Australian heavy rare earths producer Northern Minerals (ASX: NTU) has commenced a Scoping Study to the investigate separation technology on intermediate mixed rare earths materials produced at Browns Range. If adopted, this technology will allow Northern Minerals to produce separated rare earth oxides, including dysprosium oxide and terbium oxide for sale directly to permanent magnet makers globally, rather than a mixed heavy rare earth carbonate that currently requires separation in China.
· Scoping Study commenced to investigate downstream processing of mixed rare earths into separated rare earth oxides;
· U.S.A based K-Technologies, Inc. selected to undertake bench scale testwork and Scoping Study;
· Samples to be dispatched the U.S.A for testwork to commence in September 2019; and
· If successful, the addition of separation technologies will allow the Company to value-add and increase the range of potential customers
The Company has selected U.S.A based K-Technologies, Inc. (K-Tech) to assess the suitability of their proprietary technology to separate intermediate mixed rare earths material from Browns Range into targeted individual rare earth oxides. K-Tech is a privately held applied chemical technology firm that offers unique process technology, know-how, and development capabilities for the minerals and chemicals industries.
In particular, K-Tech has focused on various separation processes involving continuous ion exchange (“CIX”), continuous ion-chromatography (“CIC”) and related advanced separation methodologies as they apply to a variety of chemical and environmental applications.
KTech’s low-cost and environmentally safe separation and purification methodologies have been successfully tested and confirmed in various industries around the world including applications in phosphates, potash, and rare earths.
The Scoping Study will involve the Company sending intermediate mixed rare material to K-Tech’s laboratory in Florida for the bench scale separation and purification testwork.
The Scoping Study will look at the yield potential of targeted rare earth elements and will include an estimate of associated operating and capital costs. The sample is planned to be dispatched to K-Tech in August 2019 with initial testwork results expected in the December quarter.
If the bench scale testwork and Scoping Study is successful, the Company intends to undertake a pilot testwork program and install the technology as part of the current Pilot Plant Project at Browns Range to assess the saleability of this differentiated product to an end user customer base.
Northern Minerals’ Managing Director and CEO, George Bauk, said, “the Pilot Plant Project at Browns Range is all about understanding the potential to become a globally-significant heavy rare earth producer.
“The investigation of separation technology is a natural extension of the existing pilot plant studies. With everything we do, we are looking at ways of doing it better, more profitably and delivering value to our shareholders.
“With the recent announcement regarding the adoption of ore sorting technology, which will increase production and reduce costs, this exciting new initiative has the potential to take that increased production and convert it into a significantly more valuable and sought-after end product.”