Geomega ready to scale up REE recycling
After pilot plant success, tech ready for larger demonstration Metal Tech News – January 13, 2021
Last updated 1/12/2021 at 5:38pm
Following the successful completion of four rounds of testing its rare earths recycling pilot plant, Geomega Resources Inc. is ready to begin scaling up the technology.
"Having a fully operational pilot plant has provided Geomega with the necessary validation to proceed to the next stages of engineering, finalize discussions with vendors and launch procurement," said Geomega Resources President and CEO Kiril Mugerman.
Though Geomega owns a mining project in Quebec that hosts a large deposit of rare earths, in recent years the company has focused its attention on developing clean technologies for the mining, refining, and recycling of this group of 17 technology elements. In particular, the company has targeted the recovery of the rare earths that go into the permanent magnets used in high-tech applications such as electric vehicles and wind turbine generators – neodymium, dysprosium, terbium, and praseodymium.
"We believe that the accelerated demand growth for renewable energy and the electric vehicle sectors, coupled with industries and governments striving for zero waste and reductions in greenhouse gases, is going to result in an even larger demand for recycling rare earths from magnets and other sources," said Mugerman.
To help fill this demand, Geomega has been testing and optimizing a rare earths pilot plant at the National Research Council Canada facility in Boucherville, Quebec.
Using a proprietary REE separation technology known as ISR, Geomega's Quebec pilot plant is focused on recovering rare earths and other metals from recycled magnets.
Rare earth magnets are currently not produced in North America, which leaves U.S. and Canadian manufacturers relying on imports, mostly from China, for the magnets they need for high-tech and other devices.
In 2019, roughly US$13.8 billion of rare earth magnets were acquired to manufacture a broad range of U.S. goods that take advantage of the unparalleled strength and durability REE magnets have to offer. This does not include magnets that were already built into smartphones, electric motors, hard drives, speakers, as well as other devices and equipment imported into the U.S. last year.
Many of the raw magnets being imported need to be machined to the size and shape to fit individual applications, which creates magnet chips and scrap. Recycling the rare earths from used magnets and magnet waste provides an ideal feedstock for the most widely used rare earths.
More information on Geomega's REE recycling efforts can be read at Magnets are rare earth feed for Geomega in the August 12 edition of Metal Tech News.
Four rounds of testing covering the entire recycling process were completed to date and these have confirmed the efficacy of the corporation's ISR technology to produce rare earths.
The company said the pilot plant demonstrates the recovery of more than 90% of the contained rare earths at a purity of 99.5% rare earth oxides, while also recovering around 90% of the reagents used in the separation and recovery process.
In addition, the recovery of boron and hydrogen were successfully tested and integrated into the recycling process, which will add to the efficiency and economics.
While only a small amount of boron is used in neodymium-iron-boron magnets, this element plays a vital role, and its recovery is expected to have a positive impact on both energy efficiency and anticipated revenues of the project.
The recovery of hydrogen, an emerging clean energy fuel in Quebec and globally, is important because of its potential to reduce the overall energy consumption of the project. Most importantly, Geomega says hydrogen recovery demonstrates the potential in applying the process to other metal rich feeds that lack valuable elements and are therefore not being recycled today due to poor economics.
Geomega says the pilot plant testing has also validated and facilitated equipment selection for the construction of a larger demonstration plant in Saint-Bruno, Quebec.
In the meantime, the company expects to continue running the pilot unit on an as needed basis to test various types of feed materials it receives on a regular basis and to produce additional material for testing by various end users.
"We fully expect 2021 to be a transformational year for Geomega shareholders with the upcoming construction of the demonstration plant and its start of production of rare earth oxide using recycled magnets, a first in the Western world," said Mugerman. "Geomega is looking forward to providing the required clean technology in the critical metal space to achieve a circular economy for rare earth magnets with its initial demonstration plant to be showcased in St-Bruno, Quebec."