Texas REE separation plant makes progress
So far, COVID-19 is having little impact on Colorado pilot plant Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – April 8, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 5:45am
Texas Mineral Resources Corp. and USA Rare Earth LLC April 2 said the COVID-19 outbreak thus far has not held up progress on their Round Top critical minerals project in Texas and pilot heavy rare earths separation plant in Colorado.
"Our first priority is to safeguard the health and well-being of our employees, partners and contractors," said Texas Mineral Resources Chairman Anthony Marchese. "Fortunately to date, the COVID-19 outbreak has had a minimal effect on our development activities."
Texas Mineral Resources is the El Paso, Texas-based exploration company targeting the heavy rare earths and other technology and industrial minerals found at Round Top, and USA Rare Earth is a New York City based company that is funding the project's development.
In December, the partners announced the opening of a pilot plant facility in Wheat Ridge, Colorado to separate the rare earths and other critical minerals found at their Round Top project about 85 miles southeast of El Paso.
The companies said the Colorado pilot plant has received all permits required to complete construction.
"With all necessary permits now in place, we anticipate operations to begin within six weeks as we comply with the state of Colorado COVID-19 guidelines," said Marchese.
According to a preliminary economic assessment published last year, a mine at Round Top could produce 2,212 metric tons of rare earths per year, including healthy supplies of all six permanent magnet rare earth oxides, for more than a century.
The mix of rare earths that would come out of this envisioned mine each year includes more than 200 metric tons of dysprosium, 23 tons of terbium, 65 tons of gadolinium, 65 tons of samarium, 180 tons of neodymium and 67 tons of praseodymium.
Currently, however, there are no facilities in the U.S. capable of refining and separating concentrates produced at Round Top into the individual rare earths and metals needed for America's high-tech and defense sectors.
This, along with a push by the White House and Pentagon to establish a domestic rare earth supply chain, prompted Texas Minerals and USA Rare Earth, to pursue the development of an efficient and environmentally sound means of separating rare earths in the U.S.
The pilot plant will use continuous ion exchange and continuous ion chromatography to pull out the rare earths and other critical elements from a solution produced through the leaching of the mineralized material at Round Top.
More information on these REE separation technologies and the Colorado pilot plant can by read at Texas JV moves quickly on REE separation published in the Dec. 20, 2019 edition of North of 60 Mining News at https://www.miningnewsnorth.com/story/2019/12/20/news/texas-jv-moves-quickly-on-ree-separation/6106.html
The Round Top partners said leach optimization and continuous ion exchange process design work continues.
"While preparation continues at the Colorado pilot plant, our metallurgical and processing development partners have been making excellent progress at their own facilities," said Dan Gorski, CEO of Texas Mineral Resources and director of operations at USA Rare Earth. "Leach optimization tests have been progressing as planned and the results to date have been consistent with those anticipated in the Round Top preliminary economic analysis. Likewise, process design with respect to the continuous ion exchange process is generating results consistent with those anticipated in our PEA."
The partners said the COVID-19 pandemic and the complications associated with it underscores the risks of being heavily reliant on foreign countries for rare earths and other minerals.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by the recent worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. We are fortunate to have been able to continue our development activities with minimal disruption," said USA Rare Earth CEO Pini Althaus. "The recent outbreak further reinforces the need for the United States to develop its own critical mineral supply chain. It has become clearly apparent that we cannot rely on foreign countries for our critical mineral needs irrespective of any prior trade relationships. Our goal is to bring Round Top into production as quickly as possible while implementing tangible measures to re-establish a 'mine-to-magnet' domestic rare earth and critical minerals supply chain solution."