New rare earths processing facility announced in Appia Energy’s backyard

Government announcement is more good news following Appia’s successful results and expansion

Any mining company will tell you that success is the result of a combination of good decisions and good fortune, and Appia Energy Corp. (CSE: API |OTCQB: APAAF) (“Appia”) has recently had both.

On August 28  the Saskatchewan Research Council (“SRC“) and the Government of Saskatchewan announced their plan to develop a “first-of-its-kind” Rare Earth Processing Facility in Saskatchewan, Canada – essentially in Appia’s Alces Lake high grade rare earths project’s backyard. This is a highly significant announcement as it has enormous potential to benefit Appia down the track, as they can potentially leverage of what is already provided by the local government. The facility is planned to be fully operational in late 2022 and will be capable of processing both hard rock ores (monazite and bastnaesite), and converting them into saleable individual rare earth oxides. This matches perfectly with Appia’s shorter term needs and would be North America’s first rare earths processing facility.

Speaking exclusively to InvestorIntel, Appia President and CEO, Tom Drivas, welcomed the news. “Appia congratulates the Saskatchewan Research Council and the Government of Saskatchewan for their initiative to develop a first-of-a-kind rare earth processing plant in Saskatchewan, Canada,” he told InvestorIntel. “Appia is very pleased and excited to learn that the Saskatoon rare earth processing plant will be up and running by the end of 2022, especially since it is in such close proximity to Appia’s high-grade critical rare earth Alces Lake project. Having the SRC plant in the same province as our project will substantially benefit Appia and its shareholders. Appia’s Alces Lake project’s rare earths are hosted in monazite, which the SRC plant will be processing. Appia has a well-established working relationship with SRC.”

This comes on the heels of a recent string of exploration and other news for Appia. In July 2020 Appia reported a 1.0 meter channel sample line grading 0.471 wt% total rare earth oxide (“TREO”) at Appia’s Loranger Property. Appia also found over 65 metres of continuous uranium mineralization at surface grading 0.018 wt% U3O8 at their Eastside Property.

“The composite U3O8 grades from Eastside are comparable to other world-class open pit uranium mines,” said Appia Vice-President, Exploration and Development, James Sykes, “such as the Rössing and Husab uranium mines in Namibia. Based on historic assay results and those obtained from Line 3 of Area 51, we believe zones with higher uranium grades are possible on the Property. The Property remains underexplored.”

On August 4 Appia announced that it had staked 8,014 additional acres at its high-grade rare earth Alces Lake Property, expanding the total property to an area of 17,577 hectares (43,434 acres). The new staking around Hawker ensures that all of the historic surface occurrences and potential geological trends are located within the Alces Lake Property. The two new land acquisitions now provide Appia with an additional 11 km of prospective trends to explore for additional high-grade rare earth element and uranium zones, bringing the total to 41 km along a continuous regional geological trend.

On August 6 Appia announced that they had discovered at least seven surface rare earth and uranium zones on the Alces Lake Project. Mr. James Sykes said: “We continue to discover more of the REE mineral system at surface, and for many kilometers outside of the main area where we’ve been focusing exploration for the past couple of years. This suggests we’re looking at a very large system across the property and also at depth.”

Some uses for rare earths and hence a strong decade ahead


The Alces Lake Property (100% owned by Appia)

The Alces Lake property has monazite ore that is enriched in valuable critical rare earth elements, particularly Neodymium (Nd), Praseodymium (Pr), Dysprosium (Dy), and Terbium (Tb). These four elements account for between 23-25% of the TREO, or ~85% of the potential value at Alces Lake. Alces Lake hosts the 2nd highest average REE grade in the world. At a 4 wt% Total Rare Earth Oxides (TREO) cutoff, Alces Lake average grade is exceptionally high at 16.65 wt% TREO. The Alces Lake Project’s rare earths are near surface and hence suitable for an open pit mine. Permitting should be smooth being in northern Saskatchewan Canada and the CapEx and OpEx should be reasonably low given the good grades and near surface resource. Finally the recent development by the Government of Saskatchewan to develop a “first-of-its-kind” Rare Earth Processing Facility in Saskatchewan is extremely promising for Appia.

Appia Energy Alces Lake Project has one of the highest grade rare earths in the world with favorable monazite ore


Closing remarks

Appia Energy continues to expand their rare earths and uranium resource potential via a very significant neighboring land acquisition and further exploration in their Summer campaign. Phase 1 has already uncovered numerous targets and phase 2 plans 2,000 to 3,000m of new diamond drilling on their Alces Lake Project.

The announced new SRC Saskatchewan rare earths processing facility is a potential game changer for Appia. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming into place – very high grade rare earths, expanded land package with exploration upside and success, and finally a nearby processing facility. As the renewable energy and EV boom take off this decade the demand for a secure supply of western-made rare earths will intensify. It is starting to look like Appia Energy can be a significant player one day with continued good results and good fortune.

Search Heading for the Rare Earth Podium

Search Minerals Inc. (TSXV: SMY) (“Search”) have received considerable coverage of late. It’s no secret that the rare-earths market is a risky place to bed down, yet Search have managed to live-on through some seriously tough times; their share price has shown a strong positive trend over the last twenty-four months, and with a healthy market cap of $15.5m, no less. Let’s take a minute to delve a little further into their operation and see what makes them so much more robust than the myriad of rare-earth element (REE) explorers that have floundered in their wake.

These days, a REE developer simply cannot rely on their geology alone; gone are the days when you could stick a flag in a pile of rock and get paid, after all, the world is a big place, and any market with significant hype is going to motivate hordes of wannabe-Lara-Croft-types to start digging for buried treasure. The committed explorer, however, will ensure that they are protected from collapse when the hype bubble eventually bursts by having a serious and well-thought-out technique that is designed to add value to their discovery once it’s been sprung from its tomb.

Not only do Search possess some of the bigger and better resources that the industry currently has to offer, but their proprietary Direct Extraction Metallurgical process has advanced through its testing stages with massive promise. Normally, producing an REE-mix to the standard expected by a refinery is costly, and by eliminating several stages of the standard process, Search have produced a 98.99% pure rare-earth mix while significantly reducing both CapEx and OpEx. The technique is patent-pending, and even allows for the tailings to be deposited straight back into the open pit once processing is complete.

Such an ingenious application of simplicity brings benefits that are attractive enough to make sourcing offtake vastly easier than going for high prices, and with a resource like FOXTROT, the company represents a great investment for believers in the REE story. An issue frequently encountered with exploration companies is ore-stocks that won’t last long enough for decent growth to be observed. The FOXTROT site, however, has a projected mine-life of fourteen years, plenty of time to see refineries snap-up the opportunity to take material from an environmentally friendly mine in the perfectly stable jurisdictions of  Newfoundland & Labrador.

Furthermore, two additional discoveries at the aforementioned project have generated yet more attention and investment that will be utilised to advance the resources through drilling and permitting towards full production. Nearby, a site termed Deep Fox has revealed very similar geology and mineralization to its namesake, as has a further region now known as Fox Meadow. While these areas have yet to be drilled, they should contribute significantly to Search’s stockpiles and cause a surge in value once proven.

Production from FOXTROT is projected to total 36,700 t of Total Rare Earth Oxides (TREO) contained in a mixed rare earth precipitate. Revenue projections for FOXTROT are dominated by Neodymium (39%), Dysprosium (29%), Praseodymium (14%), and Terbium (8%); all elements that are projected to remain in supply deficit as the world continues to seek to manufacture advanced permanent-magnet-based motor systems for electric vehicles, generators, and even drones.

In late March, Search announced a non-brokered private placement resulting in proceeds of $3,060,000 that will be used to complete drilling works at FOXTROT and fund environmental assessment applications. Trust and confidence remains high in the management team, and time is running out to participate in the rarest of success stories that is rare-earth element extraction. Great resources, combined with the humility to favour simplicity over grandiosity will ultimately be what puts Search on the podium.

Northern Minerals ramping up to be the next heavy rare earth supplier outside of China

Northern Minerals Limited (ASX: NTU) (“Northern Minerals) is focused on the delivery of the heavy rare earth (HRE) element, dysprosium. The company owns a significant landholding in Western Australia and the Northern Territory that is highly prospective for this commodity. Through the development of its flagship project, the Browns Range Project (the Project), Northern Minerals aims to be the world’s first significant producer of dysprosium, or any heavy REEs for that matter, outside of China.

Per the Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS), the full scale operation will use a combination of open pit and underground mining methods to extract 585,000t @ 0.66% total rare earth oxides (“TREO”) per annum, which will be treated through a beneficiation and hydrometallurgical plant. The project’s current mineral resource supports an eleven-year mine life, and with significant scope to expand this through further exploration, the project’s future is indeed promising.

A hydrometallurgical process will then further treat the 16,700tpa of mineral concentrate to produce 279,000kg of dysprosium per annum. The pilot plant is to feature a modular design where possible; a common solution chosen by smart companies who want to scale their operations with less risk than having a full and permanent processing facility anchored to their property. A modular plant has the ability to be scaled both up and down as needed, not to mention shipped off to other sites for additional benchmarking and such.

Stage one includes the construction of a three year, 60,000tpa pilot plant operation at the Browns Range site. It will consist of an open cut mining operation, with processing via a beneficiation and hydrometallurgical pilot plant to produce 49,000kg dysprosium per annum, this state is intended to fully de-risk the operation by testing the process over time; it is important to thoroughly understand and improve knowledge of grade control, and the project’s specific geology, to ensure that full future production goes ahead as smoothly as possible.

Northern Minerals is already working alongside government regulators in relation to utilising current project approvals to execute stage one, and construction is expected to take around nine months once product offtake and funding is in place.

Stage two involves developing the project to Bankable Feasibility Study level based on the DFS completed in March 2015. The results of the studies, announced on 27 August 2015, are aimed at reducing mining costs, boosting production, producing a premium product and increasing the Ore Reserve. The final stage involves taking the project to full scale production based on the successful outcomes of stage one and two. Once at full scale, Browns Range will process 585,000tpa to produce 279,000kg of dysprosium, contained within 3,098,000kg TREO per annum, in a mixed RE carbonate, before going through a process of yttrium rejection.

The rejection of yttrium during the hydrometallurgical stage is intended to significantly reduce costs further downstream. Removing around 90% of the yttrium at this stage results in a less mixed carbonate. With current market signals indicating that sale of the yttrium oxide is likely to be limited for the foreseeable future, this step will increase the percentage of the dysprosium in the mixed RE carbonate product from 9% to around 20%, creating a premium product and gaining the company a decent edge.

Completion of initial test work at ANSTO Minerals has indicated that removal of yttrium, lanthanum and cerium can be achieved through a relatively simple addition to the hydrometallurgical process. Further developmental studies will be completed subject to additional funding.

The pilot plant will be supported by a fly-in rota, and the workforce will be accommodated through an expansion of the existing twenty-person exploration camp to forty-room capacity. The plan to progress stage one to development is already well underway. Discussions are advancing nicely with several potential offtake partners and strategic investors, showing that it shouldn’t be long at all before Australia adds another resource to its shipping roster. In addition to this, should Northern Minerals engagements with government regulators result in existing approvals for stage one being authorised, the Browns Range project will proceed very swiftly indeed.

Lynas releases positive results and confirms operating license

lynas-corporation-300x250September was a month of positive news-flow from Lynas Corporation Ltd. (ASX: LYC | OTC: LYSDY). First at the beginning of the month, Lynas revealed that it had finally received renewal of its full operating license for its Malaysian based operation, the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant, “LAMP.” Following this announcement of the operating license, Lynas released its 2016 results for the year ended 30 June 2016.

The operating license has been a contentious issue over the last few years when the Stop Lynas, Save Malaysia Campaign, which began in 2011, successfully delayed the granting of this license thereby delaying the production commencement date. This delay took the company to the brink of bankruptcy.

Since this time, under the guidance of its CEO, Amanda Lacaze, who took the helm in 2014, Lynas has been making huge strides and achieving its project goals.

Now following a rigorous review undertaken by the Atomic Energy License Board (AELB) as well as other independent regulatory bodies in Malaysia, it was concluded that the LAMP project is in full compliance with all applicable regulations. Furthermore as Lynas has now been in operation for four years and data shows that there has been no increase in background radiation levels, the license has been granted until September 2019.

Regarding the Company’s financial results, the company made good progress and reported positive production growth, despite the poor pricing environment. The NdPr production facility is now running at full capacity and the business has been breakeven for several quarters.

The increase in production was reflected in higher revenue, which rose to A$196.1m compared to A$148.6m in 2014. Production volumes rose significantly for both NdPr and total rare earth oxides (TREO) to 3,897 tonnes (2015: 2,258 tonnes) and 12,630 tonnes (2015: 8,799 tonnes) respectively.

In addition costs continued to be well managed throughout the year and the operating capacity at LAMP was improved due to the commissioning of the fourth NdPr separation train in SX5.

A consideration of the Lynas share price reveals that despite the positive reports, the share price remained relatively constant. The price during September ranged from $0.055-$0.063. The highest price was achieved on the 16th of September, the day the report regarding the operating licence was published. Since this time, prices have fallen back to around $0.055/share.