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Hill End Set To Join High-Purity Alumina Party

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Hill End set to join high-purity alumina party with multi-decade maiden resource

A diary entry shows that the misnamed Hill End Gold (HEG) must be close to releasing a maiden resource estimate for its Yendon high-purity alumina (HPA) project some 25km south-east of Ballarat.

It is bound to gain attention as HPA is following in the footsteps of previously ignored specialty materials like graphite and cobalt which are enjoying super-charged growth in demand due to their use in a range of new and hi-tech applications.

HPA is a high-value material, fetching between $US25-$US40/kg depending on quality and the particular end-use. Compound annual growth rates of 15-20% are forecast, with the high growth reflecting its exposure to a number of high-growth markets.

The stuff is used as the separator between the anode and cathode in lithium-ion batteries to prevent meltdowns, as well as in LED lighting, and scratch-resistant synthetic sapphire gas (smartphone screens and lenses).

Having said all that, it is not a big market. Annual consumption is currently put at about 25,000 tonnes. But the strong expected growth rates means that new sources of supply will be needed.

Hill End - its name is a throwback to when its focus was on gold projects in central NSW - identified the HPA opportunity a while back, striking a deal with Tolga Kumova and Tom Eadie of Syrah (SYR) graphite fame for ownership of the Yendon kaolin (aluminous clay) deposit.

The region around Ballarat has long been known for its production of high-quality kaolin for the paper filler and ceramics markets. But HPA, or more correctly kaolin for processing into HPA, is something new.

The soon-to-released Yendon kaolin resource estimate is expected to confirm a quality resource capable of sustaining a HPA project for decades to come. As might be suspected given the current size of the HPA market, Hill End’s HPA ambitions are not going to be resource-constrained.

To become a significant HPA producer, Hill End would probably need to mine no more than 100,000 tonnes of material annually to produce 40,000 tonnes of kaolin.

The kaolin would then go in to a calcining and acid-heavy chemical process to yield 10,000 tonnes of HPA (99.99 per cent purity) — enough to account for 40 per cent of current global consumption.

While the resource base at Yendon is likely to support such a grand ambition, a smaller ambition would seem likely. The maiden resource estimate will nevertheless tick another box on Hill End’s HPA ambitions.

It already has ticked the box on the metallurgical side of things. Next up will be subjecting the HPA ambition to a preliminary feasibility study, including a decision on where to send Yendon’s kaolin concentrates for processing into HPA.

Plus, Centaurus’ local knowledge lands it a highly prospective Brazilian nickel-cobalt play alongside Anglo and Vale. Read more + 

View More Articles By Barry Fitzgerald

One of Australia's leading business journalists, Barry FitzGerald, has joined the Resources Rising Stars' Ten Bagger team. FitzGerald, who is a specialist resources reporter with 40 years' experience, will publish his highly regarded weekly column in Ten Bagger.

FitzGerald - whose column highlights the issues, opportunities and challenges for small and mid-cap resources stocks - most recently penned his column for The Australian newspaper and before that, The Age. His column will give readers the chance to benefit from FitzGerald's extensive contact base, invaluable insights and vast experience of the junior and mid-tier resource sector.



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