Frontier Rare Earths (TSE:FRO)(TSE:FRO.WT) said Tuesday it has begun the metallurgical testing process at its Zandkopsdrift rare earth project in South Africa, with a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) targeted for the end of the third quarter.
According to international reporting standards, the project is recognized as one of the largest rare earth deposits in the world. The Zandkopsdrift B Zone is estimated to contain around 450,000 tonnes of TREO (total rare earth oxides).
"We are very pleased with the significant progress that we have made in advancing the evaluation of Zandkopsdrift since November," said CEO James Kenny.
"The commencement of metallurgical testing is a very significant step, as results from this work should allow us to complete both a preliminary economic assessment and a preliminary feasibility study on Zandkopsdrift by the end of 2011."
Since diamond drilling began in January, roughly 6,000 kilograms of core has been recovered for metallurgical testing, with SGS Mineral Services due to begin test work shortly. Overall core recovery was approximately 97%, Frontier said.
A large composite sample, representative of the overall Zandkopsdrift deposit, will be selected from this material, as well as a number of smaller variability samples from higher and lower grade sections and from different rock types.
The metallurgical test program will involve ore characterisation, bench scale flotation, leaching and separation tests, with the objective of identifying the optimal flowsheet for the recovery of the contained rare earth elements. The process is expected to take approximately six months to complete.
The results will be used for the preliminary economic assessment, for which the company expects to appoint a lead engineering consultant in due course. The prefeasibility study is anticipated within three months of completing the PEA.
Meanwhile, Frontier is also looking to expand the resource at the project through a 15,000 metre reverse circulation and core drilling program. The primary goal of the campaign will be to convert the higher grade Zandkopsdrift B Zone to the measured category, and to convert the balance of the Zandkopsdrift resource to the indicated category.
So far, 3,000 metres have been drilled, with the remaining metres expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter.