Bacanora look to scale up boric acid production with 25,000 tpa plant in Mexico

By Siobhan Lismore-Scott
Published: Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Bacanora moves towards large-scale plans; Rio Tinto produce more borates in Q3 2014

Bacanora Minerals is working towards boric acid production as it looks to design a 25,000 tpa boric acid plant at its Magdalena borate project in Mexico.

The company, which is listed on London’s AIM, has retained the services of Process Engineering LLC to design the plant.

The plant will use feedstock from the company’s El Cajon deposit.

Bacanora said it needs to complete infill diamond drilling sampling and metallurgical testing on part of its deposit; complete the full scale boric acid plant design and costing as well as a revised mine plan; and finally it needs to initiate environmental baseline studies and complete mine permitting.

Martin Vidal, Bacanora’s president, said he believed the prefeasibility report on the plant was expected to be completed by Q1 ‘15.

The company has two main assets: the Magdalena borate project in Sonora State, which holds an NI 43-101 compliant indicated resource of 1.17m tonnes borates at an 8% cut off grade; and the Sonora lithium project with an NI 43-101 compliant indicated resource of 2.68m tonnes lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) at a 2,000 ppm cut-off grade.

The company’s pilot plant is four stories high and has been entirely built by the Bacanora team, which, chairman Colin Orr-Ewing proudly states, is mostly Mexican.

“We think Mexico is a good place to work really. Mexico is wonderful because they make things there still - labour is cheap and we have an effective and wonderful team,” he told IM in July, when the company listed on AIM.

Orr-Ewing, a charismatic and experienced miner, said that he got involved in the industrial minerals market because he was after some stability.

“Why did I get involved in this? I have been in diamonds and gold really until a short while ago and I wanted something steady,” he answered.

The company built its own testing and processing facility in Mexico which can remove the clay and impurities from its calcium borates to produce boric acid.

The plant also processes the company’s hectorite clay to produce 1.6% LCE.

The processing side is interesting because Bacanora designed its own processing plant. This was in order to keep costs low, but also, as Orr-Ewing pointed out, because no one had a borax testing facility outside of the US.

“Having been brought up knowing that US Borax had a $200m bottom line - I thought borax was a good thing to be in,” he told IM.

“Then I found out you can’t find a lab to carry out testing for borax (...) I couldn’t believe that people were buying borax without testing the consistency - they were taking it on trust.”

The company is developing its lithium business with Rare Earth Minerals, which owns a 30% share of Bacanora subsidiary Mexilit S.A de C.V and a 10% share of Megalit S.A de C.V.Rockwood.

Borates News Review

Erin Ventures

Erin Ventures - a Toronto, Canada-headquartered junior miner developing borate assets in Serbia - said in October that it intends to complete a private placement on the Toronto Venture Exchange (TSX-V).

The placement will entail an offering of 10m units at a price of Canadian dollar (C$) 0.06/unit ($0.053/unit*). Each unit equals a share in the company, as well as a half share, or purchase warrant. Each full warrant will have a three year term with an exercise price of $0.15.

Erin Ventures is developing the Piskanja boron deposit in Serbia, which holds an NI 43-101 maiden indicated mineral resource totalling 5.6m tonnes with an average B2O3 content of 30.8%, and an additional Inferred mineral resource of 6.2m tonnes with an average B2O3 content of 28.8%.

Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto produced 127,000 tonnes borates in Q3 2014, flat to the same level the previous year, and 385,000 tonnes Ñ 5% higher than in 2013 - in the first nine months of this year, it revealed in its quarterly results, released in October.

Year-on-year (y-o-y) the company is producing more borates in response to higher sales demand and the commissioning of the company’s modified direct dissolving of kernite (MDDK) process plant, which continued during the third quarter.

Rio Tinto continues to press

on with the development of its Jadar project in Serbia, although it did not provide an update on the project in its production report and it is still classed as an ‘evaluation project’.

Pan Global

Also in Serbia is Pan Global Resources, although according to the company’s latest financial statements on SEDAR, released in October, it did not spend any money on drilling or geophysical surveys in the Balkans in the six months to 31 July 2014.

Field costs amounted to $15,091 - down from $69,527 over the same period the previous year.

EU looks into borates in cosmetics

Comprehensive European Union (EU) restrictions on the use of boron compounds in personal care

products such as cosmetics and hair care brands are now under discussion.

The European Commission (EC) is consulting EU member states,

following a detailed assessment on the potential risks of boron compounds in personal care products by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS).

The opinion, released earlier this year, concluded that borates, tetraborates and octaborates, as well as other boric acid salts/esters such as MEA-borate, MIPA-borate, potassium borate, trioctyldodecyl borate and zinc borate, break into boric acid when in contact with water.

These talks are separate from consultations launched in September on whether four boron substances Ñ boric acid; disodium tetraborate, anhydrous; diboron trioxide; tetraboron disodium heptaoxide, hydrate - should be added to the EU’s special REACH authorisation list.

*Conversions made October 2014