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Commerce Resources’ NRCan collaboration moves forward on rare earths metallurgy

by Greg Klein | May 13, 2020

A co-operation with Natural Resources Canada brings significant progress to an advanced-stage northern Quebec critical minerals deposit. Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE announced the findings from NRCan’s CanmetMINING division, which has been working on the flotation circuit for material from the company’s Ashram rare earths and fluorspar project in northern Quebec.

Commerce Resources NRCan collaboration moves forward on rare earths metallurgy

As the U.S. shows increasing interest in Canadian
critical mineral deposits, a poll finds widespread
Canadian support for their development and export.

CanmetMINING “has completed collector screening, an evaluation of mixed collectors, reverse conditioning tests, cleaning stage tests and a continuous process simulation with a locked cycle test,” Commerce stated.

The work has identified “an alternative reagent scheme and flotation circuit to achieve, and potentially exceed, the target objective of less than 25% mass pull at more than 80% recovery. This has also been achieved using one-half to one-quarter of the quantity of reagents utilized in prior test work completed by other metallurgical labs. Previous work has identified reagents as a key area of optimization in the Ashram deposit’s flotation circuit and where significant cost advantages may be found by screening the performance of each pertinent reagent with respect to its consumption and purchase cost.”

Improved flotation performance “has been achieved through a combination of distributed reagent additions, reagent synergism and reverse conditioning in a very simple and basic flotation circuit,” the company added.

The findings precede a detailed report, Mineral Processing Flowsheet Approaches for the Ashram Rare Earth and Fluorspar Deposit, that CanmetMINING will present to the 2020 Conference of Metallurgists in Toronto next August.

Some aspects of CanmetMINING’s upcoming work will involve Corem, which claims Canada’s largest concentration of R&D resources for mineral processing. Partnering with the governments of Quebec and Canada, Corem works with its 15 mining company members and its international clients to provide specialized services and research expertise. Corem’s tests on a 400-kilogram delivery of Ashram material is expected to resume as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

Funding comes from NRCan through CanmetMINING’s rare earth element and chromite R&D program to develop new extraction technologies, address Canadian regulations and learn more about Canadian deposits.

Metallurgical studies elsewhere have also advanced Commerce’s Ashram project. In February the company announced that Hazen Research’s Colorado pilot plant had produced a calcium fluoride concentrate grading 97.8%, surpassing the 97% level typical of fluorspar’s more expensive acid-spar grade.

The previous December Commerce released promising results from Université Laval metallurgical studies on Ashram material.

Both fluorspar and rare earths figure in the American list of 35 critical minerals. In January Canada and the U.S. announced their Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration, encouraging the use of Canadian resources to reduce American dependency on rival countries.

Commerce’s May 13 announcement coincides with poll results showing widespread support for critical minerals development in Canada. Released by the Mining Association of Canada, the survey found:

  • 88% of respondents want Canada to increase its role in producing critical minerals for world markets

  • 86% want to encourage international investment into Canadian critical minerals and metals companies that are sustainability leaders

  • 83% want to encourage Canadian production of critical minerals to compete with China

  • 81% want to promote interest in Canadian critical minerals by drawing attention to Canada’s high standards of sustainability

Commerce’s Ashram deposit features carbonatite-hosted mineralization and relatively simple monazite, bastnasite and xenotime mineralogy that’s favourable to conventional rare earths processing.

Using a 1.25% cutoff, Ashram’s 2012 resource estimate shows:

  • measured: 1.59 million tonnes averaging 1.77% total rare earth oxides

  • indicated: 27.67 million tonnes averaging 1.9% TREO

  • inferred: 219.8 million tonnes averaging 1.88% TREO

The near-surface deposit also shows a strong distribution of the high-demand magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium.

Earlier this week Commerce offered a private placement up to $1 million. The company closed private placements of $300,000 this month and $2.51 million in November.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

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