Thursday 22nd August 2019

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Posts tagged ‘rare earth elements’

Update: Lynas responds to Malaysia’s six-month extension for rare earths processing plant

August 16th, 2019

by Greg Klein | August 15, 2019, updated August 16, 2019

Lynas gets a six-month reprieve to continue rare earths processing in Malaysia

Lynas expressed confidence in meeting government-imposed conditions
for its rare earths processing facility in Malaysia. (Photo: Lynas Corp)

 

Even a six-month reprieve augers well for Lynas Corp, the company emphasized on August 16. The Malaysian government granted an extension the previous day after threatening to shut down a plant that refines and separates material from Lynas’ Mount Weld rare earths mine in Western Australia.

The government’s original conditions called for Lynas to render the mine’s output non-radioactive before shipping it to Malaysia and to remove the low-level radioactive waste that has accumulated since 2012. The deadline was September 2, the former licence expiry date.

Lynas said yesterday’s decision was consistent with a science-based government report released last December and the company remains confident of meeting conditions.

The decision’s only significant divergence from the report, Lynas stated, was the requirement that cracking and leaching operations be moved out of Malaysia within four years. Earlier this month CEO Amanda Lacaze said the company hopes to have a C&L facility operating in Western Australia by 2022, part of the company’s $500-million expansion planned by 2025. The new facility would allow Lynas to ship non-radioactive material to Malaysia for further processing and separating.

As for the presence in Malaysia of radioactive water leach purification residue—a reported 580,000 tonnes has piled up so far—the company has six months to find a location and obtain consent for a permanent deposit facility.

Although the government rejected Lynas’ proposal to convert WLP residue into soil conditioner for agricultural use, the company vowed to continue R&D into other possible outcomes.

“While we may have preferred a longer licence … the effect is essentially the same because under either structure there will be an administrative application for renewal,” Lacaze told a briefing for analysts and investors.

In a statement issued earlier that morning, she expressed optimism “that this decision will bring an end to the politicization of Lynas over the past year.”

Last May Lacaze emphasized Lynas’ determination to keep its supply chain separate from the involvement of China, which dominates all aspects of global rare earths production and processing. Considered critical elements by the U.S. for several uses including defence, REs figure prominently in the American-Chinese trade disputes. Consequently the U.S. has implemented policies to encourage production from domestic and allied resources and technology.

Read more about Lynas Corp.

Read more about rare earths, critical elements and the U.S.-China trade dispute.

Lynas gets a six-month reprieve to continue rare earths processing in Malaysia

August 15th, 2019

This story has been updated and moved here.

Northern Minerals shifts RE offtake from China to Germany; Malaysia’s Lynas decision imminent

August 12th, 2019

by Greg Klein | August 12, 2019

A new Western Australia rare earths producer has signed an agreement with a German engineering group to take on 100% of production from the miner’s pilot plant. The deal replaces a previous 100% offtake contract with Chinese firm Lianyugang Zeyu New Materials Sales, which was cancelled last week due to breach of agreement, ASX-listed Northern Minerals announced on August 12.

Northern Minerals shifts REE offtake from China to Germany; Malaysia’s Lynas decision imminent

Browns Range production,
before and after pilot plant processing.

The agreement with thyssenkrupp Materials Trading, a company that claims to have 158,000 “colleagues” on all continents, allows the customer to buy all heavy rare earth carbonate from the Browns Range pilot plant. Future sales may involve separated heavy rare earths. The two companies will also work together on separating technology and potential expansion of the project, Northern Minerals stated. The offtake agreement includes all stockpiled product as well as future output. Production began in July 2018.

Currently in the first phase of a three-stage development plan, Northern Minerals plans to become the “first significant producer of dysprosium outside of China.”

The same day as the offtake announcement, the company reported its board is considering a $20-million investment offer from a Chinese entity. (All figures in Australian dollars.) Northern Minerals added it’s in negotiations with other potential investors. Having so far raised about $19.76 million of a previously offered $30-million private placement, the company expects to close the remainder by the end of August.

Meanwhile Australian RE producer Lynas Corp expects a decision any day now by the Malaysian government regarding the fate of the miner’s processing facility. Although the plant has operated since 2012, a new government demanded the company ensure all material sent to the country from the Mount Weld mine in Western Australia be rendered non-radioactive prior to shipment. The government also ordered the removal of radioactive tailings accumulated over seven years. Although the plant’s licence expires on September 2, Lynas officials repeatedly express confidence in the outcome.

The company added that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said licence renewal would no longer require the removal of tailings. Nevertheless, Lynas plans to relocate its cracking and leaching operations to Western Australia by 2022.

Read more about Lynas Corp.

Commerce Resources’ rare earths metallurgy optimized by university lab

August 1st, 2019

by Greg Klein | August 1, 2019

Successful methods applied in separate laboratories further demonstrate the amenability of a Quebec rare earths deposit that’s progressing towards the pre-feasibility stage. Using material from Commerce Resources’ (TSXV:CCE) Ashram project in northern Quebec, l’Université Laval successfully used an alternative flowsheet approach to create a mixed REE concentrate. The tests add to the work of Hazen Research in Colorado and Merker Mineral Processing/UVR-FIA in Germany.

Commerce Resources’ rare earths metallurgy optimized by university lab

Commerce announced receipt of Laval’s final report on August 1. The university tested Ashram material on bench-scale levels of one kilogram and on larger batches of 10 to 30 kilograms. A total of about 1,500 kilograms went through Laval’s own flotation circuit and reagent scheme.

The large batches produced around 170 kilos of flotation concentrate grading 11.2% rare earth oxides, with a mass pull of 11.3% (percent of material reporting to concentrate), the company stated. Laval’s new reagent scheme offers Ashram potentially greater flotation performance, Commerce added.

“We are very happy with the results of our collaboration with Laval and look forward to continued work with local academic institutions to further develop REE expertise in the province of Quebec and, moreover, to move the Ashram deposit closer to production,” commented president Chris Grove.

The news comes amid heightened concern in the U.S. for critical minerals supply, especially rare earths.

Commerce holds interests in two other critical minerals projects. On the Niobium Claim Group, just a few kilometres from Ashram, Saville Resources TSXV:SRE drilled high-grade, near-surface niobium along with tantalum and phosphate last spring while working towards a 75% earn-in from Commerce. The latter company also holds the advanced-stage Blue River tantalum-niobium project in southern British Columbia.

Read more about Commerce Resources.

A report from Adamas Intelligence warns of future REE shortages

August 1st, 2019

…Read more

U.S. continues push for domestic rare earths supply

July 23rd, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 23, 2019

Five presidential memos issued July 22 further show American commitment to develop rare earths deposits and supply chains unbeholden to China. Under Section 303 of the U.S. Defense Production Act, Donald Trump formally declared production capability for a number of critical elements to be essential for national defence:

U.S. continues push for domestic rare earths supply

  • separation and processing of heavy rare earth elements

  • separation and processing of light rare earth elements

  • neodymium-iron-boron-rare earth sintered material and permanent magnets

  • samarium-cobalt-rare earth permanent magnets

  • rare earth metals and alloys

Without presidential action under section 303, Trump stated, American industry “cannot reasonably be expected to provide the production capability [for these elements] adequately and in a timely manner. Further, purchases, purchase commitments or other action pursuant to section 303 of the act are the most cost-effective, expedient and practical alternative method for meeting the need for this critical capability.”

One week earlier the U.S. reportedly began an inventory of rare earth deposits and facilities, asking that companies respond to a Request for Information by July 31, “a short time frame that underscores the Pentagon’s urgency,” according to Reuters.

With China supplying 93% of U.S. rare earths supply for these defence necessities, military dependency on a geopolitical rival has given REEs top priority out of an official list of 35 critical minerals. In June, after the U.S. unveiled a new critical minerals strategy calling for closer co-operation with allies, Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed “to develop a joint action plan on critical minerals collaboration,” according to another Reuters report.

Rare earths from coal: Geoscience BC studies British Columbia’s potential

July 18th, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 18, 2019

China’s overwhelming dominance of rare earths mining and processing isn’t the only supply problem facing REEs. “Traditional rare earth ore deposits are fast depleting,” points out Maria Holuszko. “They are projected to meet demand for only the next 15 to 20 years.” As lead researcher on a new Geoscience BC project, she and her team plan further study into the viability of sourcing the stuff from coal, specifically southeastern British Columbia’s metallurgical fuel. Plans call for sampling East Kootenay deposits and tailings to quantify and characterize REEs, and to test extraction processes at the laboratory scale.

Rare earths from coal Geoscience BC studies British Columbia’s potential

REEs have already been found in coal deposits in B.C., the United States, the Russian Far East and elsewhere. The U.S., which now has REEs at the forefront of its critical minerals strategy, has funded US$10 million to study extraction from coal and/or its byproducts. As assistant professor of mineral processing and co-founder of the Urban Mining Innovation Centre at UBC’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering, Holuszko will head a project following up on work by one of her PhD candidates, Vinoth Kumar Kuppusamy. Kumar has already conducted work on a 300-kilo run-of-mine sample taken from two Kootenay operations.

Phase I of the current project calls for analyzing field samples to compile a database of East Kootenay coalfield REE concentration. The next stage involves lab-scale assessment of REE enrichment and an extraction test.

Work should wrap up by March 31, 2021, after which peer-reviewed results will be made public. The not-for-profit’s funding comes from the province, although UBC may contribute facilities and staff time, Geoscience BC director of external relations Richard Truman says.

With a mandate to provide information that helps government, industry and communities make informed decisions, Geoscience BC has worked on over 200 projects since 2005. Watch this video to learn more.

 

Visit the East Kootenay coalfields

Three open pit metallurgical coal mines operated by Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TECK.B welcome the public this summer. Saturday bus tours leave Elkford during July for two-hour trips to Greenhills and during August for two-and-a-half hour trips to Fording River. Bus tours from Sparwood leave Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for two-hour trips to the Elkview mine.

For reservations and further info (including footwear and other clothing requirements), call the Elkford Visitor Centre at 1-855-877-9453, and the Sparwood Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-485-8185. Last trips leave Elkford August 31 and Sparwood August 29.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announces a strategy to ensure critical minerals supply

July 16th, 2019

…Read more

Washington continues critical inquiries into rare earths and uranium supply chains

July 15th, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 15, 2019

While somewhat relaxing its concern about uranium, the U.S. appears increasingly worried about rare earths supply. A Reuters exclusive says Washington has begun an inventory to itemize domestic RE projects.

Washington continues critical inquiries into rare earths and uranium supply chains

With an inventory of domestic RE projects
already underway, the U.S. called for a study
of uranium supply chain potential.

“The Pentagon wants miners to describe plans to develop U.S. rare earths mines and processing facilities, and asked manufacturers to detail their needs for the minerals, according to the document, which is dated June 27,” the news agency reported. “Responses are required by July 31, a short time frame that underscores the Pentagon’s urgency.”

The request mentions the possibility of investment by the military, Reuters added.

The move marks another development in American plans to reduce the country’s dependency on critical minerals from economic and geopolitical rivals. Last month the U.S. announced a new critical minerals strategy calling for closer co-operation with allies. Out of an official list of 35 critical minerals, rare earths repeatedly come up for special attention. China supplies 80% of American demand for this economic and military essential, with more imports coming indirectly from China. Compounding the conundrum is the fact that America’s only rare earths mine, Mountain Pass in California, ships its entire output to China.

Last month Reuters stated that U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructed their officials “to develop a joint action plan on critical minerals collaboration.”

But if heightened American urgency about some critical minerals looks positive for Canadian projects, so does a reduction in urgency about U.S. uranium supplies.

Cameco Corp TSX:CCO expressed itself pleased with Trump’s decision not to introduce new trade restrictions on uranium imports.

The president disagreed with a July 12 report stating that the country’s heavy reliance on imports threaten to impair U.S. national security. The secretary of commerce found the country’s foreign dependency now accounts for 93% of American uranium supply, up from 85.8% in 2009. The secretary attributed the number to “increased production by foreign state-owned enterprises, which have distorted global prices and made it more difficult for domestic mines to compete,” the White House stated.

But, citing significant concerns nonetheless, Trump called for the creation of a nuclear fuel working group “to develop recommendations for reviving and expanding domestic nuclear fuel production” within 90 days.

Cameco president/CEO Tim Gitzel said the company “also sees tremendous value in increasing co-operation between the United States and Canada to address critical mineral issues and strengthen security of supply on a North American, rather than strictly national, basis.”

Trump and Trudeau’s commitment to a joint action plan “is an excellent initiative, and we see uranium being a key component of that strategy,” Gitzel added.

The U.S. report results from a petition by Energy Fuels TSX:EFR and Ur-Energy TSX:URE, who together took credit for over half of U.S. uranium production in 2017. Yet their estimates for last year showed total domestic production supplied only about 2% of U.S. demand.

The companies called for a 25% domestic quota on uranium purchases in the U.S., suggesting state-owned companies in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan keep prices below a profitable threshold for American producers. The Eurasian trio provided about one-third of U.S. demand in 2017.

“If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to U.S. national and energy security would be incalculable,” the companies maintained.

Commerce Resources to provide rare earths and byproduct samples to potential customers

July 5th, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 5, 2019

Commerce Resources to provide rare earths and byproduct samples to potential customers

 

With trade tensions once again demonstrating the need for rare earths supply outside China, Commerce Resources TSXV:CCE announced plans for its advanced-stage Ashram deposit in northern Quebec. The company intends to resume pilot plant metallurgical work, provide rare earths samples to interested parties and also upgrade its potential fluorspar byproduct.

Using lab facilities in Colorado, Commerce plans to produce several kilograms of material for companies that have requested samples. The lab will also work on upgrading the deposit’s fluorspar from metallurgical grade to the usually more expensive acid grade.

An essential ingredient for coolants used in refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners, acid grade fluorspar is also integral to processing uranium and aluminum. Like rare earths, fluorspar ranks among the 35 critical minerals listed by the United States. Over 60% of 2018 global production came from China, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. NorFalco Sales, a division of Glencore Canada Corp, has requested the fluorspar sample.

The pilot plant work will complement Commerce’s pre-feasibility studies as the Ashram deposit progresses.

Using Ashram material, the Colorado plant has already produced high-grade concentrates above 45% total rare earth oxides with recovery surpassing 70%, “comparable to current and past hard rock producers,” Commerce noted.

Separate, Quebec-funded studies at l’Université Laval produced a mixed rare earth oxide concentrate from Ashram material, showing the deposit’s versatility to processing procedures.

A key advantage of Ashram lies in its carbonatite-hosted mineralization and relatively simple monazite, bastnasite and xenotime mineralogy, amenable to conventional rare earths processing.

The near-surface deposit hosts a 2012 resource estimate using a 1.25% cutoff to show:

  • 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

Ashram also features strong distribution of the high-demand magnet feed elements neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium.

In a report issued last month, Adamas Intelligence stated that permanent magnets accounted for over 90% of TREO consumption by value last year. “This share is poised to expand further as demand (and prices) for neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium continue to rise strongly in the years ahead.”

Ashram’s distinctions suggest the project could require a relatively smaller metallurgical plant, along with potentially lower capex and opex, Commerce stated.

Last May Commerce and two Inuit organizations signed a letter of intent to ensure participation as the project moves forward.

At another critical minerals project just a few kilometres away, Saville Resources TSXV:SRE works towards a 75% earn-in from Commerce on the Niobium Claim Group. Following a spring drill program that found high-grade, near-surface niobium along with tantalum and phosphate, Saville looks forward to a Phase II campaign.

In southern British Columbia, Commerce also holds the advanced-stage Blue River tantalum-niobium deposit.

Read more about China’s dominance in global rare earths supply.