The Fen Complex has an old and interesting exploration history comprising several episodes of mining initiated as early in the mid-seventeenth century. Most notably the Fen iron mines (1657-1927) and the Soeve niobium mine 1953-1965)
1940s: early geological mapping was supported by a ground-based geomagnetic survey. Several, at that time, hidden rock units and contacts were outlined by this method. It was also discovered that the hematite was non-magnetic and only detected when associated with disseminated magnetite.1950s-1970s: Prospecting carried out by Norsk Bergverk A/S during niobium mining in the 1950s and -60s showed a rather strong radioactivity in several parts of the Fen Complex. However, a planned study of the Th and REE potential was never carried out.1980s-1990s:Dahlgren (1983) published a map showing gamma-ray exposure rates 1 m above the ground over the Fen Complex around the nearby town of Ulefoss. Between 1993 and 2000, indoor radon measurements were carried out in about 250 dwellings in Nome municipality by the company Labnet and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. 2000s: Based on the realization that high levels of radon were emitted in houses and constructions of the Fen area, the NGU conducted an aerial radiometric survey in 2006. Helicopter measurements were carried out. An area of about 20 km2 over the Fen Complex and nearby town of Ulefoss was surveyed.
REEM is currently cooperating with 21st North, Wardell Armstrong, Kingston Laboratories and SRK in further developing the project. 21 st North has worked as operator exploring for REEs in the southern and eastern part of the complex with focus on the mostly sediment covered extension of known mineralisation at Gruveåsen and Bjørndalen. After 4 years of development work and two drilling campaign a deposit of approx 2 million tons of REE is indicated within a limited drilled area. The geologists conclude that the deposit is open ended in both depth and width (indicating an even larger deposit). The drilling results makes Fen a very significant REE deposit and the largest known exploitable REE resource in Europe and one of the largest in the western world.REE Minerals was awarded 3 exploitation licenses in 2014. This was a real break-through and proof that the authorities too acknowledge that the deposit is economical exploitable.
Wardell Armstrong Int. UK (WAI) has performed metallurgical studies and tests showing very promising results. The metallurgical tests work concludes that several inexpensive, industrial methods of extraction can be used to obtain a relatively high concentration of mixed REE oxides indicating low Opex and a high gross margin. The location and other project features indicate a low Capex and that the project is very competitive compared with other projects. This work will continue in order to increase the recovery and as such lower future operating costs.
The high volumes of REE indicated, promising results from metallurgy studies and the presence of excellent infrastructure nearby (power and water supply, roads, housing etc) indicate that the Fen deposit can be developed and become a very profitable business within a few years. Robustness of the project is demonstrated in several ways; one of them is that the 3 REE types supporting the Permanent Magnet market will alone be able to carry the project with favorable IRR after tax.This fact combined with the existing legal framework and the stable political situation in Norway provides an excellent investment opportunity for Norwegian and international partners. The strategic value of REE in the Fen deposit provides additional comfort that all necessary permits will be obtained.
A high proportion of REE in the Fen deposit supports the Permanent Magnets market segment, which has the best market prospects among the REE oxides. Geographical and other factors preliminary point to a mining concept whereby mining and some or all of the processing will take place at Fen, adjacent to the mining area. The location of the deposit and natural landscape indicates an underground mine with an adjacent production line including back fill in the underground mine for part of the tailings. The landscape nearby is favorable for storage of the remaining part of the tailings.
As an alternative solution, Herøya Industrial Park is located only 25 kilometres from Fen with availability to all infrastructures required to ensure the safe and efficient processing of the resource. The pre/feasibility studies will further explore and determine the most appropriate alternatives for the project. Location of the processing facilities adjacent to the mine at Fen will moreover reduce the need to transport large volumes of rocks by road or on barges on the Telemark Canal.
Normally radioactive substances such as thorium and uranium occur together with REE in REE deposits. The concentrations vary and levels above 5000 ppm (0,5%) are not unusual. Our project has a moderate thorium concentration with an average level of less than 300 ppm for thorium and as low as 11 ppm for uranium respectively. These levels are moderate/low compared to other REE projects and suggest that thorium will not be an obstacle to further development of the project.