The Blesberg Project is located approximately 80km north of Springbok in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.
It lies at the western end of the Northern Cape Pegmatite Belt. This belt extends from Blesberg in the west for about 450 km towards the east. The deposit is one of the largest known economically mineralised and exploited pegmatite deposits in the Pegmatite Belt.
A brief history
Mining at Blesberg commenced in 1925 when it was worked mainly for bismuth. The main products from later mining were beryl, bismuth, tantalite-columbite, spodumene, feldspar and mica. Feldspar production from the mine was reported to be of very high quality with the feldspar being pure white and unstained by iron oxide. Historical information about mine production quantities and quality is very limited, however a sample analysis of a 150 ton shipment of feldspar from the 1960’s assayed 1.74% Li2O (Schutte, I. Memoir 60 Geological Survey of South Africa,1972).
AVL completed 41 holes (3,128m) of Reverse Circulation (RC) drilling at Blesberg in 2017 and confirmed the extension of the pegmatite beyond the historical mine. The Company aims to proceed to calculate and report a mineral resource estimate in accordance with the 2012 JORC Code. The programme was designed to achieve a drill intersection spacing of 50m, sufficient to allow good resolution of the pegmatite geometry and mineral distribution.
High quality commercial feldspars used in the ceramic and glass industry attract prices ranging from US$60 to US$120 per tonne of product locally in South Africa. Prices as high as US$250 per tonne in the export market have been reported and specific feldspars, such as microcline (K) feldspar, abundant at Blesberg (see Company ASX announcement on 18th April 2017), attract a premium. Extraction is normally by open cut mining and physical mineral processing methods to produce a specified product sizing. Differences in the physical characteristics of minor accessory minerals such as spodumene, tantalum and beryl offer an opportunity for their extraction using a range of methods.
The global feldspar market was worth US$343 million in 2015, increasing at 2.5% per annum. The market size is expected to grow to 25.6Mt by 2022. The largest importers of feldspar in 2015 were Italy, Spain, Taiwan, Russia and China. Chinese imports grew 24.6% per year from 2007 to 2017. (Source: Ceramic Industry website, ceramicindustry.com)
AVL is currently completing a re-negotiation of their original agreement with the vendors.
Following a successful conclusion, the following activities are likely to occur:
- completion of the geological modelling and mineral resource estimation.
- completion of beneficiation testwork focused on the separation of feldspars.
- discussion and possible execution of off-take agreements with feldspar end users.