First Vanadium (TSXV: FVAN) has completed a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) for its Carlin vanadium project in Elko County, about 10 km south of the town of Carlin in north-central Nevada.
“Getting to the PEA level for Carlin was a significant milestone for us and is a key part of the process for unlocking the value of the project,” Paul Cowley, the company’s president and CEO, said in an interview.
The early stage study estimated an open-pit mine life of 11 years producing a total of 180 million lbs. vanadium oxide (V205).
The study also envisioned processing an additional five years of stockpile feed that would generate an annual average of 11 million lbs. V205 after the mine reaches the end of its operating life. Sulphuric acid and electricity from the processing plant would then be sold for a four-year period.
“The deposit is located in significant mining hub, so as we approach the end of the life of the vanadium mine the processing plant could continue to provide acid as well as electricity to mines operating in the district, so we won’t need to find buyers for it.”
The PEA estimated average operating costs for the large-scale open pit project of $4.81 per lb. V2O5 for the first 10 years and $5.17 per lb. of V2O5 over the life of the mine.
“The most significant component of the PEA is the low operating costs, which fall into the lower quartile for vanadium production and therefore provides us with a significant advantage over other vanadium producers, whose costs are generally much higher,” Crowley said.
The PEA forecast pre-production capital requirements for the project of $535 million, and calculated an after-tax net present value of $29 million at a discount rate of 6%, an internal rate of return of 7% and a payback period of 7.7 years. The study used a V205 price of $10.65 per pound.
The project has indicated resources of 24.64 million tonnes grading 0.615% V2O5 for 303 million lbs. contained V2O5, and inferred resources of 7.19 million tonnes grading 0.520% V2O5 for 75 million lbs. of V2O5. The estimate used a cut-off grade of 0.3% V2O5.
Cowley noted that Carlin could become a source of much-needed vanadium for the U.S.
The bulk of the vanadium in the U.S. is currently sourced from China. As a consequence, the U.S. Department of the Interior has deemed vanadium as one of the commodities considered critical to the country’s economic and national security.
“The PEA demonstrates Carlin’s importance as a critical resource for a vital strategic metal that is essential to protecting U.S. national interests,” he said, “particularly as it is only one of two primary vanadium deposits located in North America.”
Vanadium is used in a range of applications, including in vanadium-steel alloys for use in amour plates, car gears, and crankshafts. Titanium-aluminium-vanadium alloys are also used in jet engines and aircraft and vanadium is also an ingredient in lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles.
The company also believes that the Carlin deposit may host significant gold mineralisation.
“We’ve been so focussed on the PEA the gold opportunity has been sitting idle,” said Cowley, “but now we want to bring forward that opportunity by tapping into the plumbing system of the Carlin Gold Trend, where the deposit is located.”
The company has employed the renowned Carlin Gold Trend specialist and former Newmont (TSX: NGT; NYSE: NEM) exploration manager, Dave Mathewson, who has interpreted a high-grade gold deposit at depth that sits below the vanadium mineralisation.
To evaluate the mostly underexplored gold targets within the project, the company plans to conduct drilling at gold targets this summer, Cowley said.
(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)