WA1 trailblazer debuts Australian Luni niobium resource from West Arunta

WA1 trailblazer debuts Australian Luni niobium resource from West Arunta

July 1, 2024 Off By Jack Baker

WA1 Resources has stamped in its maiden resource at Luni, unveiling a 200 million tonne resource at 1 per cent niobium pentoxide from the West Arunta exploration frontier in the remote east of Western Australia.

The resource contains a notable high-grade 53Mt at 2.1% Nb2O5 subset of comparable tenor to the 2.5-3% residual material at CBMM’s Araxá project which accounts for around three-quarters of global consumption.

The remainder of the world’s niobium currently comes from another Brazilian project with an average grade of 0.43% and a comparative Canadian operation.

But there is a new player now, and while a far way from production in the isolated Arunta subregion, success with the drill has proven enough to turn WA1 from small-time explorer to a billion-dollar company.

WA1 already had cause to call Luni the most significant discovery of the steelmaking reagent in more than 70 years, and Managing Director Paul Savich said the maiden mineral estimate had confirmed its status.

“This is a remarkable achievement within two years from discovery in an entirely greenfield belt in the West Arunta,” he said.

“We are grateful for the continued support received from both the Ngururrpa and Kiwirrkurra native title holders in reaching this milestone.

“The shallow, high-grade nature of the deposit, coupled with the recently announced initial metallurgy results, indicates the deposit may be amenable to conventional processing techniques and reinforces Luni as a highly strategic critical mineral asset.”

Savich added that Drilling over Luni would continue through to year’s end, directed at converting a portion of the resource to the indicated category, finding more high-grade material laterally and at depth, and providing metallurgical fodder.

Discovering Luni

The Perth-based explorer began public trading in 2022 with West Arunta in the portfolio as a target for iron-oxide-copper-gold discoveries, with geophysics across the frontier showing potential to define deposit-scale anomalies unobservable in regional datasets.

But it was when the company’s maiden drilling discovered a niobium and rare earth mineralised carbonatite system that the WA1 niobium story truly began to unfold.

That kick-off discovery was quickly followed by a second discovery at Luni, a $10 million cap raise presenting the WA1 ticker as a niobium investment, and a string of exceptional drill results.

Niobium unknowns

CBMM has a claim to have essentially created the market for niobium and has noted that its biggest competitor was steel made without the critical mineral.

There are concerns that with CBMM essentially running a monopoly, WA1 and Luni could smash the profitability of the niobium market, but diversity of supply is never a bad thing, particularly for a critical minerals market intertwined with geopolitics.

A remote location is also an issue, and while WA1 has established infrastructure for exploring the West Arunta, making a mine is a different issue.

But WA1 has never tried to hide from that, and with more explorers jumping into the frontier, Luni could well prove a discovery exceptional enough to shoulder a new district.

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