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Commerce Resources’ rare earths project shows fluorspar byproduct potential

by Greg Klein | March 1, 2016

Metallurgical tests bring further encouragement for a possible byproduct from Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram rare earths deposit in Quebec. A Colorado lab has produced over 50 fluorspar concentrates through the project’s base case beneficiation flowsheet, comprised of flotation, leaching and magnetic separation, Commerce announced March 1. The mini-pilot plant concentrates fluorspar with rare earths until the final stage of processing, when a fluorspar concentrate is separated from the rare earths concentrate.

Commerce Resources’ rare earths project shows fluorspar byproduct potential

Outcrops bearing rare earths overlay
Ashram’s shallow, high-grade deposit.

Fluorspar, also known as fluorite and measured in calcium fluoride (CaF2), comes in two grades. Acidspar, or acid grade, finds uses in hydrofluoric acid necessary for fridges, freezers and air conditioners. Metspar, or metallurgical grade, is used to make steel, aluminum, ceramics and glass. China, and to a lesser extent Mexico, dominate global fluorspar production, Commerce noted.

In one of Ashram’s best concentrates so far, the lab produced 42% total rare earth oxides at 76% recovery along with approximately 75% CaF2 at 80% recovery. The project’s fluorspar concentrates have averaged between about 75% and 94%, which could potentially be sold as metspar without further processing.

The byproduct would result as a final tails product of the primary REE recovery process, requiring no additional cost to produce and could potentially reduce the volume of tailings.

In addition, Commerce plans tests to try upgrading the metspar concentrate into the more highly priced acidspar. Offtake discussions are underway with several interested parties, the company added.

The potential byproduct wasn’t factored into Ashram’s preliminary economic assessment. The project now moves toward pre-feasibility.

Commerce emphasizes Ashram’s relatively simple mineralogy, potentially allowing for a low-cost operation. Early last month the company announced tests indicating the process might eliminate one of two leaching stages while maintaining efficiency.

As pre-feas work advances, the company continues to raise money. In early January Commerce closed the second tranche of a private placement that totalled $1.97 million. Late last month the company filed a final short form prospectus for an offer of between $1 million and $3 million, with a 15% over-allotment option.

Additionally, Commerce sees joint venture potential in its Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit in southeastern British Columbia, which has a 2011 PEA and 2013 resource update.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

Read Chris Berry’s report: Building a Non-Chinese Rare Earth Supply Chain.

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