production from Zandkopsdrift for a cash consideration of C$23.8m. Payment for this initial 10% interest is due at the end of November 2012.  In October 2012 Frontier announced that it had entered into a revised strategic agreement (the "Revised Strategic Agreement") with Kores and under the terms of which it had principally been agreed as follows:Kores will have the option to increase its participation in Zandkopsdrift up to a 50% or equal interest with Frontier in Zandkopsdrift, together with an off-take right and obligation for up to 50% of production from Zandkopsdrift.The exercise of the above option by Kores will be conditional on, inter alia, Kores arranging project finance for the entire Zandkopsdrift development on the best available market terms and such project finance being approved and accepted by Frontier in its absolute discretion.Kores will commit to providing its pro rata funding for the portion of Zandkopsdrift development costs not covered by the project finance.Kores will provide Frontier with technical and operating assistance for the design, construction and operation of Zandkopsdrift facilities.Frontier and Kores will cooperate in relation to downstream opportunities in the area of rare earth metals, alloys and magnets.Further information and details on the Revised Strategic Agreement is available in the Company's news release dated October 23, 2012.Other Projects/ActivitiesWhile Zandkopsdrift has been and will continue to be the primary focus of the Company's evaluation and development activities, the Company is currently working on and evaluating a number of other exploration projects and opportunities, as outlined below. The work expenditure commitments in relation to these projects are not material in relation to the Company's current working capital position or in relation to the planned expenditure on the PFS and DFS programs for Zandkopsdrift.Zandkopsdrift Regional ExplorationExploration and evaluation work was carried out during 2012 targeting additional potential satellite rare earths deposits identified within the Zandkopsdrift prospecting right area.  Ground geophysics and mapping was carried out in the area immediately surrounding the Zandkopsdrift deposit and on targets that had been identified by the regional geophysical survey flown in 2011.A total of 36 targets were identified by the geophysics and mapping and 69 boreholes totalling 1,956 metres were drilled on 11 of these targets.  The drilling was successful in identifying three rare earths-bearing targets that returned elevated TREO grades that merited additional follow up work.  The highest grades recovered were from the Klipheuwel target, which included a drilling intersection with an average grade of 4.36% TREO (estimated by XRF) from a depth of 8-19m.  The grades at Klipheuwel are similar to grades at Zandkopsdrift and are potentially economic. However, given the very substantial resource already defined at Zandkopsdrift and the fact that the Klipheuwel target is significantly smaller than Zandkopsdrift, the Company has decided to put further work on this and the other targets on hold until the Zandkopsdrift PFS has been completed.Bushmanland ProjectAs previously announced in Q1 2012 Frontier's 74% owned South African subsidiary, Victor Minerals (Pty) Limited ("Victor"), was granted a prospecting right over an area of approximately 75,000 hectares in the Bushmanland region of the Northern Cape, approximately 80km northeast of Zandkopsdrift (the "Bushmanland Project"). The remaining 26% of Victor is held by South African shareholders in accordance with South African black economic empowerment requirements.   Frontier's exploration team has extensive experience in this region and the Bushmanland Project was selected as an area that was considered to be prospective for rare earths and other minerals.  The Bushmanland Project covers the southern portion of a volcanic field that intruded the regional gneissic basement terrain and contains approximately 300 intrusions, the majority of which have alkaline and/or carbonatitic affinities.  The Bushmanland prospecting right covers rare earths and a number of related minerals.The initial orientation and exploration work carried out by the Company in 2012 has established the presence of rare earths mineralisation in numerous locations throughout the project area, which indicates that the Bushmanland Project has the potential to be become a new rare earths province.Work completed includes an airborne geophysical survey flown over the project area and follow-up ground geophysics and field mapping which was undertaken over a number of the areas of interest that had been identified by the airborne survey.  This work has resulted in the identification of over 140 intrusions, 22 of which are estimated to be greater than 400 metres in diameter, with the largest being approximately 2,000 metres in diameter.  Two types of rare earths mineralisation have been identified to date:Rare earths-bearing pipesSampling has been undertaken around the margins of some of the larger intrusions that outcrop in the western part of the project area.  Many of the intrusions are covered with sediments formed by the accumulation of ash, tuff and other volcanic and other detrital debris, which has resulted in limited outcrop being available for sampling.   However, analysis of the samples of the ash/tuff bands from these intrusions has resulted in the identification of seven intrusions that are rare earths-bearing.  The highest grade recovered from this sampling to date is 4.2% TREO, which the Company considers to be encouraging.  Most of the intrusions in the western part of the Bushmanland project area are covered by recent calcrete deposits and wind-blown sand, so sampling will only be possible when selected targets are drilled.Monazite-magnetite veinsMapping has also identified numerous monazite-magnetite veins ("MMVs") in the project area.  The MMVs that have been located to date are up to 1m wide and outcrop over a distance of 10-50m.  Analysis by XRF shows that they contain grades ranging from 1-20% TREO.Significant progress has been made at the Bushmanland Project in a relatively short period of time since the prospecting right was granted.  Exploration work will continue, with the objective of identifying larger rare earths deposits of similar or higher grade to Zandkopsdrift, or smaller deposits that may have a higher ratio of heavy rare earths.Namaqualand Regional Exploration ProjectsThe Company also advises that the in specie dividend distribution of holdings in a number of the Company's South African subsidiaries (the "Spin-out Subsidiaries") to the shareholders in the Company prior to its initial public offering in 2010 (the "Pre-IPO Shareholders") (the "Distribution"), which was disclosed at the time of the IPO, will not be completed. The Spin-out Subsidiaries hold prospecting rights for a number of areas in the Namaqualand region that cover all minerals, including rare earths, and only excluding diamonds. Since the approval of the South African Department of Mineral Resources was required to complete the Distribution and such approval has not been obtained,  the Spin-out Subsidiaries will remain subsidiaries of the Company, on the basis that the Pre-IPO Shareholders provide a full and final release from all rights and entitlement to the Distribution and that the Company reimburses certain non-material costs (amounting to ZAR386,520 or approximately C$45,000), which relate to the maintenance of the Spin-out Subsidiaries' prospecting rights while awaiting DMR approval. The Toronto Stock Exchange has accepted notice of the reversal of the Distribution. The Company is currently carrying out a detailed evaluation of the exploration potential of the prospecting rights held by the Spin-out Subsidiaries and thereafter may sell, joint venture and/or undertake further exploration thereon.Other Exploration Projects - AfricaFrontier continues to selectively review opportunities to expand its project portfolio elsewhere in Africa. A number of projects of potential merit that are considered to be prospective for rare earths and other related minerals have been identified in Uganda and Mozambique and are currently being evaluated by the Company.Qualified PersonThe Geological information in this release has been prepared under the supervision of Frontier's Vice President, Exploration, Dr. Stuart Smith BSc, PhD. who is a "Qualified Person" in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 - Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.About Frontier Rare Earths Limited (TSX: FRO): Frontier Rare Earths Limited (www.frontierrareearths.com) is a mineral exploration and development company principally focused on the development of rare earths projects in Africa.  Frontier's flagship asset is the Zandkopsdrift rare earth project, which is located in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa and is one of the largest, highest grade undeveloped rare earth deposits worldwide. Frontier has a direct 74% interest and a 95% economic interest in Zandkopsdrift prior to the acquisition by its strategic Partner Korea Resources Corporation of an initial 10% interest in Zandkopsdrift. In March 2012 Frontier filed a Preliminary Economic Assessment ("PEA") on the Zandkopsdrift project prepared in accordance with National Instrument 43-101. The results of the PEA indicate that the proposed development of the Zandkopsdrift Project is both technically feasible and economically robust with a low risk profile. In conjunction with the PEA a mineral resource estimate for Zandkopsdrift confirmed 42.5m tonnes at an average grade of 2.23% containing approximately 940,000 tonnes total rare earth oxides (applying a 1% cut-off) and with 78% of the mineral resource in the indicated category. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. Fiona Harper, Pr.Sci.Nat, was the independent qualified person from Venmyn Rand (Pty) Ltd responsible for the PEA.Frontier is listed on the main board of the Toronto Stock Exchange and currently has 89,562,781 shares outstanding. Frontier is well funded, with approximately $29m cash (excluding $23.8m to be received from Kores under the Strategic Agreement in November 2012) and no debt, and this strong working capital position is expected to be sufficient to finance the proposed work program of the Company and the completion of a Preliminary Feasibility Study and a Definitive Feasibility Study for Zandkopsdrift.Forward Looking Statements - Certain information set forth in this news release may contain forward-looking statements that involve substantial known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Readers can identify many of these statements by looking for words such as  "will", "intends", "projects", "anticipates", "estimates", "achieving", or similar words or the negative thereof. These forward-looking statements are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, certain of which are beyond the control of the Company, including, but not limited to, the impact of general economic conditions, industry conditions, commodity prices, availability of financing for the Company and the Company's ability to raise additional capital, results of feasibility studies, dependence upon regulatory approvals, the estimation of mineral resources and the realization of mineral reserves based on mineral resource estimates and estimated future development, if any, and possible variations of ore grade or recovery rates; the Company development, if any, and possible expectations regarding competition from other producers globally, possible customer and supplier relationships, anticipated trends and challenges in the Company regarding competition; mineral resource estimates and supply outlook and growth opportunities, the future price of and future demand for rare earth elements, title disputes or claims including Black Economic Empowerment initiatives, and the timing and possible outcome of pending regulatory and permitting matters.Readers are cautioned that the assumptions used in the preparation of such information, although considered reasonable at the time of preparation, may prove to be imprecise and, as such, undue reliance should not be placed on forward-looking statements. There can be no assurance that the plans, intentions or expectations upon which these forward-looking statements are based will occur.  The forward-looking statements contained herein are made as of the date of this news release and are expressly qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement. Actual results may differ materially from those anticipated. Readers are cautioned not to put undue reliance on forward-looking statements due to the inherent uncertainty therein. Frontier disclaims any intent or obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or results or otherwise, except as required by applicable law.SOURCE: Frontier Rare Earths Ltd.For further information: on Frontier visit www.frontierrareearths.com, e-mail the Company at IR@frontierrareearths.com or contact +352 208 80249.  In North America contact Joe Racanelli, TMX Equicom, at 416 815 0700 x243 or jracanelli@tmxequicom.com