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Reporter - Haydn black

FOLLOWING a successful A$7 million initial public offering, iTech Minerals made a successful market debut today with some good news – indications of rare earth ionic clays within its Ethiopia kaolin prospect on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.

The company commenced trading this morning, with its shares up almost 20% just after open, with more than 3.3 million shares traded in the part of the session.

iTech was originally focused on the kaolin potential at Ethiopia, but it has raised the potential of rare earth elements as a co-product from any future production after a pro-IPO review of historical drilling confirmed thick intervals of high purity kaolin at surface, plus widespread indications of cerium in the clay zone.

Combined with a high-grade rock chips exceeding 5% total rare earth oxides and the presence of a 5.7km by 2.5m outcrop of allanite-bearing monzonite, it suggests a REE enriched basement source in the area.

The clays could act to concentrate shallow REEs, increasing the grades within the 30m thick laterite zone.

Ionic clay deposits can be more easily mined and processed that the traditional hard rock deposits, and at Ethiopia it may be possible to recover both kaolin and rare earths at the same time.

REE clays were not known in Australia until their discovery recently by Australian Rare Earths at Koppamurra in the South Australian Murray Basin.

More recently companies such as Krakatoa Resources at Mt Clere and Mt Ridley Resources at its namesake project, have indicated potential for ionic clays in their areas.

The presence of cerium was previously noted, but its significance was not fully appreciated.

 iTech is now resampling dozens of historical holes, with the results due in November.

iTech managing director and major shareholder Mike Schwarz said the previously overlooked REE potential would complement the exploration program for thick, high-purity kaolin clay.

 The company also has the Franklyn kaolin-halloysite project in the Nackara Arc, and the Campoona graphite project on the Eyre Peninsula, plus some early stage interests in South Australia and New South Wales prospective for a range of metals including copper, gold, tin, and tungsten.

iTech, which was seeking $5-7 million at 20c, saw its shares range between 21.5-23.5c, closing up 10% at 22c.

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