The move follows Vital Metals' receipt of its JORC-compliant resource report, which revealed 95 million tonnes, a high-grade concentration exceeding 35% REO (rare earth oxides) and hydrometallurgy testing results with 96% projected recovery.
The company has thus retained Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction and Aurora Telecom Services, respectively, as its preferred mining contractor and builder of its ice road. The contracts allow for equipment and plant mobilisation to the site over the winter in preparation for an operational start later this year.
Specifically, Vital Metals said, Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction would establish mining by extracting material at the North T zone. The pair are expecting to finalise a mining services contract by February 29.
Aurora Telecom Services will construct the mine's ice road from Dettah, about five kilometres from Yellowknife, to Nechalacho ahead of the February and March delivery of the plant and other associated equipment. The miner said Aurora Telecom Services also built the ice road to the site for Nechalacho's previous owner.
Additionally, due to the positive JORC results, the company has placed a purchase order with Tomra Sorting for a COM Tertiary XRT 1220/B ore-sorting system. The C$1.4 million (US$1 million) set-up is the same model it used in its test work.
The order, which includes supply, installation, commissioning and spare parts, should be delivered in June.
"The signing of these agreements marks an important milestone in the development of the Nechalacho rare earth project as they provide the foundations for enabling Vital Metals to become a producer of rare earths in 2020 through the processing of material from the North T zone," Vital Metals managing director Geoff Atkins said.
"These contracts and agreements also provide prospective customers with a far greater level of confidence in potential delivery dates to progress offtake negotiations. Further, by confirming the use of sensor-based ore sorting technology to produce a concentrate, it will remove the requirement for traditional reagents, process water and tailing facilities used in typical ore beneficiation."