Vital rare earths plant on pace for 2022 start
Testing of Saskatoon extraction plant expected by year's end Metal Tech News – October 6, 2021
Last updated 10/12/2021 at 2:34pm
Vital Metals Ltd. Oct. 5 reported that it expects its rare earth extraction facility in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan to be ready to accept the first ore from the Nechalacho REE mine in Northwest Territories by the end of the year.
"Our first shipment of ore is due to leave Nechalacho this month and we expect to start feeding into the plant before the end of CY2021, with commissioning to follow," said Vital Metals Managing Director Geoff Atkins.
Commissioning of the plant will be carried out over the first half of calendar year 2022, and the first product ready to be shipped to Norway-based REEtec for the final separation into individual REEs is scheduled to occur by mid-year.
To meet these targets, Australia-based Vital has secured all the equipment needed based on a startup production capacity of 1,000 metric tons per year, excluding the cerium, with the idea of a second stage of expansion to 2,000 t/yr.
The magnet rare earths neodymium and praseodymium are expected to account for roughly 47% of the REE output from this facility, which comes to approximately 470 metric tons of annual production during the first phase and 940 metric tons during the second.
Vitals says the throughput of the initial plant is 50% higher than initially planned and the installation of equipment for phase-two expansion provides the company the option to easily double that production capacity.
"Vital has procured all key equipment required to process REE ore from our Nechalacho operation in the Northwest Territories into rare earth carbonate at the Saskatoon plant, including oversizing of some items to enable us to increase production in our second stage of operations," Atkins said.
The only initial equipment not sized for the phase-two expansion was the leaching tanks, which can be easily added when needed. Vital says this selectivity in oversizing equipment is based on its management team's previous experience in commissioning similar plants and will help ensure ramp-up occurs as smoothly as possible.
Being built alongside a REE processing facility being developed by the Saskatchewan Research Council, Vital's rare earth carbonate production plant is taking shape. Foundation work is now complete and electrical services installed, and the building is being fabricated and is expected to start going up later this month.
To support project management and general engineering of the processing facility construction, Vital has executed a consultancy services agreement with the Toronto-based Halyard Inc., which completed the engineering, fabrication, and installation of an ore sorter at Nechalacho.
In addition, Vital has signed an agreement with the Saskatchewan Research Council to provide technical support with the construction and operation of the plant and ensure ongoing collaboration between Vital and SRC. This agreement is expected to maximize synergies as Vital and SRC ramp up operations at their side-by-side rare earths facilities.
More information on the SRC rare earths facility can be read at Saskatchewan rare earths plant on its way in the September 1, 2021 edition of Metal Tech News.
"Construction of our custom-built facility is underway at the same time as the SRC Rare Earth Processing Facility being built by Saskatchewan Research Council, and it's exciting to see this rare earths hub start to take shape in Saskatoon," said Atkins.