EDITOR: | November 12th, 2014 | 22 Comments

Ucore’s MRT for rare earths REE-awakens investment market interest

| November 12, 2014 | 22 Comments
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imagesX81RVFK1Ucore (‘Ucore’, TSXV: UCU | OTCQX: UURAF) boasts one the largest NI 43-101 compliant heavy rare earths (HREE including dysprosium, terbium, and yttrium) projects – the Bokan Dotson-Ridge Project (‘Bokan’) in North America. Ucore is one of the few rare earths mining juniors that continues to run its course toward production and Company executives such as President Jim Mckenzie have undertaken what might be described as a road show to discuss the merits of its resource and technology. Ucore’s deposit is rich in heavy rare earths (HREE), which means that it will have the kind of critical products that attract the highest demand from end users. The Bokan project hosts a potential World class deposit for dysprosium, used to make high-tech m Magnets for modern defense contractors. In 2012, the US Defense Department entered into a strategic partnership with Ucore to bring the resource into production, showing the extent to which the US government wants ways to reduce reliance on China for rare earths. Technology was always going to be one of Ucore’s most appealing aspects both because of its targeted end users and, more significantly in this pre-production phase, thanks to its testing of advanced processing methods such as Molecular Recognition Technology (“MRT”).

MRT allows for the production of a near quantitative separation of heavy rare earth concentrate “consisting of 99+% of rare earth elements from a pregnant leach solution (PLS)” using beneficiated material sourced from Ucore’s property in Southeast Alaska. In order to achieve the separation of individual high purity rare earth salts it is necessary to first achieve a high purity HREE Concentrate. The PLS tests, performed Advanced Technologies, Inc. in Salt Lake City, Utah, “yielded a >99% pure HREE Concentrate, separated as a group, using proprietary MRT SuperLig® resins in fixed bed format.” The resulting HREE Concentrate is a carbonate salt rare earth concentrate that includes critical REE’s from samarium to lutetium. Ucore can then use these salts to deliver products based on specific customer requirements, producing anything from oxides, to nitrates, carbonates or any other salt for each individual REE metal, according to specifications, while retaining the ability to sell the HREE concentrate itself to other rare earth separation facilities. So revolutionary is Ucore’s separation technology that, if proven successful, it could spur research into alternative rare earth separation technologies and a quest for licenses from other miners to either adopt MRT for their own processing facilities or to use Ucore’s own.

Ucore expects MRT to lower its CAPEX both because the refinery will be on-site and because it will greatly reduce environmental risks. MRT is a far cleaner process than the more common solvent exchange method used in China, ensuring long term community and political support for the project (as well as removing several risks to investors) because it is more environmentally sustainable. Ucore can now start working on the Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS) for the Bokan Project. The BFS will have to take MRT and the resulting metallurgical tests into account but Ucore intends to proceed quickly, because the Company expects construction of the mine at Bokan to begin in 2016, which means that corporate development will have to speed up.

 

The state of Alaska has already shown strong support for Ucore absorbing some 66% of the CAPEX costs through special financing measures passed by the Alaska Senate earlier in 2014 in the form of Senate Bill 99 (SB99), which authorizes the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) to issue bonds to finance up to USD$ 145 million for Ucore’s Bokan-Dotson Ridge rare earth element project. Alaska described Ucore’s importance to the State and to the United States, in general, in the context of the need to reduce reliance on foreign sources for critical minerals. One of the main risks involved in rare earths mining has been financial; however, SB99 (and its related bonds) has essentially de-risked the project by dropping the total CAPEX of the project to about USD$ 220 million, well below the industry average of USD$ 1 billion (or more). Ucore has secured several advantages: it has a small CAPEX, a huge growth potential and a clear path established leading to production, which will be characterized by a high concentration of dysprosium based on samples from Bokan, which should please Ucore’s management and investors alike.


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Comments

  • Lid

    Several years ago, Ucore claimed break though in SPE, actually it still has a long way to go, now it claimed break through MRT, if you know science and technology, these two technology are same in principle, how far this one has to go? I don’t know. let see what Ucore will claim after this one.

    November 12, 2014 - 7:13 PM

  • GoBucks

    They can claim anything they want. We don’t have to believe the claims.

    We’ll have the hard data sooner or later.

    My concern is where the stuff will be turned into metals and alloys. Will they have to ship the concentrates to China for that?

    November 13, 2014 - 10:56 AM

  • Springtrader

    I didn’t see any quantities given. How many ounces of concentrate were they able to produce?

    November 13, 2014 - 1:43 PM

  • David Mortimer

    Well I believe Ucore are giving all legitimate information but people seem to be saying that their info is false or misleading . I’m fairly sure Tracy Ucore are giving us a positive update about their policies going forward .

    November 13, 2014 - 1:51 PM

  • Curious Shepherd

    Bruno,
    Do you know if the results presented by UCU are at the lab level? If they are, how feasible is to scale them to a production environment?

    Is the $220 CAPEX only to produce a concentrate or will UCU produce the separate REOs?

    Thanks

    November 13, 2014 - 7:15 PM

  • Jack Lifton

    Let’s all get some perspective. Ucore’s “test” of MRT for rare earth gross separation from the PLS has turned out to be a home run. I understand the disclosure in the press release to say that essentially 100 percent of the HREEs (defined by Ucore as Samarium through lutetium, inclusive) extracted from the beneficiated (concentrated) ore into the PLS has been recovered from the PLS through a combination of wet chemistry and MRT.

    This is a great achievement, and along, with the similar results announced by Rare Element Resources, means that a new threshold has been established in the junior rare earth space for business model success.

    The next step for both companies is obvious: They must now separate the mixed rare earths into individual high purity salts. These will then be the feed stocks for metal and alloy making as well as for fine chemical work (for lasers and phosphors for example). Both companies will be tasked to recover all of the individual rare earths at as high a level (hopefully 100%) as they have recovered the mixed rare earths contained in their PLSs.

    The bar has been raised and it is now set. The race is not between Ucore and RER as much as it is between Ucore, RER and everyone else in BOTH the junior and senior spaces.

    Based on my personal knowledge of the situation I believe that both Tasman and TRER will join the new winner’s circle within a few months if not sooner.

    Please keep in mind that even the best metallurgy does not guarantee that the separation of the individual rare earths in the mixed concentrate can be achieved. However the production of pure rare earth mixed concentrates without radioactive species and elements inimical to further separation is NECESSARY for any rare earth junior to achieve a high value product mix.

    I think we will now see the rapid deployment of pilot plants to test out technologies for the separation of individual rare earths in North America, Europe, and southeast Asia (outside of China and Japan). DO NOT discount an improvement in the state of the art in solvent extraction being the basis for at least one pilot plant while you are looking for new technologies such as MRT also being pilot planted (is there such a term?).

    I have said before, and I will say again. Anyone who now contemplates or builds a new solvent extraction plant using traditional extractants and process flow paradigms focusing on the light rare earths has made a costly error that will lead to a dead end.

    China is culling its overcapacity and its obsolete capacity for rare earth separation as rapidly as it can. China is nervously watching process improvements and new technologies in North America and Europe. You should also.

    November 13, 2014 - 9:35 PM

  • Bill Keenes

    Ucore have developed their own unique process in relation to the metallurgy

    You might find this analysis of interest to guide your questioning …

    Top 10 Signs of a Bogus NI 43-101 Study By Tim Oliver

    http://www.stocksandspeculations.com/i/pdf/268b_Mar3014_Tim_Oliver.pdf

    Item #10 New or Exotic Technology Beware of breakthroughs or special “proprietary” technology. Mining projects are risky enough without introducing experimental complex processes.

    __________________________________________________

    Jack do you know if the Ucore technology or equipment has ever been successfully used in similar commercial operations?

    November 14, 2014 - 6:13 AM

  • Jack Lifton

    Bill,

    Ucore didn’t develop this technology. Ucore paid a contractor, Advanced Technologies, Inc. headquartered near Salt Lake City, Utah (“IBC”), to try to apply MRT to the extraction and separation of the rare earths from mixed solutions of the rare earths and other elements obtained by extracting ore concentrates with nitric acid, which extraction regime is Ucore’s chosen metallurgy. MRT has been in use for 50 years; it was originally developed to separate organic molecules used in the pharmaceutical industry which differ by tiny amounts from each other in physical as well as chemical properties. Over the last half century MRT has come to be applied to the separation of metallic compounds in ever increasing volumes. Just two days ago I attended a technology review at the Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland, where a University group, funded by the ARL, reported (favorably) on its progress is developing an MRT system for the separation of the individual rare earths from each other quantitatively. The University researchers did not, as far as I know, have any contact with IBC’s commercial unit. They demonstrated, as an example of their progress, a sharp separation of neodymium and praseodymium using MRT that was far more efficient than any solvent extraction system that I have seen.

    It is (unintentionally) misleading to refer to MRT as the Ucore technology. It is better to say that MRT is the technology chosen by Ucore to be applied to the gross separation, quantitatively, of the soluble rare earth species from a solution of mixed rare earths and others soluble species obtained by the extraction of the metal values from a mineral concentrate obtained by beatification and pretreatment of an ore. But that is a mouthful.

    By the way do not say Ucore’s MRT to students of Prof Lehn; they, Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry and their students, get feisty when you attribute their discoveries to end users of them.

    Just for the record I hope you know that Rare Element Resources has an in-house PhD chemist who specializes in the separation of metals in solution from one another, and this gentleman has been heading up RER’s work for the last two years. RER’s metallurgy work has already resulted in patent applications and has been successful in producing a high purity mixed concentrate.

    The rare earth industry’s junior exploration companies are rapidly separating into advanced development leaders, such as Ucore and RER; those in the on-deck circle such as TRER and Tasman; and those being left behind. I have chosen to work with these four companies as a business operations advisor so I can monitor the progress of the development of the non Chinese rare earth industry. I actually started out as a sort of monitor of the possibility of the domestic sourcing of rare earths for some Global1000 companies based in the USA. I am pleased to say that I see light at the end of the tunnel.

    Jack

    November 14, 2014 - 7:23 AM

  • Tracy Weslosky

    Bill. Beware of reading sites like the one you have done PR for on my site —. #1. The Rare Earths sector is NOT just mining, which makes it VERY unique — it is also the TECHNOLOGY sector. As such, TECHNOLOGY is required for development.

    Brent Cook to whom you quote, who is an esteemed colleague of mine: and indeed is a top notch mining expert. This said, he has been public about not being a rare earth expert, as this is a unique and challenging sector unto its own.

    I have read Jack’s comments below and asked him to write a column on this for all of us. Additionally while there is complete agreement from me that Rare Element Resources is indeed a leader (next week we will be publishing an interview and update by Chris Ecclestone), and that TASMAN is a god send for European supply, with brilliant management; and that UCORE, Texas Rare Earths (lest we forget the Be) and REE/RES as a source for US sustainability — I believe he misses some exciting stories — GeoMega (Britt is continually quietly achieving goals), would NOT rule out Cashin pulling a rabbit out of a hat with Quest, Stans has that incredible grant approval from the Russians — which I DO believe means something, and then we have the Aussies I love — including PEAK (Tanzanian property, grt leadership)….legendary players ARAFURA, and of course — ALKANE Resources. This weekend I will be interviewing the HREE company that Prof Kingsnorth used to be on the Board for, Northern Minerals who are clipping along at a spritely clip.

    I tried to get an update from Namibia Rare Earths yesterday (Kaiser’s pick), and of course — lest we forget Frontier Rare Earths, MEDALLION Resources (love Don & Dr. Bird), Canada Rare Earths….it’s on my to-do list to reach out to Colin Bird (Galileo) as they had some very sad news with the unexpected passing of their CEO this last month….and then there are big surprises in my humble opinion, like US Rare Earths.

    I should write a column on where we are today, including AVL’s move to tin and lithium (*believe li will be the place to be in 2015) and many others….including a private rising Brazilian play, and Rare Earth Salts.

    My point? The landscape includes more than the Lifton 4, or Kaiser’s 1…..;-) Disclaimer: I am not a licensed investment advisor….just a publisher that has been covering the rare earth sector via RareMetalBlog, now InvestorIntel.com since Dec 2008.

    November 14, 2014 - 8:38 AM

  • Sunnyvale

    Tracy,
    With respect to Stans, yesterday morning they announced that the Kyrgyz Republic has notified the company that it is moving to REVOKE its mining licenses for its Kutessay II and Kalesay properties. I’m surprised I didn’t see this mentioned yesterday on Investor Intel, but it did show up on mining.com.

    November 14, 2014 - 3:23 PM

  • Tracy Weslosky

    I left a message for Stans Energy early AM to secure a response. We have a line-up on our storyboard, but the Ucore news is indeed — a game changer. Lets allow Ucore the limelight for their achievements.

    November 14, 2014 - 7:57 PM

  • Curious Shepherd

    “MRT is a disruptive technology in every positive sense.” Jim McKenzie

    What is so different between MRT and other innovative technologies in this field like the separation achieved by Geomega (see: http://ressourcesgeomega.ca/corporate-presentation/ slide 6 where they have separation of a mixed concentrate into separate RE elements)?

    Are they on the same field or is MRT used to produce a concentrate while the one from Geomega is used in the next step to separate this concentrate into separate elements? If this is true, and assuming that we could use a combination of both technologies, is it possible to produce separate REOs using a combination of these technologies and avoiding the construction of separation plants?

    November 14, 2014 - 9:49 PM

  • Bill Keenes

    Jack you are the master of spin.

    MRT is the technology chosen by Ucore – has never been successfully used in similar rare earth commercial operations, and as such is yet to be proven out in the field.

    You have chosen to work with these four companies (Ucore, TRER, Tasman & RER) because they are paying you. The fact that you can monitor their progress is a by-product.

    November 15, 2014 - 4:48 AM

  • Lid

    As an investor, if you focus your attention in a sector, it would be better if you, at least, know the basics about it. Don’t be confused by the name, XRT, SPE, MRT….., whatever, it is your own responsibility to make the decision. On the other hand, if you do some reverse thinking, you may find more, did you ever ask yourself why this company put so much energy trying to upgrade the feed? because that is the weak point, low grade ore request more money to process, if it below the threshold, it will not be economically wise to process it at all. so, logically, next question you need to answer to yourself would be what level of grade the deposit sits. Don’t just listen what the company or company paid personnel says, do your own homework, the solid data is easy to find and easy to compare with the others.

    November 15, 2014 - 5:58 PM

  • Tim Ainsworth

    Ucore presented last week, basically concluded:

    “To date, MRT has produced an exceptionally high purity bulk concentrate of the heavy rare earth elements”

    “Currently developing ligands to separate individual REEs”

    If indeed the Fat Lady is warming up, they can both complete the individual separation & scale it successfully to bulk application, perhaps they can then start working on the price assumptions in the PEA, cutting them in half may be first step towards reality.

    November 15, 2014 - 8:15 PM

  • Dean H

    Thank you Tracy. Yes, a column about Avalon Rare Metals’ move into tin and lithium would be great and appreciated!! Take care.

    November 15, 2014 - 9:36 PM

  • Bill Keenes

    Herbwellis

    you make a very good point, for someone that holds themselves out there to be an expert in the industry one has to ask how they got it so wrong

    November 16, 2014 - 4:13 AM

  • freethinking

    Oct. 9, 2014 Ucore (OTCQX:UURAF) recently announced some updates regarding the research it is currently conducting at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This research – led by Dr. Rajive Ganguli who is head of the Dept. of Mining and Geological Engineering and in part funded by the State of Alaska – is to improve the recovery rate and the overall efficiency of the recovery process from the ore at Ucore’s Bokan Project in Alaska.

    Thus far the research has yet to yield conclusive results as Dr. Ganguli tries to maximize recoveries using different kinds and concentrations of acid, and management anticipates that the results will be reached in the fourth quarter.

    The concern is that Ucore has yet to prove to the investment community that it can extract HREEs economically from these esoteric minerals, and that its processing costs might be far greater than initially anticipated in the PEA.

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/2550355-update-ucore-provides-a-status-update-on-its-recovery-process-study-taking-place-at-university-of-alaska-Fairbanks
    ______________________________________________

    Most of us now know you can’t bring rare earth projects into production until the metallurgy test work has been completed.

    Jack Lifton how can you predict a late 2016 production date for Ucore when clearly they are still working on the metallurgy.

    I would say after reading the full “seeking alpha” article that clearly “The bar has not yet been raised” because …. Ucore has yet to prove to the investment community that it can extract HREEs economically from these esoteric minerals

    November 16, 2014 - 8:31 AM

  • Lid

    A lot of people think Gov of Alaska is not smart enough to understand BFS, as long as numbers in the BFS look good, it will release the money to fund Ucore, if Ucore can make money or not in the real world is not a concern, that might be they are so confident about when the mine will be built.

    November 16, 2014 - 9:25 AM

  • Springtrader

    Bill Keenes; Since no junior rare earth miner has yet begun producing HREEs in the western world, profitably or otherwise, it is too early to pronounce the unnamed predictor of GWMG’s success as being wrong. From my perspective, the only thing restricting GWMG’s progress is funding for their project ($120 million), as the BFS, metallurgy, and final customers are already in place.

    November 16, 2014 - 9:25 PM

  • Springtrader

    Herbwellis; You are one up on me with regard to the identity of the author of the quote and how many winners he/she may have picked. I spoke only to the one prediction and it has not yet been proven wrong. Am I at least correct about that?

    November 17, 2014 - 10:38 AM

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