Ucore Wins Department of Energy Award for Molecular Recognition Technology Process
The seventeen rare earth elements (REEs) have become an increasing necessity in the manufacture of today’s portable devices, and predictably, demand continues to climb year-on-year. Somewhat surprisingly, however, REEs are incredibly common, but they appear in such miniscule quantities that willing diggers must sift through colossal amounts of material to arrive at even small piles of concentrate, and while prices have been in decline for some time now due to massive supplies out of China, the discovery that a considerable proportion of these operations were permitting hazardous waste to enter the ecosystem has rocked the eastern supply chain and prompted a potential price recovery.
In order to survive until payday, producers must have both high-grade resources and efficient processing technologies to boost yield and reduce costs to an absolute minimum. Ucore Rare Metals Inc. (TSXV: UCU | OTCQX: UURAF) (“Ucore”) is a near-term development-phase company focused on the extraction and processing of rare metals with real potential for production, growth and scalability, and boasts ownership of the highest grade heavy REE deposit in the USA; combine this with a cutting-edge metallurgical process, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Traditional processing methods involve large volumes of solvents that typically require multiple passes to arrive at a concentrate of sufficient purity, creating vast amounts of waste in the process, which, if not properly disposed of, results in poisoned rivers and some very sick children. The necessary chemicals can actually be disposed of fairly easily, it’s just that the illegally operating miners haven’t been doing it. Still, the costs of maintaining a supply of these materials presents a massive problem for today’s REE producer, and remaining competitive requires a technological edge.
Ucore’s pilot plant utilises molecular recognition technology (MRT), which is based on green chemistry principles and generates minimal waste. No organic solvents are used, and the few necessary chemicals are as benign as can be. Energy requirements are minimal, and crucially, a recovery rate of over 99% can be achieved with a single pass-through. As a result, operating costs are far below what would normally be expected, and the environmental impact is incredibly low.
Additionally, when compared with solvent extraction, an MRT system requires considerably less equipment and floor space, resulting in a significantly cheaper plant construction. Ucore has already built a pilot plant in Utah based around the IBC SuperLig® technology, an MRT process for which the company owns a controlling interest in the exclusive rights for rare earths and multi-metallic tailings applications in North America and associated world markets, and has even signed a MoU to process further offtake from Commerce Resources.
A discussion with Ucore’s VP of Business Development, Mark MacDonald, revealed what he is most excited about the company and its prospects:
“I am excited that Ucore is able to play a key role in securing the supply of critical metals for the North American industrial complex in partnership with the US Department of Energy.”
MacDonald was speaking following Ucore award of $1m by the US Department of Energy, as part of a consortium comprised of IBC, Equinox and PSI to source, beneficiate and separate rare earths using the company’s MRT technology process.
Ucore’s own high-grade Bokan project is located in the mining-friendly jurisdiction of Alaska, and has the unanimous support of the Alaska State Legislature. Having a world-class deposit in addition to intensely competitive metallurgy makes this company well-poised to ride the REE recovery and enter the supply chain with a responsible product at minimal cost, and as such represents a safe investment for both the short and long-term.