Traditional gold hub yielding critical minerals potential

Asra Minerals (ASX: ASR) has impacted the Western Australian exploration scene by focusing on an expanding portfolio of gold, rare earth elements and lithium projects.

Rare earth elements and lithium are not, like gold, categorised as precious metals; however, as ‘critical minerals’, they are making headway in the renowned Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia.

‘We decided from the very start to establish ourselves as a Western Australia–focused explorer in a region we, and our investors, are very familiar with, rather than venture further afield,’ Asra Minerals Managing Director Rob Longley told Future Mining.

‘We are staying focused on Western Australia, not too far from Kalgoorlie, close to good infrastructure, in a Tier-1 jurisdiction with potential for gold and critical minerals.’

Asra’s Mount Stirling project, located just outside of Leonora, quickly emerged as a flagship, having an already-established 152,000-ounce gold deposit.

Mount Stirling attracted recent market attention via the discovery of the Yttria clay-hosted rare earth element deposit, which contains clean, high-value heavy rare earth elements, along with critical minerals scandium and cobalt.

Drilling confirmed Yttria as a heavy rare earth element–dominant regolith-hosted deposit over an initial 2.5-kilometre strike length, while providing a comprehensive inventory of ore material that has allowed thorough metallurgical testwork to commence.

This inventory determined a mineralised zone rich in high-value magnet rare earth elements, including dysprosium, terbium, neodymium and praseodymium.

Rare earth elements represent commodities that are relatively new to an investment community, long-schooled in the merits of traditional commodities – meaning it now must re-educate itself to keep up with the latest trends.

‘An important factor for investors to understand when comparing various rare earth element projects is that the value of a rare earth element deposit and, hence, its potential basket price valuation, is highly dependent on the proportions of individual rare earth elements and their possible ease of extraction,’ Asra Executive Chairman Paul Summers explains.

‘Deposits like Yttria, with a high heavy rare earth content, can be significantly more economic at lower cut-off grades.’

Asra reported that rare earth element prices had demonstrated that the Yttria basket of rare earths holds an indicative basket value of US$161 per kilogram – a value surpassing most clay-hosted rare earth projects currently at a similar exploration stage in Australia, setting Yttria apart as a potential high-value project.

And with only an initial small part of the rare earth element corridor at Mount Stirling tested so far, Asra plans to prioritise step-out drilling along the 20-plus-kilometre-long rare earth element corridor.

Asra increased its rare earth element and lithium Kookynie West tenure, effectively doubling its exploration footprint from 170 square kilometres at Mount Stirling to over 360 square kilometres, where it has identified an under-explored 40-kilometre strike length along the Archean Granite-Greenstone contact – a known prime location for gold, lithium-caesium-tantalum pegmatites and rare earth element mineralisation. 

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