Source - LSE Regulatory
RNS Number : 6259F
Empire Metals Limited
11 July 2023
 

Empire Metals Limited / LON: EEE / Sector: Natural Resources

 

11 July 2023

Empire Metals Limited

("Empire" or "the Company")

 

Ilmenite Confirmed as Key Titanium Mineral at Pitfield

Significant Magnetics Anomaly extends to a depth of at least 6km

 

Empire Metals Limited (LON: EEE), the AIM-quoted resource exploration and development company, is pleased to announce the results of the first petrographic and mineralogical studies on the high-grade titanium discovery at the Pitfield Project ('Pitfield'), located in Western Australia, which confirm the presence of ilmenite, an important economic titanium-iron oxide mineral.

 

Highlights

 

·    Pitfield represents a newly recognised type of stratabound sedimentary rock-hosted titanium deposit, unlike the more common beach sand and hard-rock types of titanium deposits found globally.

·    Initial petrography work confirms the presence of ilmenite, a titanium-iron oxide mineral, which is highly valued as a source for titanium oxide ('TiO2') and which accounts for over 85% of the feedstock for the entire titanium industry.

·    The dominance of ilmenite and hematite within the samples studied, along with only the minor presence of magnetite, is considered highly beneficial from an economic perspective.

·    New 3D magnetics model demonstrates the extraordinary depth of the previously announced 40km by 8km magnetics anomaly, extending to at least 6km below surface.

·    Titanium minerals are regarded as a "critical" resource and titanium is on the strategic "critical minerals list" in many countries including the United States, the European Union, Japan and Australia.

·    Future drill programmes currently funded, including both diamond core and additional RC drilling, will be carried out along the entire length of the magnetics anomaly to confirm the scale of this giant, titanium-enriched mineral system.

 

Shaun Bunn, Managing Director, said: "It is very exciting to see the results from our initial petrographic and mineralogical studies, confirming the presence of ilmenite within this exceptional titanium-rich mineral system. We have a magnetics anomaly covering 40km by 8km, whose core is 30km long and extends to a depth of at least 6km. This magnetics anomaly appears to be coincidental with the currently known extent of the ilmenite mineralisation.

 

"Our knowledge and understanding of this mineral system continues to grow at pace. Since announcing the titanium discovery on 30 May 2023 we have been able to demonstrate the scale of this mineral system and confirm that the host sedimentary rocks have been extensively replaced by titanium and iron minerals. This distinguishes Pitfield from the typical titanium deposits which are either much lower grade heavy mineral beach sand deposits or hard-rock igneous deposits which are difficult to beneficiate. We believe Pitfield is truly unique in its scale and character, and I am confident that with further exploration success and studies we can demonstrate that this is a world leading discovery of titanium rich mineralisation which will have globally significant economic value."

 

Mineralogical Assessment

As part of the petrographic study, an initial mineralogical assessment report was carried out on samples of RC drilling chips taken from four drill holes at Pitfield.  Of these, three were drilled at Mt Scratch in the northern part of the tenement and the other hole was the most southern hole drilled on the Thomas property (Figure 1).

A map of a volcano Description automatically generated

Figure 1.              Empire Elevated TiO2 Soil Sample and Drill Collar Locations

 

The RC chip samples have all been interpreted to be weakly metamorphosed sedimentary rocks (siltstones, sandstones and conglomerates) containing quartz and feldspar as the dominant components.  All the samples contain various amounts of iron oxides, iron-titanium oxides, chlorite, muscovite, epidote and carbonate with minor to trace amounts of rutile, leucoxene, chalcopyrite, apatite and tourmaline.

 

Importantly from an economic perspective, the dominant iron and titanium oxide minerals, are hematite (Fe2O3) and ilmenite (FeTiO3), with lesser rutile and leucoxene, also titanium oxide minerals. Most importantly, only minor magnetite (Fe3O4) was identified within the samples. There is evidence of some trace amounts of titanomagnetite, but the vast majority of the iron oxide and iron-titanium oxide minerals are hematite and ilmenite respectively. This has significant economic implications as titanomagnetite can be very difficult to process, unlike hemo-ilmenite which is currently processed by Rio Tinto at its 70-year-old RTIT Quebec Operations in Quebec, Canada.  Additional sampling and detailed mineralogical work is needed to determine if hemo-ilmenite is an important mineral at Pitfield.

 

The petrographic study clearly supports field evidence indicating that the iron-titanium mineralisation at Pitfield is hydrothermal in origin and hosted by altered, clastic sedimentary rocks, and so is neither a palaeoplacer Heavy Mineral ('HM') Sands type deposit nor an igneous intrusive-hosted "hard-rock" type titanium deposit. Pitfield appears to belong to a new class of soft sedimentary rock type titanium deposits that are stratabound and hosted within a layered succession of clastic sedimentary beds.

 

3D Magnetics Model

A 3-Dimensional Magnetic Susceptibility Inversion ("MSI") model has been created utilising the data from the regional magnetics survey carried out historically by the Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA). A threshold magnetic susceptibility value of 0.005 SI was used to create the MSI isoshell shown in red in Figures 2 and 3, which encapsulates magnetic susceptibility values ranging up to 6.6552 SI.  The model highlights the depth extent and continuity of the 30km long core body of this massive regional magnetics anomaly at Pitfield, mapping the depth to at least 6km below surface, the extent to which the data has been modelled.

 

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Figure 2.              Magnetics Susceptibility Inversion Model - Plan View


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Figure 3.              Magnetics Susceptibility Inversion Model - Long Section

 

From a geological viewpoint the magnetics model closely matches the interpreted structure and stratigraphy at Pitfield, where deep, northwest striking, sub-vertical structures define the sharp, western margin of the Yandanooka Basin and 50-80° easterly dipping strata define the eastern side of the Basin,

 

Historical surface sediment sampling (stream sediments, soil and auger samples) by Conzinc Riotinto of Australia ('CRA') shows TiO2 enrichment (greater than 1% TiO2) over virtually the entire 40km length of the regional magnetics anomaly (announced 3 July 2023). The area of potential high-grade TiO2 mineralisation, confirmed by drilling in the immediate vicinity of Mt Scratch, has been extended from ~3km2 to more than 50km2.  There is also, potentially, a similar high-grade area (covering ~50km2) to the east of the historical Baxter's Mine, lying ~20km south of Mt Scratch. These large TiO2 enriched areas are both completely open to other parts of the 40km by 8km magnetics anomaly (refer Figure 1).

 

Mineral Sands History in the Region

Whilst the Pitfield titanium discovery is not a palaeoplacer HM Sands deposit, there are multiple known HM Sands resources within the Eneabba Region of the Perth Basin, some lying alongside the Western margin of the Yandanooka Basin.

 

In August 2011, Sheffield Resources ("Sheffield") announced a maiden Resource estimate for the Yandanooka HM Sands project, which lies a few kilometres west of the Pitfield tenements, of 1.84 million tonnes of contained heavy mineral (71.75Mt @ 2.6% HM in Indicated and Inferred categories).

The Yandanooka deposit was previously explored by RGC Ltd during the late 1980s and by Iluka Resources Ltd between 2003 and 2006. Both companies completed broadly spaced drill traverses across the deposit.

 

The deposit is 5km long by 1.7km wide, between 2m and 20m thick, and is interpreted to be a dunal-style HM Sands deposit situated along an Eocene palaeo-shoreline.

 

Given the HM deposit's close proximity there is considerable likelihood that the titanium bearing minerals, specifically the ilmenite and rutile, were sourced through westward erosion of the primary stratabound titanium deposit at Pitfield.  Previous mineral assemblage work carried out initially by Iluka Resources and subsequently by Sheffield, identified high-quality ilmenite (>55% TiO2) and rutile (>95% TiO2) which augurs well for the quality of the titanium mineralisation at Pitfield.

 

Future Work

The maiden drill campaign consisted of only 21 RC drill holes totalling 3,206 metres, with the first 18 holes focused near the old Mt Scratch workings to the north and the final three holes spread evenly across a 30km distance to the south. Future drill programmes, including both diamond core and additional RC drilling, will be carried out along the entire length of the magnetics anomaly to confirm the scale of this giant, titanium-enriched mineral system and to also understand the distribution of key factors better, such as grade, mineralogy, thickness and extent of mineralised beds and controls on high-grade TiO2 mineralisation.

 

Future mapping, geophysics (including airborne gravity and additional IP/resistivity) and geochemical sampling will focus on defining the structural and stratigraphic architecture of the Yandanooka Basin and which parts of this giant mineral system are most prospective for follow up drill testing.

 

TiO2 Industry and Market Demand

Titanium minerals are highly valued as a source for titanium oxide ("TiO2"), a high growth commodity used primarily as an input into the process of the manufacture of pigments which are used in the production of paints, paper and plastics. Titanium as a metal alloy is known for its properties of low density (light weight), high strength and rust-resistance, making it a key component for the automotive industry with the rapid growth in demand for light weight, fuel efficient vehicles.

 

Use in pigment manufacture accounts for approximately 90% of total global demand for titanium feedstocks. Titanium metal and welding flux cord wire jointly account for the remaining 10% demand.

TiO2 is generally mined as ilmenite, typically either from hard rock deposits or from beach sand operations.  Titanium dioxide feedstocks are graded by their titanium dioxide content, which ranges from approximately 50% (sulphate ilmenite) to 95% (natural rutile).  These feedstocks are sold as either "unprocessed" (chloride or sulphate ilmenite) or as "processed" (sulphate or chloride slag) where the source material (ilmenite) has been upgraded to increase the concentration of TiO2 in the feedstock.

 

A picture containing text, screenshot, font, design Description automatically generated
A schematic of the titanium market is laid out in Figure 4 below.

Figure 4.              Titanium Market Products and Feedstocks.1

 

Pigments are essential to the manufacture of a wide range of consumer products.  Pigments are found in products with high quality finishes, in plastics and paper and in foods and pharmaceuticals.  As disposable incomes have increased the demand for these consumer products has increased.

 

The global titanium market size has been estimated to be worth circa USD 26 billion in 2022 and is forecast to reach USD 36 billion by 2028, with a CAGR of 5.5% during the period of review.2

 

Titanium minerals are regarded as a "critical" resource and titanium is on the strategic "critical minerals list" in many countries including the United States, the European Union, Japan and Australia.

 

1.     Source Iluka Resources Ltd website

2.     Source www.marketwatch.com/press-release/titanium-market-insights-2030-2023-06-19

Competent Person Statement

The technical information in this report that relates to the Pitfield Project has been compiled by Mr Andrew Faragher, an employee of Eclipse Exploration Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Empire. Mr Faragher is a Member of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. Mr Faragher has sufficient experience that is relevant to the style of mineralisation and type of deposit under consideration and to the activity being undertaken to qualify as a Competent Person as defined in the 2012 Edition of the 'Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves'. Mr Faragher consents to the inclusion in this release of the matters based on his information in the form and context in which it appears.

 

Market Abuse Regulation (MAR) Disclosure

Certain information contained in this announcement would have been deemed inside information for the purposes of Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No 596/2014, as incorporated into UK law by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, until the release of this announcement.

 

**ENDS**

 

For further information please visit www.empiremetals.co.uk  or contact:

Empire Metals Ltd

Shaun Bunn / Greg Kuenzel

 

Tel: 020 4583 1440

S. P. Angel Corporate Finance LLP (Nomad & Broker)

Ewan Leggat / Adam Cowl

Tel: 020 3470 0470

Shard Capital Partners LLP (Joint Broker)

Damon Heath

Tel: 020 7186 9950

St Brides Partners Ltd (Financial PR)                                         

Susie Geliher / Ana Ribeiro

Tel: 020 7236 1177

 

About Empire Metals Limited

Empire Metals is an AIM-listed (LON: EEE) exploration and resource development company with a project portfolio comprising copper, titanium and gold interests in Australia and Austria.


The Company's strategy is to develop a pipeline of projects at different stages in the development curve. Its current focus is on the Pitfield Project in Western Australia, which has demonstrated strong potential to be a new "Giant" mineral-rich system.  The Company is also advancing the Eclipse-Gindalbie Project in Western Australia, which is prospective for high-grade gold and also kaolin, which is used extensively in a number of industries and is considered to be a desirable feedstock for the production of high-purity alumina - an essential component in lithium-ion batteries.

 

The Company also has two further exploration projects in Australia; the Walton Project in Western Australia, and the Stavely Project in the Stavely Arc region of Victoria, in addition to three precious metals projects located in a historically high-grade gold production region in central-southern Austria.

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