Frontier Rare Earths has announced the results of a positive prefeasibility study (PFS) of the Zandkopsdrift rare earth project in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. The project is being developed by Frontier in partnership with Korea Resources Corp., which owns a 10% interest in the project.

The PFS indicates that development of Zandkopsdrift to produce a range of high-purity, separated rare earths is both technically feasible and economically robust. In addition, the production of a saleable manganese sulphate byproduct has been proven feasible and has been incorporated into the PFS process flowsheet and economic analysis.

The PFS is based on a project producing 8,000 mt/y of high-purity, separated total rare earth oxides during its first four years of operation (Phase 1), doubling to 16,000 mt/y from year five onwards (Phase 2). Manganese sulphate production would total 48,000 mt/y during Phase 1 and 96,000 mt/y during Phase 2. Proven and probable reserves stand at 788,700 mt total rare earth oxides, sufficient for a 45-year mine life.

Capital expenditure to develop Phase 1 is estimated at $809 million. Operating costs for the first 20 years of operation are estimated at $11.87/kg of total rare earths oxides.

The Zandkopsdrift project has three principal operating components: mining and processing activities at Zandkopsdrift to produce a mixed rare earth hydroxide and a saleable manganese sulphate by-product; a dedicated seawater desalination plant 35 km from the mine to supply potable water to the Zandkopsdrift mining and processing operations; and a 16,000-mt/y rare earth separation plant in the Industrial Development Zone at the deep water port of Saldanha Bay approximately 300 km south of Zandkopsdrift.