Frontier Rare Earths, a junior Canadian company headquartered in Toronto, and Korea Resources Corp. (Kores) have signed a definitive agreement to form a joint venture to accelerate development of Frontier’s Zandkopsdrift rare earth project in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. In conjunction with the signing, Kores said it will form a consortium of several leading Korean companies to join the joint venture, including Samsung Group, Hyundai Motors Group, GS Group, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Group, and AJU Group.
The definitive agreement involves an investment by the Kores consortium in both the Zandkopsdrift project and in Frontier, and an off-take arrangement that could commit up to 31% of future production. Under the terms of the agreement, the consortium will acquire an initial 10% interest in the Zandkopsdrift project and with such acquisition will secure off-take rights for 10% of the project’s rare earth production. The agreement provides that the consortium can also acquire a further 10% interest in Zandkopsdrift and up to a 10% share ownership of Frontier, which, if acquired, would give Kores off-take rights for an additional 21% of rare earth production from Zandkopsdrift.
Kores will provide technical, operating, and other assistance relating to the design, planning, construction, and operation of a rare earth mining and processing operation at Zandkopsdrift, and Frontier and the Kores consortium will investigate and rare-earth-related downstream business opportunities, including, but not limited to, rare earth metals, rare earth alloys, rare earth magnets, and related products.
A preliminary economic assessment of the Zandkopsdrift project is scheduled for completion during the first quarter of 2012, and initial work has begun on a preliminary feasibility study. Current planning anticipates development of a conventional truck-and-shovel open-cast mine, with minimal drilling and blasting required. A concentrator at the Zandkopsdrift site will be designed to treat 1 million mt/y of mined ore. A separation plant with a production capacity of about 20,000 mt/y of separated rare earth oxides will be located at Saldanha Bay, approximately 250 km south of Zandkopsdrift.