Orbite Aluminae uses Environmental Responsibility to extract Rare Earths

Aluminae photo from OrbiteOrbite Aluminae (TSX: ORT) and Veolia Environmental, a France based multinational specializing in waste management with projects all over the world has signed a joint agreement for the treatment and recycling of the ‘red mud’ from alumina production, including the construction of a facility to treat red sludge treatment process by Orbite. The strategy is then for both companies to offer this service to the aluminum industry. There is considerable demand for this technology, considering that there are an estimated three billion tons of untreated red mud stocks in the world. Every ton of alumina that is produced using current methods leaves behind two tons of highly toxic red mud residue. Typically, bauxite has been refined to produce alumina using the Bayer process, which ‘digests’ the bauxite using a solution sodium hydroxide, converting aluminum oxide (‘alumina’) ore to sodium aluminate leaving behind other non-dissolved components. Further processing to remove impurities produces a solid mixture known as red mud. The ‘mud’ or sludge, which is caustic, is loaded with such minerals as titanium oxide, iron oxide, aluminum oxide, silicon and rare earths.

Current methods to treat the red mud are complex and inefficient and it is cheaper for producers prefer to store the red mud in special containers, which, however, only partially address the risks of spillage and pollution as attested by the spillage of red mud waste in Hungary in 2010 affecting seven communities. Orbite’s process makes it profitable to be environmentally responsible, offering aluminum producers a process that allows them to profit from the red mud itself, heretofore considered a major environmental nuisance. Orbite has its own bauxite and clay deposits and its process extracts alumina and rare earths and it is able to generate various rare earth elements – as well as alumina from the aluminous clay and bauxite essentially resulting far more efficient and economical than any currently used (Bayer) method.

Orbite is essentially at the leading edge of what is nothing short of a revolution in the way aluminum is produced. The process has already yielded good results on a pilot scale and Orbite has patented the process in various countries including the USA and China. A plant to produce alumina through the new process started production in Quebec last January. Where are earths are concerned, the Orbite process represents a breakthrough in the effort to wrestle China’s current monopoly in rare earth extraction and processing. Australia, Canada and the United States have certainly increased the development of their respective rare earths industries; however, Orbite offers an interesting alternative.

Orbite has already extracted samples for commercially valuable heavy rare earth oxides, gallium and scandium from its Grande-Vallee aluminous deposits in Quebec. Moreover, thanks to its patented and pending patents, Orbite could offer its technology to third parties in the next few years as well as produce its own inventories. Orbite’s advantage over traditional rare earths mining and processing methods is that it averts the problem of the low concentration in a given mineral to make extraction non-commercially viable. Orbite’s technology enables low-cost extraction of rare earths and metals in the context of the ‘environmentally responsible’ aluminum production. Orbite observed a 22% proportion of heavy rare earths in the total amount of rare earth elements from its Grande-Vallee aluminous sludge, also noting the presence of scandium-highly in demand in the aerospace sector. Orbite is confident that its rare earth extraction process has considerable commercial potential and that it would likely be the first such method used in North America whereby aluminum production can take place in parallel to the extraction and separation of heavy rare earths.

Subscribe here to receive free daily InvestorIntel updates

Orbite’s red mud derived rare earths, meanwhile, add credibility to news that Jamaica is ready to start experimenting rare earth extraction from its naturally occurring red mud thanks to technical assistance from Japan. The timing of the news, coinciding with a flare-up in Sino-Japanese relations, warranted some skepticism; however, Orbite’s technology suggests that the Jamaica rare earth story has some value even if the country’s mining minister Philip Paulwell should not entertain dreams of new income sources and a new rare-earth fueled future for Jamaica just yet.

Nippon Light Metal (NLM) has conducted research, showing high concentrations of rare earth elements in the red mud soils of Jamaica and has expressed an interest in investing more money in exploration, so far up to USD 3 million. While, Jamaica will not become a rare earth power overnight – ‘Captain Morgan’ rum need not worry about being overshadowed as the island nation’s most popular product – the Orbite technology has already proven that the red mud can yield rare earths. Indeed, the red mud was discovered as a result of the production of bauxite (aluminum ore) and aluminum earns more than half of Jamaica’s export revenue. Just as in the Orbite case, the rare earths have been identified in the mud deposits that occur in the processing of alumina.

Today, Nippon Light Metals has officially started work at the red mud pilot plant on the grounds of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) in Hope Gardens, St. Andrew. The research aims to move rare earths extraction from the laboratory to a pilot plant scale in hopes of achieving the right economics for commercial production.  Orbite is at a more advanced level and it is not hard to imagine a future collaboration between the Quebec based Company, JBI and NLM.


  1. How much rare earths can be recovered in this process? “Orbite observed a 22% proportion of heavy rare earths in the total amount of rare earth elements from its Grande-Vallee aluminous sludge” doesn’t give us ANY idea how much rare earths there are, only the percentage that are heavy.

    How much does the rare earth content of red mud vary for different mining sites?

    Believe it or not., some companies (Molycorp anyone?, among many others) have been known to hype in their press releases. So it would be nice to go beyond company PR to actually analyze the situation. Thanks.

  2. I think you have to think of the process and its benefits as a whole (i noted the disaster that happened in Hungary because of the lack of bauxite sludge processing). As fior the REE, the question has more to do with their quality more than their quantity at first.

    • The process may be meritorious on the whole, but as for the significance of the process for the rare earths market? Quality does not tell the story. If the TREO is too low, it doesn’t matter what the distribution of elements as a percentage of that TREO is. Hence my questions. Perhaps the companies involved are trying to spin the story by emphasizing those things which sound good, but without providing a proper context.

      • An important aspect of the medium to long-term story here is that if successful with the initial demonstration plant, Veolia could then get behind a much larger roll out, leading to red mud remediation plants near red mud deposit at various places around the world. So while one plant may have a small yield of REEs/RMs, overtime, in aggregate, Veolia could provide quite a large amount.

        And that doesn’t count companies that may go on to license Orbite’s technology to process alumina directly from clays, which also would lead to very low cost production of REEs/RMs as a byproduct.

        So in the beginning, with a single plant here and there using Orbite’s technology for alumina production (whether via red mud or clay, which also holds REEs/RMs)… no, there won’t be a lot of REE/RM production.

        As mentioned above, the key is what happens in the aggregate if Orbite’s technology is broadly adopted within the alumina production industry producing REEs/RMs as a very low cost set of byproducts.

        Linda

    • It is just like Nippon Light Metals got wind of what Orbite was about to do with Veolia and then they made sure an agreement had to be signed before the Orbite’s and Veolia’s news. The Jamaicans would have to be strange to accept NLM’s approach and ignore Orbite and Veolia since the latter ensure virtually no more environmental problems whereas NLM’s approach seems to indicate that they will be extracting RMs and REEs only and once again leaving behind another red mud. Orbite and Veoilia, like many of us noted, when this news came out, ensure the greatest value-extraction out of the red-muds at the best environmental cost, if any.

      Jamaica’s red mud is said to be quite rich in REEs and RMs to the tune of 0.1 to 0.2%. Jamaica’s red muds are the richest in this respect and I suspect that scandium oxide could be quite a good proportion of this and maybe what NLM is interested in most.

      As sad as it might be, The Orbite and Veolia partnership with respect to red muds just rendered many scandium, iron ore, aluminium and titanium economically-based projects (possibly even REEs) in very great danger. Orbite technology is indeed disruptive, however many may want to put their heads in sand.

      If one tried to apportion a grade of REEs from the values of the other products that the Orbite process extracts out of aluminous clays, then Orbite’s Grande Vallee aluminous clays deposit would be the richest by far – of all of them. Another way is to look at the deposit in terms of the resource value per tonne based of raw material and then complement this with the ease of extraction and environmental cost and still Orbite’s clays, would be far higher in value. If one used TMR’s approach and treid to calculate a value/kg, Orbite’s Grande Vallee clays deposit ends up at near $1000/Kg. High Purity Silica and Now High Purity Titanium in addition to the rest as per Orbite’s May 2012 PEA, ensure this.

  3. Correction: Orbite does not have its own bauxite, however, they do have their own aluminous clay deposits.

    “Orbite has its own bauxite and clay deposits and its process extracts alumina and rare earths and it is able to generate various rare earth elements – as well as alumina from the aluminous clay and bauxite essentially resulting far more efficient and economical than any currently used (Bayer) method.”

  4. The high percentage of alumina in the toxic red mud waste is a result of the inefficient and 125 year old “Bayer” process. Orbite Aluminae clean technology is revolutionary and will cause a paradigm shift in the Aluminum Industry. IMO, Orbite Aluminae are visionary. Early adopters of the technology will see an immediate impact utilizing same with a fairly quick ROI.

    “Typically, bauxite has been refined to produce alumina using the Bayer process, which ‘digests’ the bauxite using a solution sodium hydroxide, converting aluminum oxide (‘alumina’) ore to sodium aluminate leaving behind other non-dissolved components. Further processing to remove impurities produces a solid mixture known as red mud. The ‘mud’ or sludge, which is caustic, is loaded with such minerals as titanium oxide, iron oxide, aluminum oxide,”

    • I can say with full responsibility that the revolution is still PR.
      I have read the key patent RU 2471010 received in Russia. All working processes rather well-known and have been used for a long time what the revolution? Maybe something else is hidden and is not listed in the patent. And while I have not seen any calculations as a cost-effective process from Bayer. This is how many times or 20% of what? Yes, as a raw material of clay perhaps this revolution as shale gas and oil, but they are profitable at 80 – $ 94 per barrel. Red sludge process and may be cost-effective to recycle only by extracting all the useful metals including iron, and a lot of PR Orbite even once napregaet. Not many like 6n Silicon Inc company Vaughan, Canada.6N ‘s silicon purification process provides a revolutionary approach to the production of solar grade silicon for the photovoltaic industry. The price of silicon went down with him gone and the revolution seems.

      • Igor, I suggest you view Orbite’s web site http://www.orbitealuminae.com, White Papers, NI 43-101 revised PEA report etc before you can say with full responsibility that the revolution is still PR. The pilot plant was a success, the HPA plant is coming along very well, they have already confirmed producing 4N+ with 5N and 6N to follow.

        “Maybe something else is hidden and is not listed in the patent.”, are you for real, since when does a patent contain the full recipe. Patents would not protect the technology/invention otherwise.

        As for the revolution and paradigm shift, you can disagree which is your opinion and prerogative. However, even if “All working processes rather well-known and have been used for a long time what the revolution?”, Orbite Aluminae that have put the pieces of the puzzle together with new modern equipment, techniques and technology to make their clean technology work. Something that has not been accomplished over the last 125 years since the development of the “Bayer” process, I reiterate revolution and paradigm shift.

        No wonder that RUSAL and NALCO have signed MOU’s with Orbite ALuminae and the recent agreement with another multinational Veolia Environmental Services. IMO, more companies to follow.

        “Red sludge process and may be cost-effective to recycle only by extracting all the useful metals including iron, and a lot of PR Orbite even once napregaet.” What is napregaet ? Russian? What is the translation? You miss the major points of remediating the toxic red mud, environmental pollution, reclaiming land etc, up to 50% of alumina remains once bauxite is processed via the inefficient “Bayer” method – depending on the bauxite feedstock utilized. Yes, other remaining constituents such as high purity hematite, high purity silica, titanium oxide, rare earths etc are extracted as well, all combined make the red mud remediation process economical or cost-effective.

        L. D’Alesio
        (dalesio_98)

        • L. D’Alesio
          Under each word its subscribing! As for reports Orbite Aluminae Inc. all of them are known to me as watching this company dolgo.Esche before the company appeared in the news raremetalblog.com. At the end of each report is Forward-looking statements and distslaimer.
          As for the virus in the past year, he launched his own program for the utilization of red mud and the Russian Ministry of Education and in Russia a few good bauxite, but a lot of clay deposits containing aluminum. Now about A red sludge and my affection for them. You probably do not know what I wanted to say. Red sludge process can be profitable!!! I say this because I know this technology. With regard to patents and the revolution. Yes agree that the patent does not all written (because myself have patents), but the “umbrella” of the basis for the patent says, and there is no revolution!!!!!! The pilot plant has been built one says that it is not? I say it is. But I’m telling you what the profitability of the process? Something many revolutions in the last time, you do not. Any process to prove their worth is, production on an industrial scale with high profitability and minimal impact on the environment. And your enthusiasm is worthy of respect.

  5. Mr. Bruno, please indicate why the following comment was removed from this web page after it was tagged waiting moderation:

    dalesio_98 on February 8, 2013 at 1:13 AM said:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    The REE content may be low, but considering that Orbite Aluminae is sitting on 1 billion tons of aluminous clays in the Gaspé Peninsula region of Quebec and that tonnage is based on only 5% of the their land claims within only the 1st 100m, the magnitude is phenomenal. The key is volume, not only what is extracted per ton and the negligible cost to extract same; keep in mind that the constituents found in the aluminous clays are value added byproducts.

    Of major importance is the Orbite Aluminae clean technology that will extract all constituents from the aluminous clays, red mud waste and bauxite without producing any toxic red mud. The different feedstock such as low or high grade bauxite, high content silica bauxite etc is irrelevant as the technology will extract constituents accordingly. Orbite Aluminae will also provide tolling services for other companies to process their product.

    The planned Orbite smelter grade alumina production plant, which will be built in 2013 and is scheduled for start-up in 2014 will potentially produce 540 000 tons of smelter grade alumina per year and 1 097 tons of rare earths and metals (at an estimated recovery rate of 85%).
    http://www.orbitealuminae.com/en/news/press-releases/orbite-successfully-produces-first-separated-heavy-rare-earth-oxides-north-american-shale-clay-deposit/
    and
    http://www.orbitealuminae.com/en/news/press-releases/orbite-announces-93-oxide-extraction-and-separation-rates-certain-rare-earths-and-rare-metals-confirming-significance-its-alumina-production-project/

    Table of Grade Estimates Following 2011 Exploration Work

    Al₂O₃ 23.37%,
    SiO₂ 52.62%,
    Fe₂O₃ 8.42%,
    MgO 1.64%,
    Others 6.90%,
    RMO & REO 563 ppm,

    http://www.orbitealuminae.com/en/news/press-releases/orbite-files-revised-preliminary-economic-assessment-technical-report-pea-confirming-economic-results/

    Also view the following table provides an overview of the average grades for alumina (Al2O3), iron (Fe2O3), silica (SiO2), magnesium oxide (MgO), REE and certain RM from the three above-mentioned series of samples. The REE are subdivided into light rare earths (LREE) and heavy rare earths (HREE).
    http://www.orbitealuminae.com/en/news/press-releases/orbite-confirms-association-rare-earths-and-rare-metals-alumina-its-grande-vallee-aluminous-clay-deposit/

    As a comparison, the preliminary results from the Eastern Uganda Makuutu-Iganga Basin Project reveals the following:

    Alumina 25.96%,
    Haematite 12.35%,
    Silica 41.93%,
    Magnesia 0.46%,
    Titania 1.17%,
    Zirconia 0.03%,
    Vanadium Oxide 0.04%,
    Potash 1.26%,
    TREO 635.8 ppm,
    TRMO 84.07 ppm,
    TRERMO 719.88 ppm,

    The Uganda tenement is made up of kaolin aluminous clays (classic REE- bearing residual iconic clays), much like Orbite Aluminae’s property in Grande-Vallée Gaspé Quebec and the Chaswood kaolin clay property in Halifax County in which Orbite has an option agreement to acquire.

    The Orbite revised PEA technical report can be viewed with this link:
    http://www.orbitealuminae.com/media/upload/whitepapers/PEA_Orbite_May30-Final.pdf

    Thank you in advance,
    L. D’Alesio
    (dalesio_98)

  6. Mr. Bruno, ProEdgeWire, apparently the removal of my comment may have been due to the its length. I will try to curtail the content going forward.

    Thank you in advance for having approved the initial content which I re-posted.

    Regards,
    L. D’Alesio
    (dalesio_98)

    • Thank you for your commentary L. D’Alesio. You would have heard from me earlier but I have been in Orlando at the ‘Motor & Magnetics’ conference for the last two days…and it seems, avoiding the snowstorm in Toronto. Presently our systems is blocking anywhere from 300-1000 spam comments a day, and regrettably, some excellent comments are blocked due to the firewall plug-ins we use. Your comment utilized several long URL links and this is undoubtedly the reason. We will most assuredly publish. Have a lovely weekend and thanks for your input. Tracy

      • Tracy, I still have a comment in this thread from 3:01 P.M. EST February 8 awaiting moderation. It was a retry of a comment from the previous day. It has some long links.

        We ought to take all the rare earth SPAMMERS and make them swim across the Baoutou toxic waste lake. That’d learn ‘em.

  7. Petition:

    Recent studies estimate Red Mud to be around 3,000 million tonnes at the end of 2010 [Klauber, C., Grafe, M., and Power, G, 2009] – and growing at approximately 120 million tonnes per annum. According to the International Committee for the Study of Bauxite, Alumina and Aluminium (ICSOBA) “Alumina refineries world over presently generate more than 100 million tons of red mud per annum, which is likely to increase with the setting up of new production facilities and decreasing ore quality. Less than 5% of red mud is being utilized in the world with the remainder disposed in ponds.” Red mud is toxic and highly caustic, a serious health hazard that threatens to pollute water and soil. Red Mud has been named the most serious sustainable environmental problem associated with the aluminum industry and recently led to the tragic loss of human life and environmental damage in Hungary, with other spills also occurring in India, China, Canada and Brazil.

  8. “Alessandro is Senior Editor at ProEdgeWire. He holds a BA, MA. Alessandro has worked for the United Nations in Libya and specialized in Middle Eastern, “AFRICAN”, and South American affairs. Alessandro has worked as an industry analyst, lived and worked abroad extensively and is fluent in English, Italian, Spanish and French with a working knowledge of Portuguese, Arabic and German.”

    I believe the comments I posted regarding Africa – Eastern Uganda Makuutu-Iganga Basin Project may be of interest to you, the goal is to open a smelter grade alumina plant (SGA) utilizing Orbite’s proprietary clean technology and forward-thinking an aluminum (aluminium) smelter. In my opinion Africa will become the new China going forward. Further recognition and prosperity for Africa is just a matter of time.

    “The preliminary results from the Eastern Uganda Makuutu-Iganga Basin Project reveals the following:

    Alumina 25.96%,
    Haematite 12.35%,
    Silica 41.93%,
    Magnesia 0.46%,
    Titania 1.17%,
    Zirconia 0.03%,
    Vanadium Oxide 0.04%,
    Potash 1.26%,
    TREO 635.8 ppm,
    TRMO 84.07 ppm,
    TRERMO 719.88 ppm,

    The Uganda tenement is made up of kaolin aluminous clays (classic REE- bearing residual iconic clays), much like Orbite Aluminae’s property in Grande-Vallée Gaspé Quebec and the Chaswood kaolin clay property in Halifax County in which Orbite has an option agreement to acquire.”

    Thanks in advance,
    L. D’Alesio
    (dalesio_98)

  9. The technology to extract aluminum from red clay, such as Georgia kaolinite, has been around since the mid-1970s. One of my profs had us working problems based on it in a chemical metallurgy class. Unfortunately, it was less costly to produce aluminum using that ancient, ineffficient Hall Process, so the red clay method languished.

    Here’s a quote that we should all keep in our back pockets:

    “The first thing you hear about a new material or process is the best thing you’ll ever hear about it.”

    I certainly hope they succeed. But a revolution?

    Time will tell.

    • Indeed, many technologies have been around since the 70′s. As it happens technologies evolve and progress through trial and error. 40 years ago, Rolls Royce tried to use carbon fiber in jet engine fan blades to save weight. They bet the ‘farm’ on the project (RB 211) and came out ruined such that the British Gov’t had to bail it out. That research though was not without merit. In the late 90′s GE repeated the experiment and succeeded with the GE90, whcih is fitted on the latest airliners. The French Company htat has signed the bauxite deal with Orbite is no small player; it’s an industry giant. Surely they know enough about risks to distinguish a real technological breakthrough from a ‘Ron Hubbard’ special

  10. Pingback: Don't count on REE prices staying low for long - ProEdgeWireProEdgeWire

  11. Alessandro, I was wondering if yo know any companies that might be interested in investing in the Uganga REE potential? We are one of the companies that has exploration rights in the area and we are looking for investors. email me at eliah.int@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>