Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited continues to expand its resource asset base with a fresh prospect in Queensland. The Queensland Government has released its Resource Industry Development Plan, with six key focus areas and 43 designated actions. New economy minerals are a key area: the Queensland Department of Resources, when it decided to focus on the NEM, set aside $26 million to fund its collaborative drilling program in the exploration of these new minerals.
The current draft list of NMS, including selenium, will be converted into a prescribed list of new economy minerals. The exploration area with outcrop beds of the seleniferous limestones of the Toolebuc formation north of Tambo was identified during geological research. The Department has accepted exploration permit application EMPA 28606 over an area of 196 km2 in the Tambo region of west-central Queensland, naming selenium as a target.
The area is accessible by local paved roads and well served by local infrastructure in the town of Blackall to the north of the area. The shallow dip and outcrop layers of Toolebuc limestone are up to 20 m thick. With the extensive existing geological data and the shallow nature of the limestone, the exploration program will require limited drilling and assaying to prove a JORC resource.
The Importance of Selenium: Selenium was discovered in 1817 by Jons Jakob Berzelius of Sweden. Named after the Greek word meaning “moon,” selenium is a metalloid element that occurs in at least three forms: a gray metallic form, a dark red or black powder, and a red crystalline form. Selenium conducts different amounts of electricity, depending on how much light hits it.
It can also convert light into electricity. Therefore, it is used in photoelectric cells, photometers, television cameras, photocopiers, solar cells and semiconductors. Selenium can convert alternating electric current to direct current and is used in such converters.
It is the active ingredient in dandruff shampoos and is a rubber cutting agent. Selenium can remove color from glass or add a red color to it. It is also used in alloys, especially with steel.
Therefore, selenium is a key requirement for many aspects of technology commonly used in daily life. Biologically, selenium is also necessary for human life. Its role is that of a cleanser or protector; it protects against cancer and other diseases by eliminating oxidizing free radicals and certain heavy metals.
A natural selenium deficiency in rocks and soils may be linked to the incidence of strokes in humans, and excess selenium can cause deformities and disease in animals. As many soil types are deficient in selenium in Australia and New Zealand, selenium must either be added to the soil directly, indirectly in fertilizers, or fed directly to livestock through dips or mineral licks. Selenium-deficient soils are widespread in Queensland as well as New South Wales and Western Australia.
The inclusion of selenium in the Queensland Government’s New Economy Minerals list recognizes the importance of the mineral to the state. Selenium minerals are rare, and although there are minerals rich in selenium, few are mined exclusively for the element. Most selenium is obtained as a by-product of copper ore processing.
Selenium is sometimes found in pure form. It occurs in the rare minerals clausthalite and crooksite. Despite its name, the mineral selenite does not actually contain selenium.
Some selenium is mined in Japan, Canada, USA and Belgium. Pacific Rare Earths: Chatham’s wholly owned Australian subsidiary, Avenir Makatea Pty Ltd, trading as Pacific Rare Earths, has applied. Pacific Rare Earths Limited is the umbrella company for the existing rare earth element projects at Korella and Korella South in Queensland, the Chatham Rise project offshore New Zealand and now the Tambo project.
This Selenium initiative is a logical extension of the existing PRE portfolio.