Texas Mineral Resources to make scandium a lesser pain in the ash
Texas Mineral Resources Corp. (OTCQX: TMRC) announced that is has signed a MOU with a privately held well-established Pennsylvania coal company to recover and produce scandium and rare earth byproducts from coal ash and coal overburden. The name of the coal company is undisclosed.
The North American industrial revolution started in Pennsylvania with the systematic adoption of oil as a source of energy in the second half of the 19th century with the emergence of Standard Oil. So it is fitting that the Pennsylvania coalfields should be viewed as a source of new material for clean tech.
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The extraction of rare earths, including scandium from ash is a hot button topic in the continuing quest to diversify rare earths sources. For example in 2015 the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected 10 projects to receive funding for research in support of the lab’s program on Recovery of rare earths from Coal and Coal Byproducts.
Ash from the combustion of coal is an abundant resource, making up to 20% of the weight of anthracite coal, a significant waste material.
A recent study, among many, shows promises for the use of ash as a source of rare earths shows that the combustion of coal in power plants for energy generation concentrates non-volatile minerals in the ash by about ten times, to about 10,000 ppm (1%), which puts the concentration of rare earths in ash on par with some rare earth deposits.
TMRC disclosed that it has performed preliminary internal economic analysis suggesting modest CAPEX requirements along with profitability, though this data has not be disclosed. The MOU gives TMRC a six-month period to further evaluate the potential to finance, recover and produce scandium and other rare earth by-products. Further the MOU is centered on properties that have previously been studied by the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the Department of Energy. According to MMR these studies suggest the existence of potentially valuable rare earth and scandium mineralization in coal ash being deposited at several locations on the property and in the in-situ coal bed overburden.
TMRC’s preliminary internal economic analysis for a modest start-up operation processing 300 tons of coal ash per day suggests CAPEX of approximately $17 million, inclusive of a 25% contingency. Assuming a recoverable grade of 45 ppm scandium content, potential estimated production of scandium oxide would approximate 7,500 kilograms per year. Using a current scandium oxide market price of $2,000/kg could potentially result in pre-tax cash flow of approximately $10.3 million, after operating costs and royalty payments to the coal company. These assumptions assume that only the recovered scandium would be sold, attributing no value to the rare earth and other elements and minerals that could be recovered.
What I find particularly promising about this project is that the area chosen for initial study contains 3.7 million short tons of coal ash. The property is fully permitted for mining and processing of coal. Only the additional permitting for scandium and rare earth processing would be needed.
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>