ABx Group: Doubling rare earth resources and advancing sustainable aluminium production


by Paul Sanger

ABX Group (ASX:ABX) Managing Director Mark Cooksey speaks about the company's rare earth resources and advancing sustainable aluminium production.

Paul Sanger: I'm Paul Sanger for the Finance News Network and today I'm talking with ABX Group. Their ticket code is ABX and they have a market cap of around 17 million. ABX is a uniquely positioned, high-tech Australian company delivering materials for a cleaner future. They have three current significant projects. They're creating an ionic absorption clay rare earth deposit in Northern Tasmania, they're establishing a plant to produce hydrogen fluoride and aluminium fluoride from recycled industrial waste via ABX 83% owned subsidiary Alcore, and they're mining and enhancing the value of book site resources for cement, aluminium, and fertilisers. We welcome back to the network ABX CEO, Mark Cooksey. Mark, welcome to the network.

Mark Cooksey: Great. Thanks, Paul. Thanks to be with you again.

Paul Sanger: Good to have you. So, Mark, you've just announced the block modelling for the deep lead rubble mound rare earth deposit. Can you give us some detail around these results?

Mark Cooksey: Yeah, so over the last 12 months, we've released progressively larger resource estimates based off some earlier resource modelling. But this is the first block model resource estimate we've done and it incorporated a small number of additional drill results, but it's taken our resource from 27 million tons up to 52 million tons at a similar grade.

Paul Sanger: So just remind me, what impact does this actually have on the size of the resource?

Mark Cooksey: Well, it's basically double it. Although, even though there was only a small number of additional drill results incorporated, just the greater rigor of the block modelling basically doubled the resource size. I mean, we're always trying to be conservative, so I think we knew before that although we'd estimated 27, that was probably an underestimate. And this block modelling I think confirms that.

Paul Sanger: And going forward, what are the future drilling plans with the rare earth project?

Mark Cooksey: Yeah, so I guess part of this resource estimate clearly shows the higher grade parts of the resource as we develop a better understanding of the rare earth business and those high grade areas are important. So the drilling program we just commenced recently were two thrusts to it. One is further drilling around those higher grade areas to expand them and ideally determine, we've got a sufficiently large high grade zone, it would be a great place to start a project. And also we're drilling at our Windbreak Deposit, which is about 15 kilometres away from Deep Leads and Rubble Mound, which is not currently included in the resource estimate at all.

Paul Sanger: And away from the report, you also announced the successful commissioning of the Bath Pilot's batch reactor. How are the operations progressing and what sort of results have you achieved?

Mark Cooksey: Yeah, so that's on our separate project to recycle waste from aluminium smelting eventually into aluminium fluoride, which smelters used. Yeah, so we've commissioned this batch reactor, which is pretty significant. It holds 20 kilos of input materials. We've now commissioned it with the full reaction conditions. It's basically worked in the very sense that the reactor works as designed. We're making some modifications to it, some minor things to it now, learning from the very initial runs and we'll be running it further between now and Christmas. The critical thing we're looking for and expecting to achieve is that we'll achieve a high fluorine yield, which means we get most of the fluorine out of this waste material. We're looking to get 90% plus as opposed to our 70% plus that we achieved with our earlier smaller reactor.

Paul Sanger: And, Mark, I believe you recently just got back from Canberra. What were you doing in Canberra?

Mark Cooksey: Well, it's quite funny. Between the rare earth and aluminium fluoride project, I could do both things in Canberra over the last few days. So as part of the Australian Aluminium Council, we held a breakfast for government and shadow MPs and Senators on Wednesday morning talking about the importance of the aluminium industry and what we're looking to the government to provide in terms of industry policy to assist the industry. So it was great to mention the importance of supply chain security, which is what our aluminium fluoride project delivers. And then there was also a rare earth conference, a very good conference run by ANU, which involves companies, academia, government, strategy, finance people. Because the rare earth industry is such a great opportunity, but we're creating a whole industry, not just creating a project here and there.

Paul Sanger: And look, you've made some significant progress in 2023. It sounds like you're running into the new year with the wind behind you. What can investors look for in the next three to six months?

Mark Cooksey: So on the rare earth, there'll be more drilling results and further expansion of the resource. We're also aiming to develop a better understanding of the processing conditions. We have very good metallurgy results showing that we have a true iron clay deposit, but we need to expand that understanding. And on the aluminium fluoride, it's results from this pilot batch reactor and then also progress on constructing the larger continuous pilot plant, which will allow us to test the whole process in a continuous manner.

Paul Sanger: Mark Cooksey, it's been a pleasure to have you on. Many thanks for your time today.

Mark Cooksey: Great. Thanks, Paul.


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