Australian exploration company, Australian Minerals Mining
Group (AMMG), has announced a strategy to become a low-cost,
high-purity alumina (HPA) producer.
Following a technical review of
previous testwork, the company has proposed a process flow
design and integrated plant study to confirm the technical
viability of producing HPA from its aluminous clay resources
near Meckering, Western Australia (WA).
According to AMMG, the production
of 99.99% HPA directly from its kaolin resources is a low-cost
alternative compared with
traditional production from aluminium metal, which has to be
expensively and highly processed from bauxite ore.
We have a robust and proven
processing technology with enormous potential for producing
HPA. We are in the right place at the right time with the right
feedstock and the right technology, Iggy Tan, AMMGs
managing director, said in a statement.
The company, which is also
exploring for mineral sands, graphite and gypsum resources in
WA, aims to move away from mineral exploration and focus on HPA
production, Tan said.
A study published by AMMG in June
showed that its planned HPA pilot plant had a capex of under
Australian dollar (A$) 10m ($9.1m*), and that capex and opex
estimations for an integrated plant were significantly lower
than previous figures estimated in December 2013.
The HPA process
The production route planned by the
company consists of using hydrochloric acid (HCl) leaching with
gas induced crystallisation and acid recovery, which will be
reused at the front end of the process, therefore reducing
AMMG said that the HCl leaching
process, which has been known since the early 1980s, is
particularly effective for its aluminous clay deposits, due to
their low impurity content.
Low levels of
The company explained that as its
kaolin resources have been purified and processed by natural
weathering processes, it contains very low levels of impurities
such as iron, titanium, calcium, potassium and magnesium,
compared with raw bauxite ore.
The main impurity [of the
aluminous clays] is insoluble silica which can be easily
filtered out during the processing, leaving the soluble
alumina, AMMG said in a press release.
By contrast, bauxite ore used
to produce aluminium metal and alumina contains around 22% iron
compared to the aluminous clay feedstock at Meckering, which
contains 0.7% iron impurities, it added.
AMMG and Canada-based Orbite
Aluminae are the only two companies in the world which are
developing a process to produce alumina from aluminium clays. A
comparison of their chemical compositions is detailed below
A growing market for
The Australian junior said it
expects HPA demand will grow in the near future, especially in
synthetic sapphire glass production for LEDs and other
high-tech sectors, including smart phones, semiconductors,
plasma screens, lithium batteries and optical devices.
According to a report published by
Technavio Research in April, the global HPA market will grow
its capacity at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.88%
over the period 2013-2018, with present volumes of 19,040
tonnes expected to expand to 48,200 tonnes by 2018.
Prices increasing with
AMMG said that price of HPA is
expected to increase with its purity, as the alumina
(Al2O3) content in the product needs to
be very high in order to satisfy requirements from the
electronic and technology industry.
Prices for HPA with a grade of
99.9% Al2O3 are presently between
$1-10/kg, with prices for HPA grades of 99.99% and 99.999%
Al2O3 being up to $10-50/kg and
$50-150/kg, respectively, according to the company.
Orbite Aluminae completes
first phase of HPA construction
Canadas Orbite Aluminae has
completed the first phase of construction of its HPA plant at
Cap-Chat in Quebec, Canada.
The company has concluded the
structural reinforcement of the HPA building and has installed
the calcination equipment that was provided by Finland-based
processing company, Outotec.
Overall work on the HPA
facility continues on schedule for commercial production in Q1
2015, Denis Arguin, Orbites vice president of
engineering and operations added, stating that the refractory
installation contract is presently under negotiation.
Low cost alumina
With the first phase of the
construction plan concluded, Orbite has completed the basic
engineering for a proposed smelter-grade alumina production
plant, which will use the clay mined from its Grande-Vallee
deposit in Quebec, Canada, as feedstock.
The company aims to produce
metallurgical grade alumina, high purity alumina and rare
earths from clay, red mud, bauxite and fly ash, through an
innovative process which is protected by 16 patents.
The process involves crushing and
acid leaching of the aluminous claystone, followed by the
isolation of aluminium components at different temperature and
pH levels, and the removal of iron and other impurities,
including rare earth metals.
*Conversion made September 2014
Archer Exploration settles
Archer Exploration Ltd, has settled a dispute over its Leigh
Creek magnesite deposit in South Australia, which will allow
the company to immediately start exploration at the
Archer said it has entered
into a confidential settlement agreement with Sydney,
Australia-headquartered junior Foyson Resources Ltd, which will
stop proceedings started by Foyson in July.
In December 2013,
Foysons subsidiary, Magnesium Developments Ltd (MDL),
launched proceedings in the South Australian Wardens
Court against Archers subsidiary Leigh Creek Magnesite
MDL claimed mineral and
extractive leases over part of the Leigh Creek Magnesite
project, which allowed it to mine all magnesite within the
area, according to the Australian Mining Act.
Archer, which claimed
entire ownership of the project, announced the discontinuation
of the Wardens Court action in July this
The plaint dealt with
complex issues under the Mining Act and could have resulted in
a detrimental impact on the Mount Hutton magnesite project, had
it succeeded, Archer said in a statement.
discontinuation, Foyson commenced an additional action in the
Supreme Court for an amount of A$250,000, claiming that Archer
made a binding offer to settle the Wardours Court
While defending against any
claims brought in by Foyson, Archer started negotiations with
the Sydney-based company to resolve the dispute.
Leigh Creek holds a JORC
compliant resource of 453m tonnes, grading at 41.4% magnesia
Archer has conducted
significant calcining testwork to show that the magnesite [ore]
can produce high-quality MgO, suitable for a multitude of uses,
including in hydrometallurgical extraction of metals,
agricultural applications including fertilisers, water
purification and wall board production, Anderson
MgO is also used as clinker
in refractory applications.
The company appointed
consulting firm EY in July to conduct a strategic review of the
asset, which Archer expects to complete by the end of this
Our approach is to
acquire prospective or unrecognised projects, which we then add
value to through firming up resources and putting together
project plans, Gerard Anderson, managing director,
Once we have
completed this work we will seek to monetise those assets
either through divestments, joint ventures or bringing the
projects to production, he added.
Archer is also developing its Campoona fine graphite
project in the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia.