EDITOR: | March 12th, 2015 | 35 Comments

TRER in the running to compete with Chinese ionic clay sources of heavy rare earths

| March 12, 2015 | 35 Comments
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Texas Rare Earth Resources Corp PhotoThe photograph on the left shows the result of actual “Cryolite-Enriched and Rare Metal-Bearing Rhyolite” mined from Round Top Mountain in Hudspeth County in Southwestern Texas being “lightly” crushed at the base of Round Top, by equipment in place at the site, for loading on existing rail serving the site.

The Round Top “Rhyolite” described above in a 1990 Geological Society of America (GSA) Special Paper by geologists of the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas in Austin is the mineral deposit being developed by Texas Rare Earth Resources. It is comparable in “grade” to the Chinese ionic adsorption clays, and its distribution of rare earths is 72% heavy rare earths, just as are the best of the ionic clays.

Round Top Rhyolite differs from the Chinese “clays” in that the yttrofluorite, the xenotime analog mineral in which the rare earths are present, occurs as discrete fine particles within the rigid but highly porous rhyolite. This means that it requires only a simple room temperature dilute sulphuric acid irrigation to recover them rather than a wash with aqueous ammonium sulphate as is done with the Chinese “clays.”

Another key difference between the clays and the yttrofluorite dispersion in rhyolite is that Round Top is a uniform mountain of the mineral. This allows a heap leaching type of extraction from the top of the mountain down. This will be done in stages with leach pads sited first below the summit and then as the “mountain” is taken down the leach pads will be placed at lower and lower levels. It is estimated that at current target production the “mountain” will be leveled in about 130 years.

The Chinese “clays” are strip mined. An elevated section is leached and the “miners” then move on, because they have exhausted the recoverable materials usually in a single leach campaign. I have seen a Japanese video of an ionic clay reduced from a verdant hill to a barren one in 24 hours. After leaching the Round Top rhyolite looks essentially the same as it did prior to leaching. It does not disintegrate into an amorphous mass saturated with and holding active leach solution that will not drain.

Round Top’s rhyolite although tough breaks into tabular plates giving good surface exposure, and the silicate and cryolite do not mask the yttrofluorite. Thus a two-stage crush followed by a room temperature 5-7% sulphuric acid leach in the open recovers more than 80% of the total rare earths present.

Texas Rare Earth Resources plans to process the PLS obtained by the sulphuric acid leach directly by Continuous Ion Chromatography/Continuous Ion Exchange technology developed by K-Technologies of Lakeland, Florida. This technology allows the entire process to be done on site from removing unwanted elements to separating the rare earths from each other to purifying the rare earths to whatever degree the customer specifies.

CIC/CIX is ideally suited to the project’s mineralogy and hydrometallurgy and by eliminating the need for conventional large scale wet chemical preprocessing it looks to be more economical than conventional SX overall, since it eliminates the preprocessing and the long soak times needed by conventional SX. Further, CIC/CIX uses readily available resins and chelating agents produced in large volumes by several global chemical concerns and used worldwide.

TRER is thus very much in the running to compete with Chinese ionic clay sources of heavy rare earth earths in the global market over both in the short term and foreseeable future.


Jack Lifton

Editor:

Jack Lifton is the CEO for Jack Lifton, LLC and is a consultant, author, and lecturer on the market fundamentals of technology metals. Technology metals ... <Read more about Jack Lifton>


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Comments

  • Fixed

    This will be done in stages with leach pads sited first below the summit and then as the “mountain” is taken down the leach pads will be placed at lower and lower levels. It is estimated that at current target production the “mountain” will be leveled in about 130 years. – The “mountain will be leveled in about 130 years …lol…forgot to mention that there will be a new mountain adjacent to what was round top and this new mountain will be called tailings mountain…lol…130 years…lol…that cracks me up…lol…good one Jack…lol…maybe in a 130 years they will get the metalllurgy down pat…

    March 12, 2015 - 9:42 AM

  • Jack Lifton

    Fixed,

    The “metallurgy” for Round Top is quite good. A “simple” STP, i.e., in the open air, leach with dilute sulphuric acid recovers more than 80% of the contained heavy rare earths. If you think that is a complicated “metallurgy” I suggest you compare it for efficiency and cost with Molycorp’s or Lynas’ “metallurgy.”

    Jack

    March 12, 2015 - 9:52 AM

  • Gordon

    Hello Jack, not sure what you are trying to tell us with this article, CIC/CIX Technology is being used, 80% recovery. MRT technology is 99% recovery. What is the answer here, first to mine or best of technology.

    March 12, 2015 - 10:46 AM

  • Jack Lifton

    Gordon,

    You have a common misconception and misunderstanding of “mining speak.” In mining parlance the hydro”metallurgy” of extraction is often referred to as the “metallurgy.”
    When an ore has been mechanically concentrated as far as is it economical to do so it said to have been “beneficiated.” Then and only then is it subjected to chemical extraction of the desired elements from the minerals in the beneficiated concentrate.
    At this point in rare earth “processing” a recovery of 80+% of the rare earths contained is considered quite good. The resultant material normally in a liquid form is called the PLS, “process” or “pregnant” leach solution.
    The next stage in the rare earth production cycle is to separate the individual rare earths or combinations of them from each other. In order to do this by solvent extraction the PLS has to be further processed chemically to remove ionic species of the elements that would interfere with the SX; these include iron, aluminum, phosphate, and fluoride as well as uranium and thorium in most cases. The feed solutions for SX are either nitrate (France) or chloride (China) solutions of the mixed rare earths.
    With CIC/CIX it appears possible to use the PLS directly as a feed even though it is a sulphate solution with a low pH. Recoveries of the REEs contained in the PLS have been seen at 95-100% of contained values.
    My understanding of MRT as apple to REE separation is that it can similarly be applied to the initial PLS, which in the case of Ucore is, I believe a nitrate solution, and the data I have seen also indicates a nearly complete recovery of the REEs contained in the PLS.
    In summary the concentration of the REEs in the PLS is the maximum recovery on an economic basis from the beneficiated ore of the desired product(s); the downstream processing by SX, CIC/CIX, and MRT figure of merit is the recovery from the PLS, not from the ore!

    Jack

    March 12, 2015 - 12:01 PM

  • David

    Thanks for such a good lesson, Mr. Jack.

    March 12, 2015 - 12:23 PM

  • hackenzac

    “High grade” advocates don’t seem to get this project at Round Top at all.

    March 12, 2015 - 12:33 PM

  • Richard Morris

    Why incur the cost of building multiple leach pads as the mountain is “lowered”? Why not instead build one leach pad that would be used for the life of the mine? It might be more costly at the start, but one facility constructed that could be used for the project’s life would seem to be the more intelligent way to go, and hopefully more cost effective too. Let’s see some really long-term thinking & planning for this project.

    I worked on the project during the drill program so I know and understand the potential of the program. I am looking forward to the day when I’m driving east along I – 10 and can look north & see an active mining operation under way. Who knows – I might even get off at Sierra Blanca and stop in at Michaels for a meal of Mexican food.

    Richard Morris

    March 12, 2015 - 12:36 PM

  • Jack Lifton

    Richard,

    I just spoke to Dan Gorski, TRER’s CEO,who designed the mining strategy, and he informed me that you are right. He will in fact build just one leach pad for the life of the mine. I stand corrected.

    Thanks

    Jack

    March 12, 2015 - 12:51 PM

  • harveywalbanger

    TRER, like all these ree junior miner wannabes has its own unique story. It is our job as speculators to learn all we can about each and then make our investment/gambling move. Personally, I have gotten out of all my ree holdings and have riding the DWTI rocket as WTI plunges. I will return to the ree juniors, hopefully with more cash to invest, as soon as WTI drops to $35 and again will reassess the ree miner options at that time. As one reader, I sure would appreciate coverage of other ree juniors that are not over-covered by InvestorIntel–that includes TRER. Perhaps it is just me but I have a real problem reading yet another glowing article on that company written by a company director. Seems one needs to be either an ree commentator/analyst OR receives a check from the ree company that is the focus of an article. I do realize that bio information is included in the fine print of such articles but the article still stands, is read and probably influences people (obviously the point of any article).

    March 12, 2015 - 12:56 PM

  • JACK LIFTON

    Harveywallbanger,

    I am variously called a shill, a lightweight, and a fraud by those who believe that I and others who do what we do should be gentleman scholars. In fact I treasure my integrity, and I will not be involved with any company or person which or who I do not believe in or I think is unethical. It is as simple as that, and you are free to make any judgement you like, as am I.

    Jack Lifton

    March 12, 2015 - 1:14 PM

  • Gordon

    Thanks for explaining.

    March 12, 2015 - 2:52 PM

  • Lid

    Jack, when you write article about UCU, you say UCU has all the advantage, when you write article about TRER, you say TRER has all the advantage, What is the answer if I ask you to compare UCU with TRER? which one will win this the spear and shield contest?

    March 12, 2015 - 6:14 PM

  • Tobias Scherer

    Jack,
    I am sure you treasure your integrity and freedom. As all proud Americans should.
    As European, we also treasure our integrity and freedom. We are also proud and are sometimes accused of being overly technical, conservative or totally correct. But how possibly can you conclude that TRER is in the running to be anything of substance at this stage, yet alone to compete with Chinese ionic clay. What facts or proof are you offering? Is there a pilot plant data, subsequent engineering and financial model based on that, product purity data, EIS, approvals etc. Or you are assuming Texas is “Wild West” so it stands a good chance to compete with China?

    March 12, 2015 - 9:40 PM

  • Jack Lifton

    Lid,

    The HREE market growth is such that Ucore and TRER and RER and Tasman and Northern are not competing with each other. They are all competing with the Chinese HREE supply industry. If all of the non-Chinese companies I just named were to achieve Target production the total would be less than 1000 tons per annum of dysprosium and perhaps 100 tons of terbium. Unless the Chinese both double their current production and also adopt totally free trade the total new production from all of them will be insufficient to meet the 2020 global demand. Prices for HREEs can only go up.
    The lowest cost most efficient producers outside of China will get HREE business both inside of and outside of China! TRER is trying CIC/CIX; Ucore is trying MRT; Tasman will stick with modern SX. I’m betting that they will all be successful and that the rest of the world will then have process choices rather than the one-trick pony of traditional SX. I don’t think that you can any longer look at junior rare earth ventures without considering that you need to consider the junior’s choice of process technology before you make the investment.

    Jack

    March 12, 2015 - 10:03 PM

  • Chris

    Anyone have any idea what today’s global demand is for Dy?
    What’s the earliest timeframe for new Dy supply to hit the market? 4,5,6 years? and what sort of impact will this have on the growing trend of Dy thrifting?

    March 13, 2015 - 5:18 AM

  • Goldprospector

    “Another key difference between the clays and the yttrofluorite dispersion in rhyolite is that Round Top is a uniform mountain of the mineral. This allows a heap leaching type of extraction from the top of the mountain down. This will be done in stages with leach pads sited first below the summit and then as the “mountain” is taken down the leach pads will be placed at lower and lower levels. It is estimated that at current target production the “mountain” will be leveled in about 130 years. ”
    I guess this would have been a very costly permitting nightmare, at least TRER management is capable of correcting its own, apparently misinformed director in that regard. Is TRER still aiming at producing oxides on site by themselves? Besides this, I’m sure they didn’t work out recovering rare earths from yttrofluorite on a commercial scale, let alone proving this CIC/CIX method for rare earths on a commercial scale. Does TRER has cap raises for pilot plant funding planned? What is the overall schedule towards a much needed PFS?

    March 13, 2015 - 7:50 AM

  • Tracy Weslosky

    Goldprospector – thank you for your comments. TRER has an unusually expeditious turnaround time for responding to inquiries. In fact, they Chairman usually calls people himself, which forgive me — if I was the Chairman, I would ask IR “to handle”.

    Anyways, he has asked me to ask you to call him and for anyone else that would like to understand this more, please contact Anthony Marchese at the following:
    Anthony Marchese
    Chairman
    Texas Rare Earth Resources
    http://www.trer.com
    908.451.4234

    Again, I find this incredibly gracious — so if you have a question: you can get it answered from the Chairman.

    March 13, 2015 - 11:38 AM

  • Mr.jimmy

    “TRER is trying CIC/CIX; Ucore is trying MRT; Tasman will stick with modern SX”

    ……and let’s not forget GeoMegA out of Quebec. They have benchmark results using “free flow electrophoresis” and have managed to separate all rare earths in a single step with 100% purity as I understand it. Can they scale it up to a working prototype and apply it to their Montveil deposit? This is the big question that will take sometime to figure out.

    Any word on an interview with Simon or Kiril from GMA Tracy? The company’s PEA should be released in a few months. It would be nice to hear at that time what they have planned for future funding……there seems to be some hints of Plan Nord getting involved perhap? That would be news.

    Cheers

    March 13, 2015 - 1:13 PM

  • Lid

    Jack,
    I am not sure if I or anybody would agree with you about no-competing part, this is free market, any company who has same product will compete willingly or not willingly with rivals. The technology is not the goal, money is what people go after. Different technology does not give the different path to void collision on the way to the same market. For instance, the total consumption of Dy in China is about 1000 ton last year, if TSM can sell 1000 ton as it wishes in its PFS, say in 2017, UCU then will sell nothing, or close to nothing, simple math, unless China suddenly need multiple mount of Dy which I do not see that will happen any time soon. Do you mind if you can explain that no-competing part in more detail and strength?

    March 13, 2015 - 4:36 PM

  • Jack Lifton

    Lid,

    Where on earth did you come up with the idea that TRER wants to OR COULD “sell” 1000 tons of Dy in 2017. It’s 100 TONS!!! There is no project on earth that could produce such a quantity of Dy ECONOMICALLY, EFFICIENTLY, OR RATIONALLY.
    ALL OF THE NON-CHNESE PROJECTS ADDED TOGETHER AT TARGET PRODUCTION IN THEIR PEAs WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO PRODUCE THE 1000 TO 2000 TON SHORTFALL THAT THE 2020 DY MARKET IS LOOKING AT.

    March 13, 2015 - 4:43 PM

  • Lid

    sorry, Jack,
    my bad, it is 200 ton per year as on TSM web, it is not 1000 ton as I remember nor 100 ton as you said, I remember you and another II member had a conversation about Dy from TSM using 1000 ton as parametric, that would end up a project even bigger than Moly Corp do. that forged in my mind. regarding no-competing concept, I do not agree with you on that in a free market setting. I believe you know before Moly Corp and Lynas went on production, China has monopoly both on L and H REE, even the LREE is expensive then. When Moly Corp and Lynas started to sell LREE, you know what, the LREE price drop like free fall, why is that? because we are in free market. in the free market, everybody is for himself, against rest of all to survive. this is the rule of free market.

    March 13, 2015 - 5:34 PM

  • Richard Hammen

    Jack,

    I consider you and myself to be the progenitors of the current movement to deploy advanced chromatographic technologies for REE separations. When we began to interact in 2010, I described to you the details of the performance of IntelliMet’s SPE column matrix. I proposed that the ultrafast kinetics and the selectivity of our molecular recognition ligands will give us systems for REE purifications with greatly reduced Capex and Opex. You described to me the industry opportunity and indicated that such a system could revolutionize the industry. We had collaborated for some time to develop this opportunity and business model. I believe we did succeed in altering the trajectory of this industry.

    In the last months discussions have occurred about the various acronyms of separation technology and how businesses will be built on these foundations and technologies. My intent here is to clarify the engineering issues that will determine economics of the REE processing plant that will be constructed in the USA.

    The separations of a RE element from other elements all involve the selective transfer a RE ion from the feed solution into another phase. This selective transfer chemistry is the fundamental basis of RE element purifications. Obviously, rapid and highly selective transfer chemistries will give the most efficient industrial processes.

    As we know, most REE production is accomplished by the selective transfer of RE ions into a kerosene solvent (Solvent Extraction) by means of phosphorous ester molecular recognition reagents. History has shown that large scale SX works, despite the fact that 2-phase solvent extractions are inherently complex and costly to scale up.

    Solid Phase Extraction (SPE) is a process of separation that utilizes the selective transfer of metal ions from solution phase to a solid phase. Most metal production by SPE at large scale is performed with ion exchange and organic resin-based materials manufactured by companies such as Dow Chemical. The engineering of SPE systems is well known and it has been elaborated in the last 20 years by Continuous Ion Exchange (CIX) systems. The CIX system engineering can be superior to column batch systems if the feed solution is constant. However, the performance of any CIX system will be limited by the chemical selectivity and kinetics of the ion exchange resins used in them. If a CIX system were to be deployed with the modern Solid Phase Extractants developed in the last 20 years, the capital and operating costs would be decreased by at least an order of magnitude.

    Unfortunately the performance of resin-based SPE materials is far from ideal chemical behavior. The adsorption-desorption kinetics are sluggish and the resulting process systems are large with considerable capex/opex. In the 1980’s Professor Reed Izatt, one of the greats of chemistry, organized IBC to prepare and sell SPE media that perform better than the SPE resins produced to date.

    At about the same time I began to develop silica-based SPE materials to overcome what I believe are some inherent limitations of IBC’s and other existing technologies. Although I believe the equilibration kinetics and chemical selectivity of our materials to be unprecedented, I am also sure that IBC personnel will consider their fundamental silica formulation to be superior to that which I have developed. I am also sure that IBC personnel consider their library of metal-binding ligands to be superior to our libraries. Both of our companies are based on the ideas of the host-guest chemistry (Lehn, Cram, Pedersen). Both companies use the concepts developed by many other Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry.

    The laws of chemical engineering and physics state that the percent purification of a chemical separation stage (a chromatographic plate) is a function of the equilibrium thermodynamics of the separation phases used (Solid or Solvent). The greater the percent purification per plate, the fewer the number of stages will be required. For each separation stage there is also a kinetic equilibration rate factor that determines how many events of separation can be accomplished per liter per second (i.e., the size of the plant). Faster kinetics mean smaller plants with lower capex/opex. These laws of chemical physics can not be avoided.

    All REE operations need high yields of REE (greater than 90%) AND high purities. This question is critical, because there is always a trade-off in chromatographic processes between % recovery and % purity. It is quite simple to achieve 99% purity when the percent recovery is low. Conversely, it is simple to achieve 99% recovery when the purity specification is low. This is a fundamental result of chemical physics. The percent purity of a RE product relates to its market value. The percent recovery determines the efficiency, scale, and output of the mining/purification processes. RE mining operations must have both tonnage and product quality to make a profitable business.

    The issue of “which technology is scalable” is, in my opinion, a nonsense discussion. All of the chromatographic and SX production methods proposed by the REE companies use well-known engineering principles. The competitive question among the companies is who will have the lowest cost plant. The lowest cost plant will make the best use of the laws of chemical engineering, equilibration and kinetics.

    In 2012 my laboratory invented and optimized the nitric acid method for leaching Bokan ore. We used this process liquor to perform the class separations of REE and eliminate nuisance metals such as uranium, thorium, iron, and aluminum. This was announced in August 2012. In October 2012, you and I were co-authors of a paper with CIM. The paper and the talk showed examples of RE separations that are unmatched in the percent purification, percent recovery and productivity per stage. These results were also announced by Ucore. At the same time Ucore announced the US DOD contract for HREE process development. With this funding my laboratory developed subclass purification process stages for HREE production. As you know, we did this in 4 months and reported the results to Ucore. You and I were coauthors on a paper with these results for the 2013 CIM conference. Based on these results and process models, we made proposals to Ucore to advance the work to the pilot scale. As you know, those proposals were not funded.

    I hope these comments are helpful to bring the discussions in our REE industry to a solid basis of engineering economics.

    Richard Hammen, Ph.D.

    March 13, 2015 - 8:43 PM

  • Fixed

    Thank you for your input and expertise on the tech side of things. Your story is shall we say quite “Shilling”…I mean chilling…I mean thrilling…lol…You should contact Marc Levier of GWMG and try your process on a high grade ore rather than the low grade stuff that you were messing with…

    March 13, 2015 - 9:27 PM

  • Fred

    Richard, Ucore pays IBC $3 million, IBC spends it on a pilot plant, and they hope to start the ball rolling with this. I don’t know what a pilot plant would cost, but $3 million, or a small multiple of it, could be raised from venture capital people. They would have to believe in you, the technology, and the business model. Getting a tentative agreement similar to Ucore/IBC’s would do the trick.

    March 13, 2015 - 10:13 PM

  • Lid

    Thanks, Dr. Hammen, all the respect, I wish one day I can have a chance to get some guidance from you. SPE is still the best up to today to my knowledge. The trade off you mentioned is what many people try not to mention or try to cover up, sadly, only few investors understand that.

    March 13, 2015 - 11:14 PM

  • Lou

    Dr. Hammen,
    You wrote: “The competitive question among the companies is who will have the lowest cost plant. The lowest cost plant will make the best use of the laws of chemical engineering, equilibration and kinetics.”

    If the supply of the critical rare earths cannot keep up with demand in the 2020 marketplace, as Jack projects, then their price will rise until demand destruction eliminates buyers for whom the critical rare earths are not so critical and they fall out of the market, and supply and demand balance is somewhat restored.

    A supplier need not be the lowest cost producer to make money in that kind of environment. Forgive my cynicism, but if enough money is rolling in, stake holders can likely live with the reality that they are not availing themselves of the best science available. It could be that deposits with a shorter mine life might benefit from adopting less than the “best” technologies, but rather opt for “good enough” technologies if it keeps Capex costs down even if somewhat higher Opex squeezes margins a bit. . Again, this would likely only apply in a marketplace where supply has a hard time keeping up with demand.

    March 14, 2015 - 3:22 AM

  • Jack Lifton

    Lou,

    Your arguments are cogent and certainly reflect current American business “logic.” Just throw enough money at a problem and it will resolve itself. The flaw in your logic is the proposition that economic pressure “will” bring about substitution. In fact economic pressure will bring about an attempt to make substitutions of common materials or processes from scare materials or innovative processes, but in the case of the fundamental electronic properties of the rare earths these were set at the beginning of time and capitalism can neither change nor replace them. The modern science of magnetic materials like exhaust emission catalysis have been looking for substitutes for, respectively, the rare earths and the platinum group metals since the day after their respective properties in those areas were discovered. So far after BILLIONS of dollars spent with VERY SMART PEOPLE no luck… Hoe sir do you “disk” that?

    Jack

    March 14, 2015 - 10:50 AM

  • Jack Lifton

    Rich,

    First of all, thank you for your generosity in letting me get co-author credit merely for doing some edits and putting in some suggestions to papers that were, scientifically, entirely by you.

    Frankly, I was unaware of solid-phase extraction as a specialty until you brought it to my attention when you contacted me in, I believe, 2010, as you say.

    I cannot think of any way to improve on your commentary here except to add that OPEX, operating expense, is also an important factor in establishing the overall cost of a separation system. In that regard it was brought to my attention last month that there has been a recent comment by someone at ANSTO that in order to evaluate the technical superiority of any separation system over that of solvent extraction for the rare earths it is necessary to determine if unique (in the sense of not commonly produced) extractant ligands are required and if so then if the large-scale manufacture of them is within the capability of the technology offeror. This comment by ANSTO was not in any way referring to your work at Intellimet it was in fact intended to be an observation with perceived general application, and, obviously, intended also to promote the “traditional” solvent extraction technologies offered by ANSTO to its clients. But I would certainly like to hear your views on this.

    Note please that I was unaware of either CIC/CIX or MRT until rare earth juniors brought those technologies and the respective companies mentioned in your note to my attention.

    I am in agreement with you that scale up is a red herring. The rare earth separation “market” is distorted by excess capacity for light rare earth separation by solvent extraction, and the necessary “fix,” the addition of targeted mid-range and heavy rare earth capacity is being retarded by investor misunderstanding of the situation and the technologies now available. I think that this will work itself out fairly soon.

    I’m glad to see that you’re still in the “game.”

    Best regards,

    Jack

    March 14, 2015 - 11:31 AM

  • Lou

    Jack,

    If, as you project by 2020, there will be a shortfall in the availability of Dysprosium and Terbium, the available supply will go to the highest bidder on the spot market, or, alternatively, to end users who had the foresight to “capture” feedstock through off-take contracts or upstream investments in good mining projects. It looks like some of this kind of activity to secure the future has already begun.

    I take your point on non-substitutability. In another context, you made the point that in the current circumstances in the rare earth space, paradoxically, demand emerges to meet supply rather than the other way around. What I’m trying to get my mind around is how the rare earth space unfolds if the 2020 shortfall materializes with the logical consequence that critical rare earth pricing becomes robust. In that kind of environment, the paradox dissipates to some extent, as investment comes into the space to take many supply-side projects forward.

    That leads to my next question. Could the newer separation technologies deliver economic advantages to smaller scale projects that have a good and accessible resource, but a somewhat attenuated mine life, or will the economics of the long-lived elephants prevail. I am striving here for 20/20 vision. .

    March 14, 2015 - 12:22 PM

  • Jack Lifton

    Lou,

    There will always be a threshold limit only above which does it make sense for a short-life project to have its own separation facility, but I now think that this situation augurs well for a central rare earth separation plant in one of or all of North America, South Africa, Australia and/or South America.
    This I think is the business model now driving Gareth Hatch’s IMC project, for example. IMC is to be a state-of-the-art, but traditional solvent extraction facility.

    The newer, or to be accurate, newly applied technologies such as MRT, CIC/CIX, and various fixed bed chromatographic will succeed or fail at scale in the next two years. After that their implementation at individual “mines,” or in central facilities will be economic decisions.

    We have entered an era of dramatic change in the economics of rare earth production. I think this is mainly driven today by the failure of the Molycorp traditional model to become a competitor of the Chinese traditional model. The industry needs to try something else.

    Jack

    .

    March 14, 2015 - 3:00 PM

  • Lou

    Jack,

    Thank you for your thought, your clarifications and your accessibility.

    March 14, 2015 - 3:21 PM

  • JOE O

    Jack
    You mentioned TAS is going to stick with modern SX?
    Do u think that is prudent?

    March 14, 2015 - 3:29 PM

  • Richard Hammen

    Fixed,
    I am cheering for the brave souls striving to build a REE industry. An economically available REE supply will enable many new products to improve our human condition. GW has a rich deposit. I consider the presence of the radioactives to be simply a chemical separation issue. Actinides (and daughter products) have different chemistries from lanthanides and it is a simple matter to produce molecular recognition ligands that discriminate. The isolated radioactive materials can be sequestered.

    The business model developed by Gary Billingsley is to go from mine to magnet material. Marc Levier is smart and capable of moving this forward. What I would love to see is for Marc to make his 2000 tpa of Nd-Fe-B magnets with Nd from his own mine. This requires at most 660 kg of Nd/year. If Marc produced this by means of an IntelliMet SPE system, the size of the Nd (or PrNd) column would be 6 inches in diameter and 10 inches in length.

    Fred,
    Your point is very good. Venture capital should be in the business of funding product/technology needs, a focused business plan, a capable team, and a huge upside. (This is the VC that I remember when I was present at the startup of Genentech). The biggest challenge for any developer of a RE business is the question of identifying which customer will purchase which product at what quantity and price and when with what cash flow. I absolutely believe that if a company were to build a plant and begin REE production, that customers will in time come to purchase and reward the company and its investors. The main point is time, and whether that time parameter meets the exit strategy needs of the VC.

    Jack has comprehensively described facets of this demand-supply conundrum, which is basically a chicken and egg problem (perhaps dinosaur and egg). The very good news of all of this is that many pieces of the puzzle can be assembled with capital outlays in the low 10’s of millions $US. (Reference LCM plant). If our nations (Canada and USA) would take a bigger view, I believe that a powerful REE sector will be created.

    Lid,
    I have read some of your posts and find that many of your comments have been correct with respect to the numbers of chemical engineering and the various aspects of mine economics. Our industry will prosper when we work with real numbers.

    Lou,
    Yes; numbers do matter. A successful business needs to profitably balance the expense/income factors and do so in an evolving and oscillating world market. “Best technologies” may have an edge, but you are right to point out the winner is the “firstest and the bestest” to be strategically placed in a profitable market. Jack’s reply to your questions is best put.

    Jack,
    My thanks for your comments. It is an interesting game that we are in. The guys at ANSTO know what they are talking about, on a number of levels, and deserves reply on those levels.
    1. Our SPE chemistry development is vigilant to the fact that we need to make a profit with our SPE columns. We therefore synthesize columns that are low cost to produce. Our team is strong in synthetic organic chemistry, which is the art of making useful new materials at low cost. We use low cost reagents.
    2. If the cost of a RE-selective ligand were to be even as high as $1000 per kg, is it really expensive if that kg of extractant ligand enables production of 1000 kg of Nd with a low capex plant? Following this example out, it is not a great financial task for a small company to make some 6 inch by 10 inch column units per year. The financing becomes quite simple if the mining company is committed to paying for the extractants needed by the operation.
    3. In my old fashioned view of business, I believe that a partnership to synergistically use the capabilities of two companys must have a financial basis for both companys to profit. A mine with high value HREE and a low cost extractant should beneficial.
    4. Is it possible that the ANSTO guys are saying that if it is new or high-tech, then it must be expensive? I have fought to grow my business on the belief that appropriate new technologies can indeed make life more productive and economical.

    Best regards,
    Rich

    March 14, 2015 - 4:04 PM

  • JACK LIFTON

    Joe O,

    Looking at Tasman in the context of Europe SX is the rational choice AT THIS POINT IN TIME.

    Jack

    March 14, 2015 - 4:46 PM

  • Elmer Fittery

    I was reading these posts and a thought occured to me.

    What is the possibility of building an extraction plant that is loaded onto or into a really BIG simi-truck. That way you could drive it around to mining locations.

    March 18, 2015 - 12:50 AM

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