EDITOR: | March 6th, 2015 | 5 Comments

Proprietary Metallurgical Process to Produce 98.9% Purity Rare Earth Oxide highlights Search Minerals’ Technological inroads

| March 06, 2015 | 5 Comments

David Dreisinger - Colour - 2008“Investing in technologies is the sure bet ” Jack Lifton eloquently pointed out to an eager audience during a private luncheon in Toronto last week. He was dead on as he went on to explain that technology is the future as he demonstrated through a lifetime of technological innovations in his presentation. But I would like to expand on Jack’s comments that while technology is the vehicle for investing in the future — some technologies are more interesting than others.

Also, some technological innovations that look simple warrant a closer look.

Such is the case of Search Minerals Inc.’s (TSXV: SMY) proprietary metallurgical process for 98.9% purity rare earth oxide, which was first disclosed in a July 2014 press release and then updated with substantive scaled up data in February 2015, which deserve the attention of industry stakeholders.

First off the scale up test was performed at SGS Minerals, Canada The test is based on an acid bake process (H2SO4; 200 °C) followed by water leaching at 10% solids and 90 °C and purification trough simple pH adjustment with magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) to reject key impurities (Fe, Al, Si, Th, U) and then addition of (Na2CO3) which is a critical measure of success.

The rare earth carbonate precipitate was purified using Search’s process of acid re-leaching, pH adjustment to reject impurities, rare earth oxalate precipitate and calcination.

The final rare earth oxide product (the calcine) analyzed 98.9% TREO+Y and only 2.4 g/t of Th. This calcine would be refined at a rare earth refinery into separate rare earth elements products for sale.

Search Minerals is planning recovery optimization will be undertaken at the demonstration pilot plant stage of development planned for 2015. This is expected to increase recoveries through optimization of the acid dosage, temperature and time of heating and particle size of the crushed material.

A simplified flow sheet is of significance to stakeholders: on the one hand it shows Search Minerals is taking a systematic approach to optimization, which is expected to reduce capex and opex. On the other hand, I am certain it will provide inspiration to others in using similar approaches for the development of their own flow sheets, which brings us back to Jack Lifton and technological innovation. As a rule innovation is rarely generated by a single person: it arises from the contribution of various minds, sometimes working independently from each other. In the case of Search Minerals, we can predict that their innovation will contribute to their success and that of others.

Search Minerals is a TSX Venture Exchange listed company focused on creating value through finding and developing mineral assets with growing demand and constrained or restricted supply, and with increasing use of innovative technologies.

Search is the discoverer of the Port Hope Simpson REE District, a highly prospective light and heavy REE belt located in southeast Labrador, where the Company controls a dominant land position in a belt 70 km long and up to 8 km wide. In addition, Search holds a number of additional mineral prospects in Newfoundland and Labrador in its portfolio, including claims in the Strange Lake Complex (where Quest Rare Minerals has a Joint Venture with Search); and at the Red Wine Complex (where Great Western Minerals Group has a Joint Venture with Search).

Dr. Luc Duchesne


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>

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  • Cassiopeia

    It would interesting to have an opinion of Orbite who seem to be within striking distance of their HPA production.

    March 7, 2015 - 7:51 AM

  • Andrew Wins

    What’s the resident extractive industries expert, aka Steve Mackowski, think of this process?
    And what’s stopping the Chinese separation guys from using it (if they have not already done so) and therefore lowering the production costs across the board?

    March 8, 2015 - 5:46 PM

  • Geysa Pereira

    Any one can explain to me what´s actually new in this technology to be reffered as “proprietary metallurgical process”? Thx.

    March 9, 2015 - 8:44 AM

  • Tracy Weslosky

    Thank you for the questions and emails I have received on this column written by Dr. Luc Duchesne. Search Minerals has graciously sent me a reply for our readers.

    Excerpt from email from Management:
    “Search’s process avoids all use of grinding equipment. Only simple crushing is used. There is no equipment to try to separate rare earth minerals from waste. The whole ore is treated. Very small amounts of reagents (acid, magnesite and oxalic acid) are used to recover the rare earths. The process is simple but definitely not “bog standard”. No-one else is practicing such a process and Search has a United States patent pending to protect this simple low cost (capital and operating) technology for rare earth extraction from Foxtrot mineralization.”

    March 10, 2015 - 2:01 PM

  • Tracy Weslosky

    Thank you for your comment Geysa.

    Search Management has responded to your question with the following:
    “Search believes that the new process represents a breakthrough in simplicity, cost and efficiency. The new process is described as:
    – Process whole ore crushed to 3.45mm (6 mesh)
    – No grinding
    – No flotation
    – No magnetic separation
    – No gravity separation

    Search have sought protection for the process by applying for a patent through the US Patent office. Search will seek protection for the process in additional countries through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

    – Patent protection ensures Search has a right to use the process and prevents others from using it, except under license from Search.” — end of excerpt from email.

    March 10, 2015 - 2:03 PM

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