TOODYAY is gearing up to be a world player in supplying raw materials for new global clean energy markets after “exceptional” results from recent test drilling for rare precious metals in Julimar.
A report to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) suggests Toodyay may be heading for an economic bonanza in new jobs, supplies and corporate community funding.
The discovery has triggered a rush by rival explorers to peg other large areas of Toodyay in the hope of finding similar deposits.
Chalice Gold Mines shares have skyrocketed by more than 2400 per cent since mid-March, bolstered by last month’s announcement that the explorer had bought three Julimar farms for a total of $7 million in cash and a further $7 million in shares.
Managing Director Alex Dorsch told the ASX that buying the land was “an important milestone and significant step for the potential development of a future mining operation”.
The farms cover a total of nearly 1000ha in the Keating Road area – about 30km west of the Toodyay townsite – where Chalice has drilled 200 holes for nickel, copper cobalt and Platinum Group Elements (PGEs).
Rarer than gold
PGEs include palladium which is 30 times rarer than gold and worth 40 per cent more.
Palladium is a key green energy ingredient in hydrogen fuel cells and solar panels.
It is also widely used in catalytic converters to cut vehicle emissions in petrol engines.
An acute shortage of the precious metal drove world prices to record highs this year and stood last month at $3100 an ounce.
Other clean energy metals found at Julimar – platinum, nickel, copper and cobalt – are also “critical metals for electric vehicles and other energy storage applications”.
Perth-based Chalice – now valued at more than $1.1 billion since its initial Julimar discovery in March – says nickel, copper, cobalt and PGEs are extremely rare.
The combination of metals discovered at Julimar is “unique for Australia”.
“The suite of metals is considered critical and, in some cases, strategically important for the transition of the energy and transport sectors from fossil fuels and internal combustion engines to renewable resources in electric, hydrogen and hybrid fuel cell vehicles,” a Chalice spokesperson said.
Mr Dorsch last month described the latest drilling results as “exceptional”, saying “it is clear that Julimar is emerging as a globally significant deposit of critical metals in Western Australia”.
He told The Herald in April that the Julimar ore body could be a “sizeable deposit of hundreds of millions of tonnes”.
The ‘Gonneville’ discovery – named after a French geologist who helped peg the original Chalice claim – extends north into the Julimar State Forest where the company is seeking State Government approval to start low-impact soil sampling.
Aerial surveys suggest Julimar State Forest is at least as rich in the same rare precious metals as the Keating Road site.
A Chalice spokesperson said that because the project was at “such an early stage, we do not know how much water would be required” if mining occurs.
“Chalice appreciates how critically important water is to the region and takes its environmental responsibilities seriously,” the spokesperson said.
“Any potential mining activity in Western Australia is strictly governed by mining and environmental laws.”
The company says it expects to know by the middle of next year if a Julimar mine is economically viable.
Chalice currently has about 25-30 staff working in mainly geological and field roles at the Keating Road site.
“As our drilling advances, we are hopeful that these numbers will steadily increase with the company remaining strongly committed to supporting local businesses and the local community wherever possible,” the spokesperson said.
“The Julimar project has the potential to deliver significant jobs, skills and economic diversification to the Wheatbelt region.
“As the project advances, so will our scope to provide employment, jobs and training opportunities and to invest in positive community initiatives.
Chalice donated $5000 to this year’s Toodyay Christmas Street Party after the local chamber of commerce and industry pulled out due to pandemic uncertainty.
“We are committed to being part of the local community by supporting local events, facilities and businesses wherever possible,” Chalice said.