Quest Rare Minerals (CVE:QRM)(AMEX:QRM) Wednesday gave a progress update on its B-Zone Heavy Rare Earth project at Strange Lake, Quebec.
Wednesday morning, the company's shares ticked up 1.35% to $3.
Quest is advancing the project to deliver a pre-feasibility study (PFS) for the deposit in the second half of 2012. At that time,
the company said it will have a more accurate idea as to the delivery timelines for its definitive feasibility study and for mine start-up.
The company is following a parallel path for the collection of the necessary data for use in the subsequent definitive feasibility study. A budget of $2.5 million has been allocated for completion of this work, the company said.
In a conference call, Quest's president and CEO Peter Cashin said: "We have been working on a PFS but also on a full feasibility study in parallel in order to accelerate delivery."
"Our 2011 prefeasibility work is advancing well, important changes in the scope of the project are being made when compared to how it was developed in our September 2010 Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA).
"Changes include consolidating the mine and mill complex at Strange Lake, Quebec, in proximity to the B-Zone to capture the power, infrastructure and heat synergies of a combined operation. This will allow for more streamlined permitting timelines related to a single footprint site.
"The modifications also include the construction of a 160 km access road to the Labrador coast and port facility as opposed to the originally-conceived road and slurry pipeline for delivery of crushed ore to a coastal Mill Complex.
"As well, in order to accelerate the completion of the metallurgical flow sheet of B-Zone ore to saleable product, Quest has engaged a second metallurgical laboratory, Process Research ORTECH to work in parallel to Hazen Research."
The Strange Lake property, located 220 km northeast of Schefferville and 125 km west of the Voisey Bay Nickel-Copper-Cobalt Mine, covers an area of 54,000 hectares.
Quest's 2009 exploration program led to the discovery of a significant new Rare Earth metal deposit, the B-Zone, at Strange Lake.
An April 2010, an NI 43-101 preliminary resource estimate of the B Zone completed by Wardrop Engineering indicated that at a 0.95% total rare earth oxides (TREO) base-case cut-off grade, the B Zone contains an Indicated Resource of 36.4 million tonnes grading 1.16% TREO, 2.17% zirconium oxide, 0.24% niobium pentoxide, 0.05% hafnium oxide and 0.12% beryllium oxide.
This resource calculation demonstrated the extremely heavy rare earth oxide-rich nature of the B Zone, representing between 40 percent and 51 percent of the TREO in the deposit.
Quest said a total of 23 geotechnical drillholes for 953 metres were completed on the project, with the holes being used for rock
stability testing, groundwater flow testing, condemnation drilling over proposed tailings and mine complex sites and for a proposed airstrip site.
Quest's pre-feasibility team is in the process of updating project capital costs and incorporating their findings into capital expenditure models for the project. A project cost optimization process will determine where maximum cost efficiencies can be
realized for the final project scope.
Considerable effort is being undertaken to minimize the capital cost escalation that many projects are experiencing around the world.
Reno Pressacco, vice president of Operations, said: "The work on revising the project scope when compared to our 2010 PEA will serve to optimize the economic potential of the B-Zone deposit over its notional production life.
"This revised project scope offers the advantage of using a single power supply for the entire project, removes the risks associated with a pipeline transportation system in those climate and terrain conditions, improving the management of the operation and simplifying and streamlining the permitting processes.
"We have been very encouraged by recent positive findings from our metallurgical test work and are confident that a final metallurgical solution for Strange Lake mineralization will be developed."
The company is also in the process of a rare earth market study in order to better understand the market and target potential
buyers. Quest is targeting the production of niobium, zirconium and potentially berylllium at the B-Zone deposit.
Additionally, the company is looking to add a beryllium contribution to its model in the wake of recent comments from Canada's
government was looking to buld a strategic stockpile for military use.
Beryllium has been used as a component in next-generation fighter jets and in both military and civillian aircraft as brake
components in landing gear.
Earlier this year, Quest released the results of its successful B-Zone definition diamond drilling program.
Final results for holes BZ-11-118 to BZ-11-255 returned multiple, high grade intersections of between 1.12% and 6.11% total rare earth oxide (TREO), over thicknesses of 2.34 to 147.0 metres, the company said.
The higher in value heavy rare earth oxide (HREO) represents between 22.4% and 76.5% of the TREO content intersected in the new drilling.
Among the best holes of the infill program, BZ11218 hit 1.44% TREO over 144.4 metres, and hole BZ11189 returned 1.23% TREO over 116.1 metres, including 3.04% TREO over 11.7 metres and 4.9% TREO over 4.9 metres.
The 2012 pre-feasibility study work program will include completion of the metallurgical solution for the B-Zone, finishing of the
preliminary engineering for the project, execution of the financial analysis for the project and delivery of the final National Instrument 43-101 compliant Pre-Feasibility Study technical report.
This program has been budgeted at $21.0 million for Quest's 2012 fiscal year.
Quest Rare Minerals is a Canadian exploration company focused on the identification and discovery of new and significant Rare Earth deposit opportunities.
Quest is currently advancing several high-potential projects in Canada's premier exploration areas: the Strange Lake and Misery Lake areas of northeastern Quebec and the Plaster Rock area of northwestern New Brunswick.