IM Rare Earths News in Brief 16 – 22 June

By James Sean Dickson
Published: Monday, 22 June 2015

Greenland Minerals and Energy successfully runs pilot plant; Northern Minerals acquires John Galt rare earths project; Rare Element submits permitting applications; University of Pennsylvania researchers identify new magnet recycling method.

ASX-listed Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd (GMEL) has successfully operated a 26 tonne pilot plant for the Kvanefjeld rare earths deposit’s beneficiation circuit in Greenland.

The plant successfully met its primary aim of producing 2 tonnes rare earths concentrate, which will be used in the upcoming pilot refinery circuit in GTK Finland’s lahoratories in Pori, Finland.

The plant processed 26 tonnes ore for over 100 hours to produce the 2 tonnes concentrate and recovered more than 80% of the rare earths.

GMEL said that the pilot plant operations are "all-important" in the de-risking of the project, and that the successful operation of the beneficiation circuit demonstrated the effectiveness of the process flowsheet.

Also listed in Australia, Northern Minerals Ltd has secured 100% ownership of the John Galt rare earths project in northern Western Australia.

Northern signed an agreement in 2010 with Arnhem Resources for the right to acquire the project within a four year period. It described the project as a "strategic part" of its asset base.

A combination of cash payments and share distribution has been organised by Northern in receipt of the asset.

Northern said the project was complimentary to its existing and most-developed Browns Range project, as it has a similar xenotime-based mineralisation profile and a high proportion of heavy rare earths, which typically command higher prices than light rare earths.

In Canada, Montreal-headquartered Geomega Resources Inc. has updated the mineral resource estimate for its Montviel project in Quebec.

Montviel now has a total indicated resource of 82.4m tonnes grading at 1.51% total rare earth oxides (TREO) and total inferred resources of 184.2m tonnes at 1.43% TREO.

"Following the conversion from open pit to underground mining, resources have been classified using new criteria compared to the initial resource estimate of September 2011," Alain Cayer, vice president of exploration at Geomega, said.

Geomega also announced the close of the first tranche of a private placement for gross proceeds of $835,000. The company expects to fully close the placement, which is destined for corporate expenses and for Geomega’s gold interests, by around 30 June 2015.

TSX-V-listed Commerce Resources Corp. has announced drilling results from a further five holes at its Ashram rare earths deposit in Northern Quebec.

Commerce listed the highlights of its winter/spring drilling programme as a 6.75 metre section at 3.04% TREO, including 1.45 metres at 4.56% TREO, and 42.31 metres at 2.35% TREO.

The drilling programme has been aimed at increasing the resource confidence from inferred to measured and indicated, Commerce said.

A total of 18 holes for 1,990 metres of drilling are yet to be reported, out of 31 holes drilled during the programme for 4,146 metres.

US-based Rare Element Resources Ltd has completed a set of key state and federal applications for permitting for its Bear Lodge rare earths project in Wyoming.

A 150-day review period has begun for Rare Element’s application to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission notified the company that their 90-day licence acceptance review process official began on 26 May 2015.

"Submitting these very important permit applications continues to advance the Bear Lodge Project and put us on a direct path towards completion of the regulatory requirements for permitting," Jaye Pickarts, chief operating officer at Rare Element, said.

"While other state, federal and local government permits and approvals will be required, the data gathered and work done for these two principal applications will form the foundation for the remaining applications," Pickarts added.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in the US have identified a new method for recycling rare earths magnets, which diverges from the "energy intensive" liquid-liquid extraction process used to separate neodymium and dysprosium today.

The process, researched in a team led by Eric Schelter, results in dysprosium being precipitated as a solid, while neodymium, the other major rare earth component of high-strength permanent magnets, stays dissolved in solution.

Powdered material containing the neodymium and dysprosium was mixed with an engineered ligand, a chemical compound that can attract specific dissolved ions, rather than "catch-all" dissolving in acid alternatives.

"The difference in size between the two ions is not that significant, which is why this separation problem is difficult," Schelter said. "But it’s enough to cause that aperture to open up more for neodymium. And, because it is more open, one ligand neodymium complex can combine with another and that really changes its solubility."

"A potential magnet recycler probably does not have the capital to invest in an entire liquid-liquid separations plant, so having a chemical technology that can instantaneously separate these elements enables smaller scale recyclers to get value out of their materials," Schelter said.

Meanwhile, at Tohoku University in Japan, researchers have developed to convert squalene, a compound produced by microalgae, into kerosene and other hydrocarbon products, through the use of a cerium-ruthenium catalyst.

Supported on a bed of cerium oxide, the sub-nanometre sized ruthenium particles acted as a catalyst to preferentially separate methyl branches on the squalene compound and branched alkanes were produced without the loss of branches.

Branched hydrocarbons are preferable fuel components, owing to their high octane number – a measure of how efficiently a blend of fuel can combust. Low octane number fuels typically disrupt the motion of four-stroke engines, leading to high cylinder pressure and possibly engine failure.

Published in the Japanese science journal ChemSusChem in June, the researched catalyst was used four times without any loss of performance.

In the UK, a surge of wind turbine construction is expected following the decision of the new majority Conservative Party government to end a subsidy scheme for the renewable energy generators, according to The Times. Wind turbine magnets contain a substantial mass of rare earth elements – mostly neodymium and dysprosium.

"We are driving forward our commitment to end new onshore wind subsidies and give local communities the final say over any new windfarms," said the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Amber Rudd. "Onshore wind is an important part of our energy mix and we now have enough subsidised projects in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments."

"This mistake will cost the UK dearly," environmental pressure group, Greenpeace, said.

"Even if this omnishambles of an energy policy survives the many legal challenges threatened against it, it will send a clear message to international investors that the UK government is willing to wreck our power sector to please their most ideological backbenchers."