RapidSX rare earths separation progresses
IMC expects tech to be ready for commercial use in 15 months Metal Tech News – February 3, 2021
Last updated 2/9/2021 at 5:11pm
Ucore Rare Metals Inc. anticipates that the RapidSX rare earths and critical metals separation technology being developed by its subsidiary, Innovation Metals Corp., will be ready for commercial adoption and implementation by Ucore and licensees of the REE separation technology in about 15 months.
RapidSX is not so much a new technology as an enormous upgrade to the conventional solvent extraction technology that has been the standard for separating rare earths for more than 40 years. While effective, traditional solvent extraction sometimes takes hundreds of stages to extract all the rare earths from a solution containing the notoriously interlocked elements.
Utilizing an innovative column-based platform developed by Gareth Hatch and his team at Innovation Metals, RapidSX is much faster and environmentally sound than the traditional solvent extraction techniques popularized in China.
RapidSX has been reported to reduce the number of process steps required in each SX circuit by up to 85 to 90%. This reduces the time, cost, and environmental footprint of solvent extraction of rare earths separation.
"The outlook and opportunity have never been stronger, and we firmly believe RapidSX has the potential to be a disruptive technology and keystone feature in achieving domestic REE production; resulting in faster and lower-cost production as compared to other competing REE separation technologies," Ucore Rare Metals Chairman Pat Ryan.
In addition to separating and purifying rare earths to oxides needed for magnets and other applications, RapidSX also works for other critical metals such as the lithium, cobalt and nickel needed for lithium-ion batteries.
Ucore, which was seeking a rare earths separation technology for its planned rare earths separation plant and mine in Alaska, acquired Innovation Metals last summer.
Operating as a subsidiary, Innovation Metals has continued to advance RapidSX at its facility in Ontario, Canada.
"Ucore is incredibly pleased with the significant progress IMC has made with the RapidSX technology development," said Ryan.
Commissioning of a demonstration-scale pilot plant of the RapidSX technology is scheduled to start in the third quarter of this year. An independent economic study and design of a commercial-scale REE separation facility are expected to be completed early in 2022.
IMC is currently evaluating various, already commercially available US-allied-sourced rare earth concentrates from existing mining operations to develop a comprehensive dataset that will demonstrate the versatility of the RapidSX technology for REE separation. The evaluation process will lead to the final selection of one source of REE concentrates to serve as the initial feedstock for the RapidSX demonstration plant.
IMC anticipates it will have the plant ready to demonstrate the advantages of RapidSX to clients looking to license the technology in about 15 months.
"The interest expressed from potential RapidSX end users all over the world has never been higher," said Innovation Metals President Ty Dinwoodie.
For its part, Ucore will incorporate the RapidSX advancements into its Alaska Strategic Metals Complex, a rare earths and critical metals separation facility the company plans to build in Southeast Alaska.
The Alaska Strategic Metals Complex, or Alaska SMC, is the first step of Alaska2023, a strategy to begin rare earths production in Alaska in three years. Once this separation facility near the port town of Ketchikan is churning out rare earth oxides from feedstock supplied by others, Ucore plans to begin development of a mine at its Bokan Mountain REE and critical minerals project about 35 miles away on Prince of Wales Island.
According to a resource calculation completed in 2019, Bokan Mountain hosts roughly 31,722 metric tons of rare earth oxides, 17,715 metric tons titanium dioxide, 9,001 metric tons zirconium, 2,205 metric tons niobium, 464 metric tons vanadium, 231 metric tons beryllium, and 178 metric tons hafnium in the indicated category.
Further details of Ucore's plan to develop the Alaska SMC and Bokan Mountain mine can be read at Ucore unveils Alaska2023 rare earths plan in the October 7, 2020 edition of Metal Tech News. An update on a funding agreement for the Alaska SMC can be read at Ucore strengthens support for Alaska SMC – https://www.miningnewsnorth.com/story/2021/01/22/news/ucore-strengthens-support-for-alaska-smc/6662.html – in the January 22, 2021 edition of North of 60 Mining News.