Search, USA Rare Earth strengthen alliance
To feed Search REEs into USA mines-to-magnets supply chain Metal Tech News – October 27, 2021
Last updated 11/16/2021 at 4:02pm
With their sights set on establishing a complete and sustainable North American rare earths supply chain, Search Minerals Inc. and USA Rare Earth LLC have entered into an agreement for the offtake of 500 metric tons per year of neodymium and praseodymium from the future production at Search's Deep Fox or Foxtrot deposits in Labrador, Canada.
Enriched with the magnet rare earths neodymium and praseodymium, mixed rare earth carbonates produced at Search's Deep Fox and Foxtrot deposits would be a complement to the product mined at USA Rare Earth's Round Top project in Texas, which will be more strongly enriched with dysprosium and terbium, two other magnet rare earths.
Growth in rare earth markets is being driven by the powerful magnets made from these rare earths that are used in motors for electric vehicles and generators in wind turbines.
USA Rare Earth is advancing a complete rare earth mines-to-magnets supply chain that includes a mine at Round Top, a continuous ion exchange process being piloted at its facility in Colorado, and a neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnet facility that utilizes the magnet making equipment acquired from Hitachi Metals America.
"USA Rare Earth continues to execute on its mine-to-magnet strategy of bringing back fully-integrated domestic production of rare earth permanent (NdFeB) magnets to the United States," said USA Rare Earth Chief Commercial Officer Simon Sullivan. "Once operational, USA Rare Earth's NdFeB magnet plant will initially produce 2,000 tonnes annually of high-performance rare earth magnets, with the ability to scale production further based on growing market demand."
Some of the future neodymium going into those magnets could come from Search's Deep Fox and Foxtrot deposits in the eastern Canadian province of Labrador.
According to a 2016 preliminary economic assessment, a 1,000 metric ton per day operation at Foxtrot would produce 411 metric tons of neodymium and 142 metric tons praseodymium per year, along with various quantities of 13 other rare earth elements.
Since the completion of the PEA, Search discovered Deep Fox, a higher-grade deposit on the company's district-scale property. The company is currently having 7,000 meters of drilling completed this year incorporated into an updated resource estimate that will provide the basis for a new PEA on a 2,000 metric ton per day operation that mines ore from both Foxtrot and Deep Fox.
The new PEA is also expected to include magnetic separation to efficiently and sustainably upgrade the ore ahead of further processing.
Tests indicate that removing the iron with magnets would reduce the amount of material being processed by 70% while still retaining 93% of rare earth oxides. SGS Canada is currently carrying out pilot plant magnetic separation testing on an 80-metric-ton bulk sample, 40 metric tons from each deposit.
During the second phase of this testing, a magnetic concentrate produced during the initial magnetic separation phase will be processed through a demonstration plant operation to produce a concentrated mixed rare earth carbonate for refining and separation into individual oxides.
Under a memorandum of understanding, USA Rare Earth would acquire a mixed rare earths product from Search's Labrador operation each year containing 500 metric tons of neodymium and praseodymium, which would feed into the separation and magnet making portions of USA Rare Earths supply chain.
With technical and financial support from USA Rare Earth, Search is advancing its magnet REE enriched deposits toward production as quickly as possible, with the new PEA slated for completion in the first quarter of next year.
"Search will continue our 'Sprint to Production,' which includes: 1) producing the Q1 2022 preliminary economic assessment report on the combined Deep Fox and Foxtrot deposits, 2) continued environmental baseline studies, and 3) processing the 80-tonne bulk sample material for our magnetic demonstration plant testing," said Search Minerals President and CEO Greg Andrews.
This sprint is expected to include the initiation of a feasibility study in 2022 and securing the permits to build its rare earths mining operation in Labrador in 2023.
This pace puts Search and USA Rare Earth on a pace to feed into coming massive growth in the demand for rare earths being driven by electrification of the auto sector in North America and around the globe.
"We are excited to continue our collaboration with Search as we work to stand up a transparent North American critical mineral supply chain," said Sullivan.