Ucore Completes Construction of SuperLig®-One Pilot Plant
March 7, 2016 (Source) — Ucore Rare Metals, Inc. (TSX VENTUR:UCU) (OTCQX:UURAF) (“Ucore” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce the completion of construction of all Molecular Recognition Technology (“MRT”) superstructure, processing architecture, automation systems, and initial water testing of the SuperLig®-One rare earth separation pilot plant (the “Plant”, “Pilot Plant” or SuperLig®-One”) by IBC Advanced Technologies of American Fork, Utah (“IBC”).
The SuperLig ®-One pilot plant is now in a pre-production quality control and testing phase at the Vineyard industrial facility near Salt Lake City, Utah. All fluids containment units have been installed and are ready for the delivery, pre-production preparation and storage of pregnant leach solution (“PLS”).
Detailed MRT valving, liquid and compressed air conveyance systems, as well as circuits and switching units, have been skid-mounted and stationed in the processing grid. The fluid propulsion, pumping and delivery systems are in place. Columns have been installed and mounted within the processing circuit. An array of rare earth class separation and individual separation containment vessels have been installed.
Customized automation software, hardware and control interfaces have been installed and tested. A post-processing quality control analysis and testing station has been completed. A comprehensive materials shelving and storage area has been installed, and a materials receiving and shipping station is now complete and ready for PLS feedstock.
The PLS is being prepared by SGS Lakefield Research Ltd (“SGS”) of Lakefield, Ontario for introduction to the MRT circuit (see Ucore Press Release dated 17 February, 2016). In preparation for PLS delivery, the first stage of water testing has been completed, and the processing system is now being plumbed and sequentially commissioned through each processing station.
For photos of the completed Pilot Plant, please visit the SuperLig®-One Gallery: http://ucore.com/SuperLig-One
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The next stage of Pilot Plant process is the commissioning phase, scheduled to commence this month, which will include the initial start-up of the processing systems, further water testing, followed by the receiving of PLS. The water testing is a necessary procedure to ensure that automation systems are performing to standard, to eliminate any minor leakage within the SuperLig® columns and related components, and trial test the entire process flow. Each section of the Plant, corresponding to the different unit operations to be performed, will be water tested prior to testing with actual PLS.
“The completion of SuperLig®-One is a significant milestone for Ucore,” said Jim McKenzie, President and CEO of Ucore.” The construction of this facility is the culmination of over two years of intensive research, design and development. IBC is the world leader in molecular recognition applications to the resource industry, and this pilot facility represents a disruptive technology asserting itself in an important class of materials science: the separation of metals of utmost priority to the US economy, clean energy, high technology and emerging defense systems. We applaud the scientists and engineers at IBC Advanced Technologies for this outstanding achievement of science and design, and look forward to the successful completion of near term test trials using domestic feedstock.”
The SuperLig®-One pilot program has been designed to demonstrate a number of key separations within the lanthanide suite, and to demonstrate the flexibility of the MRT system and its capability to add value in processing a multi-component PLS. Salient aspects of the Pilot Plant process will be the demonstration of the recovery of >99% of the REEs, as a class, as well as the separation of high-value REEs, as individuals or groups, without the need for first separating individual, lower value, lanthanides such as La and Ce.
The Pilot Plant program will entail the following components:
- Rare Earth Class Separation, in which all rare earths, as a group, are isolated from the waste, or “gangue” materials in the PLS. Gangue materials are lesser value metals which are removed from the process stream early on.
- Removal of Scandium (Sc), a highly valuable rare earth element used in advanced aluminum alloys for the aerospace sector.
- Class Separation of the Light REEs (lanthanum to neodymium plus yttrium) and the Heavy REEs (samarium to lutetium). This class separation is an important juncture, since the heavy REEs are more valuable as a group, scarcer on world markets, and contain more of the Critical Rare Earth Oxides (“CREOs”).
- Separation of Individual REEs. The first phase of the SuperLig®-One pilot program will also demonstrate the separation of the Heavy CREOs, as defined by the US Department of Energy. These consist of terbium and europium at over 99% purity, plus dysprosium at 99.99% purity. The remaining heavy REE solution, consisting of holmium to lutetium; gadolinium and samarium; as well as the light REE solution, consisting of lanthanum to neodymium and yttrium, will be retained for future work.
MRT involves the use of metal-selective ligands, tethered to solid supports, such as silica gel. SuperLig® products, consisting of small (0.5mm) particles, are packed into fixed-bed columns. These columns are present in a skid mounted modular form. MRT processes operate on a system-cycle basis, with a complete system consisting of the following sequence: (1) loading phase – target ion is loaded from feed solution onto an appropriate metal-selective SuperLig® product charged into the column(s); (2) pre-elution wash phase – any remaining feed solution is washed from the column; (3) elution phase – target ion is eluted with a small amount of eluent, forming an eluate solution concentrated in the metal product; and (4) post-elution wash phase – any remaining eluent is washed from the column. The cycle then begins again with step (1).
In the case of the REEs, elution of the bound metal is accomplished by a small amount of acid. The pure REE contained in the concentrated eluate solution is then precipitated as the carbonate salt. Rare earth carbonates (“REC’s”) require minimal reagents and no heating for production. Results of bench scale testing undertaken in 2015 were released by the Company on March 2, 2015, with a further update on April 28, 2015. Testing results yielded greater than 99% purity and recovery for the entire lanthanide suite from lanthanum (La) to lutetium (Lu), inclusive, plus yttrium (Y) and scandium (Sc).
In preparation for the Plant’s design, construction and operation, IBC thoroughly tested the MRT REE separation process at its American Fork, Utah laboratories. Proprietary SuperLig® products, manufactured by IBC, were tested with the PLS using customized separation equipment. Test results were confirmed analytically at IBC by inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy (“ICP”). IBC engineered the Plant based on this successful test work.
Steven R. Izatt, President and CEO of IBC, has approved the scientific and technical content of this news release and is the Qualified Person responsible for its accuracy. Mr. Izatt, Registered Member SME, holds a B.A. degree in Chemistry from Brigham Young University (BYU), as well as an M.S. in Chemical Engineering Practice and an M.S. in Technology and Policy, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Ucore Rare Metals is a development-phase company focused on rare metals resources, extraction and beneficiation technologies with near term potential for production, growth and scalability. On March 3, 2015, Ucore announced the right to acquire a controlling ownership interest in the exclusive rights to IBC SuperLig® technology for rare earths and multi-metallic tailings processing applications in North America and associated world markets. The Company has a 100% ownership stake in Bokan- Dotson Ridge (“Bokan”). On March 31, 2014, Ucore announced the unanimous support of the Alaska State Legislature for the investment of up to USD $145 Million in the Bokan project at the discretion of the Alaska Import Development and Export Agency (“AIDEA”).
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