Tasman's PEA Study of Norra Karr Heavy Rare Earth and Zirconium Project Demonstrates Robust Economics and Long Mine Life
Vancouver, Canada - Tasman Metals Ltd. ("Tasman" or the "Company") (TSXV : TSM) (Frankfurt : T61); (NYSE AMEX : TAS). Mr Mark Saxon, President & CEO, is pleased to announce the positive technical and financial results achieved from the NI 43-101 Compliant Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) of the Norra Karr heavy rare earth element (REE) and zirconium (Zr) project in southern Sweden.
"The PEA clearly demonstrates the strong economics of this highly strategic project, with the majority of the projected cash flow sourced from the production of the critical heavy rare earth elements, dysprosium, terbium and yttrium" said Mark Saxon, Tasman's President and CEO. "Norra Karr is one of the largest and most economically robust projects amongst its peers, due to the high contribution of the high value critical rare earth elements, the substantial capital and operating cost benefits provided by existing infrastructure, and the simple mineralogy that allows ambient temperature and pressure processing."
PEA Financial Highlights Include:
Key Project Attributes:
Preliminary Economic Assessment
Tasman's 100% owned Norra Karr project is the only NI 43-101 compliant REE resource in mainland Europe, located in mining-friendly Sweden. Norra Karr lies 15km NNE of the township of Gränna and 300km SW of the capital Stockholm in mixed forestry and farming land.
The PEA for Norra Karr was completed by leading independent mining consultants "Pincock, Allen & Holt" (PAH) of Denver, Colorado. Metallurgical process design was completed by Mr John Litz of JE Litz and Associates, Colorado, on the basis of data provided from process testing of Norra Karr mineralization completed by SGS Canada Inc. (SGS) in Lakefield, Canada, and the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) in Outokumpu, Finland.
The project is proximal to road, rail, power and operating ports, plus skilled personnel, minimizing the need for offsite infrastructure to be built by the Company. Development of the project will occur as an open pit mine, with crushing, grinding, beneficiation and mineral dissolution occurring in the immediate vicinity of the pit. High purity precipitates of a mixed rare earth carbonate concentrate and a zirconium carbonate concentrate will be produced.
A summary of the operating assumptions and financial model for Norra Karr can be found in Tables 1 - 2 below:
Table 1: Norra Karr Project, Annual Operating Summary
Table 2: Norra Karr Project, Summary of Projected Revenue, Expenditure and NPV
"When in production, the project will make a very significant contribution to the availability of heavy rare earth elements outside of China, and provide long term security of these metals for Europe" said Mark Saxon. "With this encouraging independent assessment in hand, Tasman shall accelerate progress during 2012, with additional drilling, further refinement of our metallurgical process, extensive work on permitting and initiation of a full Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS)".
Geology and Mineralization
Norra Karr is a zirconium and rare earth element enriched peralkaline (agpaitic) nepheline syenite intrusion which covers 350m x 1200m in area. The deepest extents of the mineralized intrusion have not been delineated, but exceed 320m. The rock units comprising the Norra Karr intrusion are uncommon on a global scale, and include mineral phases that are comprised of or associated with REE's, Zr, Nb, Y and Hf. The most abundant intrusion present is grännaite, a medium grained syenite consisting of alkali feldspar, nepheline, aegirine, natrolite, eudialyte and catapleite. Lesser units include lakarpite (arfvedsonite-albite nepheline syenite), pulaskite (microcline-arfvedsonite-albite nepheline syenite) and kaxtorpite (eckermannite-microcline-aegirine-pectolite-nepheline syenite). Intervals of irregular coarse grained pegmatite schlieren with equivalent mineralogy to the grännaite are also commonly developed. The Norra Kärr intrusion is hosted by granitoide rocks which close to the contacts (0-25m) exhibit signs of fenitization (metasomatic alteration).
The rare earth and zirconium bearing minerals at Norra Karr comprise almost exclusively the zirconosilicates: eudialyte and catapleiite. Rare mosandrite, rosenbushite and cerite have been described locally. Eudialyte and catapleiite are both soluble in moderate strength sulphuric acid at room temperature and pressure, which has allowed for development of a simple flow sheet with low consumption of both reagents and energy. The bulk sample used in concentrate preparation showed eudialyte comprised approximately 6% of the rock, and typically contained between 5 and 10 weight % TREO.
Spatial distribution of rare earth minerals at Norra Karr is very consistent. TREO grade, mineral grain size and HREO/TREO% varies only slightly across the deposit in a concentric manner. REE bearing minerals have not been noted to vary with either strike or depth to any significant degree.
Uranium (U) and thorium (Th) levels at Norra Karr are considered low for an REE-enriched intrusion and do not significantly exceed background. The thorium (average value 7 ppm) and uranium (average value 14 ppm) present in the Norra Karr deposit are believed disseminated within the REE minerals.
Updated Mineral Inventory and "In-Pit" Mineral Resource Estimate
In 2011, Tasman completed two extensive drill programs with the goal of increasing the overall size of the resource as well as increasing the confidence level in the existing NI 43-101 compliant estimate. In conjunction with the release of this PEA, Tasman is pleased to announce a revised NI 43-101 compliant estimate for Norra Karr. The resource estimate was prepared by Pincock Allen & Holt ("PAH") / Minarco-Mineconsult (both subsidiaries of Runge Ltd)
A block model mineral inventory showing grade and tonnage relationships at five geological cutoff grades for percent total rare earth oxides (%TREO) is presented in Table 3. At a geological cutoff grade of 0.4 %TREO, the Norra Karr deposit contains a mineral inventory of 69.1 million tonnes at 0.60% TREO and 1.82% ZrO2. The ratio of HREO/TREO for this tonnage is 52%. Both grade and total tonnage have increased over the NI43-101 compliant estimate of November 2010.
Table 3: Norra Karr Project - March 2012 Block Model Mineral Inventory and REO Distribution
For the purposes of the PEA and following a supply and demand study of the heavy REE market, PAH was requested to optimize the resource and pit that would allow for the production 6,000 - 7,000 tonnes of separated rare earth oxides per annum over an initial mine life of 20 years. This production rate was chosen due the globally significant output of the heavy REE's dysprosium, yttrium and terbium that will be produced from Norra Karr under this scenario.
Using this production rate and duration guidance provided by Tasman, PAH produced a Whittle pit model to estimate the in-pit Mineral Resource as provided in Table 4. Expansion of the annual production rate or extending the mine life beyond 20 years will be reviewed in the upcoming PFS.
Table 4: Norra Karr Project, NI43-101 Compliant March 2012 "In-Pit" Mineral Resource1 Estimate
Mine Design Considerations
Mine design consists of a single open pit with single entry ramp. As the Norra Karr deposit is covered by only a thin (typically less than 1 metre) layer of soil, no significant pre-strip is required. Below this soil layer the rock is unweathered, therefore no consideration need be given to variation in mineralogy or grade relating to weathering. A two year ramp up period is anticipated to full production, with a total modeled mine life of twenty years.
Mining will be carried out using dump trucks and excavators as mining equipment with haulage via the access ramp to the nearby processing facility. The life of mine open pit strip ratio is estimated to be 0.85:1 (waste:ore) with a mine life of 40 years. The mill feed at full operation is 1.5 million tonnes per year, or approximately 4,100 tonnes per day.
Beneficiation and Processing Considerations
Flow sheet design within this PEA incorporates the results from ambient temperature/pressure leach testing and roast/leach testing of whole ore completed at SGS during late 2010 and 2011 under the guidance of Mr Les Heymann; and beneficiation and ambient temperature/pressure leach testing of mineral concentrate completed at GTK during 2011 under the guidance of Mr John Litz. Metallurgical test work was undertaken on two approximately 100 kg samples. These samples were comprised of drill core intervals selected from across the Norra Karr deposit to represent both the resource grade at a 0.4% TREO cut-off (grade of 0.54% TREO) and the range of ore types encountered. The samples can be considered representative based on the current understanding of the project.
The rare earth and zirconium bearing minerals at Norra Karr comprise almost exclusively the zirconosilicates: eudialyte and catapleiite. Both minerals are soluble in moderate strength sulphuric acid at room temperature and pressure, which has allowed for development of a simple flow sheet with low consumption of both reagents and energy.
The simplified ore processing modeled under the PEA at Norra Karr consists of:
Crush & Grind
Transport of Final REE and Zr Products
Under the planned PFS, process optimization shall include testing of individual ore types, review of nepheline/feldspar co-product value and saleabilty, testing of additional digestion and precipitation mechanisms to reduce reagent and effluent streams.
Capital Cost Estimate
The capital cost estimate for the start up of the Norra Karr project is CA$290 million, which includes a 30% cost contingency as outlined in Table 5. Costs considered include all equipment needed for mining and processing, including a tailings facility, warehouses, offices and upgrades to existing power and road infrastructure, plus any additional infrastructure required for the Norra Karr project based on achieving a PEA Study with an accuracy of +/-35%. Indirect costs such as engineering, procurement, construction management and owner's costs are incorporated in the costing of the consolidated capital items.
Access to water and power are considered to be available on or very close to site respectively. A major highway lies 0.5km from the project, and rail within 25km which are considered suitable for transport in and out of all required materials and products. Villages and towns in the immediate region provide sources of skilled and semi-skilled labor including those with mining industry experience, and construction of accommodation is not considered necessary.
Table 5: Norra Karr Project, Initial Capital Cost Items
Operating Cost Estimate
The Operating Cost estimates for the mining operation were developed by PAH with contribution from Golder Associates, Sweden. The operating costs for the metallurgical process operations were developed by consulting metallurgist, Mr. John Litz of JE Litz and Associates, Colorado. The Operating Cost for the mining and metallurgical operations cover all stages up to the shipment of REE and Zr concentrates, as well as water management, tailings disposal, transport of material to and from site, general and administration fees along with associated infrastructure and services.
The project operating estimate is based on the following assumptions:
Overall Operating Costs at Norra Karr are estimated to be $74.4 million per year or $10.93/kg of mixed TREO concentrate output. A summary of the costs is shown in Table 6.
Table 6: Norra Karr Project, Operating Cost Items
Output of the various REE's based on the operating scenario above is provided in Table 7. Note that output quantity is given in oxide equivalent form. Mine-gate output is as a mixed rare earth carbonate. The financial model for Norra Karr under this PEA assumes no revenue from Ho, Er, Tm, Yb and Lu due to the small market size and lack of robust historical pricing.
Table 7: Norra Karr Project, Annual REE Production Output (Mixed Concentrate, Tonnes)
REE and Zr Pricing and Market Considerations
In the development of the price deck for this PEA, much effort was expended by Tasman and PAH to ensure the price forecast was realistic and conservative. Price forecasts were compiled and studied from industry groups including Roskill and IMCOA, as well as financial analysts including Dundee Securities, Cormark Securities, Euro Pacific Canada, CIBC World Markets, and Global Hunter Securities. Also taken into consideration were previously published PEA and PFS studies from competing REE projects including, Avalon Rare Metals, Quest Rare Mineral, Hudson Resources, Matamec and Frontier Rare Earths. The three year trailing price average for China FOB pricing from Asian Metals was also reviewed.
Price forecasts between the various analysts and competing REE projects differ substantially, with particular divergence in the forecast for cerium and lanthanum. The Norra Karr deposit provides little exposure to cerium and lanthanum (approximately 3% of annual revenue), and this divergence plays only a minor role in the financial modeling within. The majority of industry analysts expect an increase in consumption of rare earth elements, particularly those considered to be in the critical rare earth oxide (CREO) category as defined in the August 2011 report issued by Technology Metals Research. These CREO elements include Tasman's major revenue drivers of dysprosium, yttrium, terbium, neodymium, and europium.
This PEA is based upon the production of a mixed REE concentrate, as modeling of separation of this concentrate into individual rare earth oxides was considered beyond the scope of the study. For separation, Tasman is exploring multiple options, which include outsourcing, partnerships, and new technologies. For the scope of this report, modeled pricing is at a discount of 38% to the final separated oxide selling price given in Table 8 to account for the cost of separation by a third party. The undiscounted REE basket price used in the PEA analysis was US$51.00 and therefore the corresponding long term discounted basket price was US$31.60.
Zirconium carbonate shall be produced with the rare earth products based on the current metallurgical process design. Zirconium carbonate is an important input into the rapidly growing zirconium chemicals industry, with zirconium carbonate being the pre-cursor material from which other zirconium chemicals are manufactured. The end products from zirconium carbonate include: antiperspirant actives, paint driers, leather tanning products, paper coatings and automotive catalysts. Currently, the majority of zirconium carbonate is sourced from zircon, which requires extensive processes and chemical cracking operations to separate zirconium. According to data published by independent consulting firm TZ Minerals International, the zirconium chemicals market is the fastest growing segment of the zirconium market and is estimated to account for 18% of the zirconium market in 2012 or approximately 250,000 tonnes. Price forecasts and current spot pricing for zirconium carbonate was not available and as such, the price of zirconia or zirconium oxide has been used as a proxy. As a result, a conservative price forecast of $3.77 per kg was used in the model, in line with competitor PEA pricing.
The price deck used in the PEA is illustrated in Table 8.
Table 8: Rare Earth Oxide and Zirconia Equivalent "Price Deck" Assumed for Norra Karr PEA
Economic Analysis and Technical Assumptions
For the analysis, the Norra Karr deposit was analyzed based on an open pittable recoverable resource of 58.1Mt million tonnes grading 0.59% TREO (50.0% HREO/TREO) and 1.70% ZrO2, in the inferred and indicated categories. This resource provides for a greater than 20 year mine life, however if the entire deposit were to be included at the current estimated processing rate, the project would have a mine life of approximately 100 years.
The current mining and processing assumptions are for a mining rate of 1.5 million tonnes per year with average TREO recoveries of 80% and average ZrO2 recoveries of 60%. The project's mining and process assumptions are listed in Table 9. No provision is made for inflation, and the capital invested is assumed to be sourced as equity.
Based upon the total capital cost estimate of $290 million over a 1.5 year construction period, the before tax NPV at 10% discount rate as determined by PAH is $1,464 million as detailed in Table 2 above. Payback on the project is within 3 years from the start of production, and generates a pre-tax IRR of 49.6%.
Table 9: Norra Karr, Mining and Processing Assumptions
In addition to the direct capital expenditures, it is estimated that the working capital requirement at time of mine start-up is to be $9.0 million and reclamation costs at the end of the 40 year project life is expected to be $10.9 million.
Beyond the base case analysis, a sensitivity analysis was performed on the economic model to assess the impact for changes in the REE price deck as well as changes to the operational costs. The results of the sensitivity analysis are provided in Table 10, 11 and 12, which demonstrate that the economic model is most sensitive to changes in the REO basket prices followed by initial capital expenditures and finally increases or decreases in operational costs.
Table 10: Norra Karr, Sensitivity Analysis of Cost Assumptions under PEA -- Change in REO Basket Price
Table 11: Norra Karr, Sensitivity Analysis of Cost Assumptions under PEA -- Change in Initial Capital Expenditure
Table 12: Norra Karr, Sensitivity Analysis of Cost Assumptions under PEA -- Change in Operational Costs
The Swedish Mining Act provides a clear pathway to resource development, and Tasman has hired a skilled team of staff and consultants to move the project forwards through appropriate legislation as quickly as possible.
Environmental and archeological baseline studies were conducted during 2011 by consulting group Mirab AB which provides adequate information for the submission of a Mine Lease application during Q2 2012. Golder Associates Sweden are currently preparing the application document. Tasman is completing a program of thorough community, government agency and other stakeholder engagement in line with this process.
NI 43-101 Compliance
The technical information in this news release has been prepared in accordance with Canadian regulatory requirements by, or under the supervision of, Mr Craig Horlacher and Mr Paul Gates of Pincock Allen & Holt, Mr Geoff Reed of Runge Ltd and Mr John Litz of JE Litz and Associates all of whom are independent Qualified Persons as defined under National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.
Samples submitted by Tasman Metals Ltd used with the resource calculation quoted above were analyzed by the ME-MS81 technique by ALS Chemex Ltd's laboratories in Pitea, Sweden and Vancouver, Canada, where duplicates, repeats, blanks and known standards were inserted according to standard industry practice. Where over-range for ME-MS81, Zr was determined using the ME-XRF10 technique. The qualified person for the Company's exploration projects, Mark Saxon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tasman and a member of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and Australian Institute of Geoscientists oversaw this data collection. Metallurgical products produced during research by the Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) were analyzed by the XRF technique in the laboratories of Labtium Oy in Finland. Labtium Oy is an independent consulting laboratory, fully accredited to industry standards.
The qualified person for the Company's exploration projects, Mark Saxon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Tasman and a Member of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and Australian Institute of Geoscientists, has reviewed and verified the contents of this release.
About Tasman Metals Ltd.
Tasman Metals Ltd is a Canadian mineral exploration and development company focused on Rare Earth Elements (REE's) in the European region and is listed on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol "TSM" and the NYSE-AMEX under the symbol "TAS". REE demand is increasing, due to the metals unique properties that make them essential for high technology and environmentally-beneficial applications. Since over 95% of REE supply is sourced from China, the European Union is actively supporting policy to promote domestic supply of REE's, to ensure the security of high-tech industry. Tasman's exploration portfolio is uniquely placed, with the capacity to deliver "high-tech" metals from politically stable, mining friendly jurisdictions with developed infrastructure.
The Company's Norra Karr project in Sweden is one of the most significant heavy REE resources in the world, and the only NI43-101 compliant REE resource in mainland Europe. The resource is unusually low in radioactive metals relative to peer projects, with less than 15 ppm each of uranium and thorium.
For more information regarding rare earth elements, see the Rare Metal Blog at www.raremetalblog.com or Resource Stock Digest at http://strategicmetalstocks.resourcestockdigest.com
On behalf of the Board,
Mark Saxon, President & CEO
1305 -- 1090 West Georgia St., Vancouver, BC, V6E 3V7
Company Contact: Jim Powell, V.P. - Corporate Development + 1 (647) 478 8952 or Mariana Bermudez +1 (604) 685 9316
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The TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange), the American Stock Exchange or the Frankfurt Stock Exchange accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this news release.
Cautionary Note to U.S. Investors Concerning Estimates of Inferred Resources. This news release uses the term "inferred mineral resource." We advise U.S. investors that this term is not recognized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The estimation of inferrred resources involves far greater uncertainty as to their existence and economic viability than the estimation of other categories of resources. U.S. investors are cautioned not to assume that estimates of inferred mineral resources exist, are economically minable, or will be upgraded into measured or indicated mineral resources.
Cautionary Statements. Certain statements found in this release may constitute forward-looking statements as defined in the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements reflect the speaker's current views with respect to future events and financial performance and include any statement that does not directly relate to a current or historical fact. Such statements reflect the current risks, uncertainties and assumptions related to certain factors including, without limitations, competitive factors, general economic conditions, customer relations, relationships with vendors and strategic partners, the interest rate environment, governmental regulation and supervision, seasonality, technological change, changes in industry practices, and one-time events. Should any one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should any underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those described herein. Forward-looking statements cannot be guaranteed and actual results may vary materially due to the uncertainties and risks, known and unknown, associated with such statements. Shareholders and other readers should not place undue reliance on "forward-looking statements," as such statements speak only as of the date of this release.
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