MSX technology to break the cost barrier of rare earth industry
US Rare Earths, Inc. (OTCQB: UREE) made further inroads as a force in the rare earth industry by securing an exclusive license with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Membrane Assisted Solvent Extraction of Rare Earths Technology (“MSX Technology”) from E-waste for the recovery and separation of Neodymium, Dysprosium and Praseodymium. These rare earth elements are required for the manufacturing of automobile electronic motors, wind turbines, computer hard drives, electronic displays, and fluorescent bulbs. They are often referred to as “technology metals.”
MSX Technology was developed by a group of 6 scientists in the Materials Science and Technology Division within the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and licensed to UT-Battelle, LLC, which manages and operates the Oak Ridge National Laboratory under contract with the United States Department of Energy (DoE), a Tennessee non-profit limited liability company.
The technology is used in a single step process exceeding the performances of conventional solvent extraction methods.
In traditional solvent extraction systems aqueous extracts are subjected to solvent extractions as a mean to separate the rare earths. But solvent extraction is slow and intrinsically imperfect because, for example, there is always loss of solvents. In a paper published in July 2015, Kim et al disclosed a cell with a permeable membrane that keeps the pregnant solution from the solvent. This new method is expected to generate 20 to 30% less chemical waste than traditional extraction techniques and recover more than 90% of the lanthanides from scrap electronic waste. But we still have yet to understand how the process can scale up at the industrial level to understand its net benefits.
This innovation may kill two birds with one stone: one the one hand there is a need to take on China’s current monolithic monopoly over the rare earths market. On the other hand there is a need to address the growing E-waste piles.
Estimates show 41.8 million metric tons of electronic waste generated globally in 2014. This figure is expected to rise by almost 20% to 50 million metric tons by 2018.
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E-waste is problematic because it contains toxic components such as lead, mercury, cadmium, phosphors, arsenic, flame-retardants and polyvinyl chloride. Used electronics also contain known carcinogenic substances that can cause devastating effects to the human body if not handled and recycled properly.
Competitively recycling and extracting rare earths from the hazardous technological carcasses could therefore generate a secondary rare earths supply stream and demonstrate U.S. Rare Earths commitment towards sustainability.
U.S. Rare Earths has also signed a non-exclusive commercial patent license agreement for use of MSX Technology with intention of separation of rare earths from their claims in the United States.
U.S. Rare Earths, Inc. is a US based rare earths exploration company with approximately 25,000 acres of mining claims in Idaho, Montana and Colorado. U.S. Rare Earths, Inc. received approval to re-open the Last Chance northern adit in August 2014, which allows for the retrieval of up to 2,500 short tons of metallurgical sample material from the adit and/or a historic surface stockpile. Based on historical data and field observation, the stockpile of material is believed to have rare earth mineralization occurrences.
The Last Chance vein was first explored by Elkhorn Mining Co, in the 1950s, under support by the Defense Minerals Exploration Administration (DMEA). After passing through several other owners, the property was held by the Union Pacific Railroad Co (UPRR) during the 1970s. During this period UPRR developed two adits, a shaft, and completed several drill holes to explore the Last Chance Vein. The adits developed by UPRR consist of a northern adit 755 feet long and a southern adit 452 feet long. While the adits are not connected, both adits intersect the vein.
Additional underground work by UPRR included development of an 80-foot vertical shaft located between the adits which also intersected the vein with a short 22-foot tunnel. During the 1980s, renewed interest by Idaho Energy Resources Company (IERCO) in the rare earth content held in the Last Chance vein deposit led to additional rehabilitation and underground work on the northern adit. IERCO expanded the northern adit by driving an additional 100 feet to the northwest. The northern adit was last worked by IERCO in 1989 and has since been closed-in for safety purposes. U.S. Rare earths acquired this property in 2010.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>