Ucore acquires rapid REE separation tech
Cuts deal to buy Innovation Metals; Hatch joins Ucore team Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – April 29, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 5:53am
Ucore Rare Metals Inc. has cut a deal to acquire full ownership of Innovation Metals Corp. – a private Canada-based company that has developed RapidSX technology for the separation and purification of rare earth elements and other critical metals – in exchange for C$5.8 million of Ucore shares.
Ucore and Innovation Metals entered into a service agreement earlier this year to carry out bench-scale testing of RapidSX on the separation of rare earths from concentrates produced from Ucore's Bokan Mountain project in Southeast Alaska, as well as other potential feedstock for the Strategic Metals Complex (SMC) it is planning to develop about 30 miles away from Bokan.
Bokan and SMC are two parts of Ucore's mine-to-metal-to-market strategy to help establish an independent rare earth supply chain in the United States. Overall, this strategy, dubbed M3, involves the advancement of Bokan to shovel-ready status; developing an associated facility to separate rare earths mined at Bokan into individual metals; and cultivating a North American market for these REEs.
"We firmly believe that the RapidSX technology holds considerable merit for Ucore's own prospective Alaska Strategic Metals Complex, as discussed in our M3 plan of action, as well as industry-wide commercialization in particular due to the scalable and modular nature of RapidSX," said Ucore Rare Metals Chairman Pat Ryan.
Proven separation, faster
Most REE deposits contain some mixture of all the elements considered rare earths, which includes 15 lanthanides – the group of elements in their own row at the bottom of the periodic table –along with scandium and yttrium – a pair of elements that are commonly found in REE deposits and have similar characteristics.
These 17 rare earths have similar physical and chemical properties, which makes it difficult to separate them into the individual elements needed for a wide array of high-tech applications.
Solvent extraction, which involves the use of various extractants that are able to break apart the rare earths into group and then individual elements, has long been the preferred method of REE separation.
While this process has been the standard for rare earth separation over the past 40 years, it is complex, sometimes taking hundreds of stages of breaking down the REE bearing solution into rare earth groups and eventually into the oxides and salts that can be used in everything from high-fidelity headphones to F-35 fighters.
This is where Innovation Metals' RapidSX technology comes into play.
This new process takes the time-tested solvent extraction technique to a new level by utilizing an innovative column-based platform that significantly reduces the time and footprint of the facility needed to separate REES.
Innovation Metals says RapidSX "reduces the number of process steps required in each SX circuit by up to 85 to 90 percent." This process also significantly reduces the time it takes to go from 17 elements all locked up in a rare earth soup into individual oxides that are used in thousands of high-technology, renewable energy, electric vehicle and military application.
"After significant study, the most convincing element of our analysis was understanding that RapidSX is not a 'new' technology but rather an important improvement on well-established, understood and industry-expected SX separation technology, said Ryan.
Deal and a bonus
To acquire full ownership of Innovation Metals and its RapidSX technology, Ucore has agreed to issue 45.38 million shares, valued at C$5.8 million, plus C$1,000 in cash.
As a bonus, Innovation Metals Chairman and CEO Gareth Hatch is joining Ucore's management team as chief technology officer.
Renowned for his knowledge of rare earths and REE permanent magnets, Hatch holds a B.Eng (Honours) degree in materials science & technology and a Ph.D. in metallurgy & materials, both from the University of Birmingham, with research focused on REE permanent-magnet alloys.
"I look forward to working closely with the rest of the Ucore team," said Hatch. "More than ever, we are committed and determined to fulfill our collective mission of establishing an alternative supply chain for REEs, and now also for lithium, nickel, cobalt, and other critical materials."
Ucore has received subscription agreements for a C$2.8 million convertible debenture financing. The cash raised with this financing will be used to progress the development and deployment of the RapidSX technology and further advancement of the company's M3 strategy.
"The further development of RapidSX to the point of commercial readiness will allow the Ucore-IMC team to support all efforts by the U.S. government and its allies to prospectively achieve this nationally secure pathway to independence," said Ucore COO Mike Schrider.