BlueJay Mining’s Dundas project in Greenland is thought to hold the world’s highest-grade mineral sand ilmenite – the key ore in titanium. The venture was granted government approval in July and work is underway to prove its size. Heidi Vella speaks to BlueJay managing director, Roderick McIllree – formerly of Greenland Energy and Minerals – about Dundas and Greenland’s potential to be the 21st century’s new mining frontier.
Nestled between Iceland, Canada and Norway, Greenland is the world’s largest island, around 80% of which is covered in an ice cap up to 4km thick, in places.
Greenland is also at the epicentre of global warming. As the ice melts away new potential revenue streams present themselves, mining being one.
BlueJay managing director Roderick McIllree says the rapid effects of climate change on the country are profound. Each year, land-based ice retreats by 250m-600m, “but in some instances, up to 1km,” he says. “The rocks coming up and out of the ice have never been examined before; this is the leading edge of the whole exploration game in Greenland.”
Nearly thirteen years ago, McIllree founded Greenland Energy and Minerals, an exploration company focused on developing the somewhat controversial Kvanefjeld project, located at the southern tip of the country. The site contains the second-largest occurrence of uranium and the biggest occurrence of rare earths in the world.
McIllree and his team’s work ultimately led to Denmark and Greenland overturning a more than 40 year ban on radioactive element exploitation.
Then, after selling Greenland Energy to a Chinese company in 2013, McIllree and his team turned their attention to Dundas (previously known as the Pituffik Titanium Project).
Dundas was first identified in 1916 by the Danish and Greenland geological survey after a multi-decade work programme by the Danish State. With available data and established relationships with local regulators, BluJay Mining hit the ground running.
The project, which the company says has been proven as having the highest-grade mineral sand ilmenite project globally, with an initial inferred JORC resource of 23.6 million tonnes (Mt) at 8.8% ilmenite (in situ), including a high-grade zone equal to 7.9Mt at 14.2% ilmenite, represents the best Greenland has to offer, according to McIllree.
“The three key things are: It is un-oxidised, homogenous and very low in impurity ilmenite,” adds McIllree, “Potential end users – refiners, off-take customers – are very interested in the product because of those three characteristics, as it will fit into almost all refineries globally.”
The resource forms part of a larger exploration target for the tested area of between 90Mt to 130Mt at an in situ grade of between 6.3% and 8.4% ilmenite. Furthermore, this area covers just 17% of the raised beach area.
Crucially, continued exploration work suggests the offshore environment has the potential to host much larger volumes of ilmenite-bearing sediments.
Offshore sampling completed by Bluejay during 2015 returned visual percentages of heavy minerals in almost all samples taken. Furthermore, the shallow marine environment extends approximately 1,000m from the shore, all in less than 20m of water, so drowned beach sediment accumulations, if ultimately proven, could be amenable to exploitation via simple and cost-effective offshore dredging. As such, the company is the first to be granted a marine exploration licence for minerals by the government.
“There are areas where we are getting up to 60%, 70%, 80% and, even some instances, 90% ilmenite in situ. The opportunity to develop a very low-cost high-quality product and high-margin mine is very real and that is what we are racing to do because the macro-backdrop for ilmenite prices are very supportive now,” says McIllree.
“The key deliverables from this year’s programme will be an upgraded resource, that will include all of the raised beach and the active beach environments.”