By Alastair Ford
Tertiary Minerals has pushed the button on a further round of drilling at the MB fluorspar project in Nevada, news which helped lift the shares away from recent 12 month lows to the current price of around 6.25p.
The idea is to build on previous drilling and to move towards detailed economic evaluation.
“We had phase one and phase two drilling last year”, says managing director Richard Clemmey.
“That enabled us to get a maiden JORC resource out earlier this year. So this drilling is really a follow-up to that. The resource there is open at depth and it’s open laterally as well. We are trying to identify areas in which we can increase the size of the resource, and also to understand the geological system and to target potentially higher grade areas.”
So far, around 1,800 metres have been completed of a planned 2,480 metres, with completion of drilling now slated for mid-November, ahead of the original schedule.
“In the next few weeks we’ll start to get the results in”, says Richard.
And they should make interesting reading. “From an economic point of view the more that we can prove up the better, given that the US is currently importing 100 per cent of its acid spar demand”, says Richard.
Already, there’s 38.4 million tonnes grading 10.4% fluorspar at MB, so there’s clear potential. The question now is: how to make the best return. Once the latest round of results are in, Richard says Tertiary will start to do some serious internal modelling of the project.
That will then build towards more formal studies. “We’d start off with a scoping study”, he says.
“That would give us a feel for the project. That will really drive the next plan of attack – do we move on to feasibility or do we do further drilling? The first stage with this would be to plug these results in and potentially upgrade the resource. We’d like to get that completed in the first half of next year and move into a scoping study in the second half.”
While that’s all going on, the company’s mine permit application for its other major project, Storuman in Sweden, will continue to work its way through the relevant government departments.
Submitting that permit application was, says Richard, a “significant milestone”.
“To do that is a culmination of many years of work: the resource estimate, the environmental baseline study, the scoping study, metallurgical work and the local consultation”, he says. “We were pleased to submit that in July. We’re very much in the hands of the authorities now.”
Not that Tertiary Minerals will be idle in the meantime. “We’ve just entered the final phase of pre-feasibility metallurgical testwork, and we will then proceed with the balance of the pre-feasibility work. The target is to finish the pre-feasibility study by the end of next year.”
So, even if MB has had a habit of grabbing headlines lately, Storuman is still Tertiary’s lead project, and moving ahead as planned.
That’s all to the good. But what about that other variable, the fluorspar price?
“This year the fluorspar price has slowed down a bit”, says Richard.
“But in the last quarter there’s been an upturn. CIF Rotterdam is running at about US$370 per tonne, and demand is picking up again. It’s well above the price at which we did the scoping study for Storuman. You look at the longer term trend on the fluorspar price and it is on an upward trend. There is growing end-use demand for fluorspar.”
Which makes Tertiary uniquely positioned among Aim-traded companies as being the only junior with significant exposure. Work on making those projects stack up economically now begins in earnest.