Canada REE project enriched with gallium
REE-enriched Alces Lake monazite hosts another critical metal Metal Tech News – February 24, 2021
Last updated 2/23/2021 at 5:22pm
Appia Energy Corp. says recent testing shows that the rare earths-enriched monazite mineral at its Alces Lake project in northern Saskatchewan also hosts gallium, a semiconducting metal that will melt in the palm of your hand.
An electron microprobe study conducted by the Saskatchewan Research Council successfully demonstrated that monazite from two separate high-grade rare earth zones and trends at Alces Lake – Ivan and WRCB – contain similar concentrations of gallium oxide, 0.176% and 0.185%.
These concentrations are higher than those mined at Apex mine, which was the only primary mined source of gallium and germanium in the United States before it was closed by Teck Resources Ltd. in 2011. It is estimated that the ore intermittently mined over a century at Apex averaged about 0.032% gallium, with locally occurring grades up to 0.148% gallium.
"This is excellent news. Not only does the Alces Lake property contain some of the world's highest-grade REEs, but adding high-concentrations of gallium to the current suite of valuable and much sought-after critical REEs further demonstrates the potential economic importance that could exist on the property," said Appia Energy Vice President of Exploration and Development James Sykes.
Alces Lake is a 35,400-acre (14,300 hectares) property just north of the Athabasca Basin area of Saskatchewan that has been explored for its uranium and rare earths potential since the 1950s.
The true potential of this property, however, was not revealed until Appia geologists collected samples from the Ivan zone that returned grades as high as 35.7% total rare earth oxides. Follow-up surface sampling of Ivan in 2017 turned up even higher grades – 49.6% TREO over 0.95 meters and 45.9% TREO over 1.85 meters. A boulder at Wilson, one of four subzones that make up WRCB, contained 30.8% TREO.
Further details on the rare earth potential at Alces Lake can be read at Rise of a world class rare earths project in the October 14, 2020 edition of Metal Tech News.
Appia says previous lithogeochemical testing shows a linear correlation of the total rare earth oxides and gallium encountered at Alces Lake.
Much like rare earth elements ("REE"), gallium is widely dispersed in nature but rarely found in economically extractable quantities.
Up to 90% of the world's supply of new gallium is a by-product of processing bauxite, the primary ore for aluminum, with lesser amounts derived from zinc mineral sphalerite production.
Appia says it takes multiple cycles of bauxite processing before the gallium content reaches its production starting concentration point of roughly 0.01 to 0.013% gallium oxide, which is a lower grade than the rare earths-enriched monazite at Alces Lake.
"Gallium, especially in high concentrations, very rarely occurs within monazite," said Sykes. "Since gallium occurs within our monazite, this presents an easier solution to extracting and processing gallium than the current method of by-product processing to concentrate very low concentrations of gallium."
Having economic concentrations of both rare earths and gallium, both on the United States list of critical minerals, adds to the strategic value of Alces Lake.
Gallium is used in numerous modern high-tech applications such as 5G wireless networks, smartphones, laser diodes, semiconductors, solar energy magnetic materials, and military devices.
In recent months, the price of gallium has rocketed 50%, from US$314.3 per kilogram in late October to US$469.4/kg on Feb. 23.