Ucore Rare Metals, Inc. ("Ucore" or the "Company") is pleased to update on the commissioning of the SuperLig®-One rare earth element ("REE") separation pilot plant (the "Plant" or "SuperLig®-One"). The first tranche of pregnant leach solution ("PLS") derived from the Company's Bokan - Dotson Ridge ("Bokan") project in Alaska has been produced by SGS Lakefield Research Ltd of Lakefield, Ontario ("SGS") and delivered to IBC Advanced Technologies, Inc. of American Fork, Utah ("IBC"). The PLS has undergone confirmatory analysis and will be submitted to the Molecular Recognition Technology ("MRT") circuit.
Since the announcement of the completion of construction of SuperLig®-One (see Ucore Press Release dated March 7, 2016), a number of pre-PLS commissioning steps have been accomplished, as detailed below:
- SuperLig® Certifications - The binding capacities, selectivities, particle size distribution and morphological characteristics of the SuperLig® resins to be used in the Plant have been certified as meeting IBC's quality assurance standards.
- PLS Analysis - The PLS grade and composition have been confirmed at IBC using inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy ("ICP").
- Automation & Water Testing - The Plant has undergone a battery of pre-PLS water testing and automation control verification procedures and protocols to ensure proper functioning of the valving, fluid conveyance, and liquid handling systems.
- Process Flow Testing - The Plant's unit operations and process flow have been submitted to extensive trial testing.
"The successful completion of initial stress testing and pre-PLS certifications for SuperLig®-One is exciting to say the least," said Jim McKenzie, President and CEO of Ucore. "Our objective now is the processing of the PLS at pilot scale, to be followed by early stage blueprinting of our progress from pilot to production scale without delay. Ucore has compressed the turnaround time for lab-scale to full-scale proof of concept to a fraction the time usually required of disruptive technology. A great deal of the credit for this goes to the fact that SuperLig® technology has been scaled many times before, separating multiple metals at major refineries the world over that process primary (mine) as well as secondary (recycled) materials. Our thanks to IBC for continuing the rapid pace of pre-production development."
The PLS phase of Plant commissioning, scheduled to commence this week, will consist of running the PLS sequentially through each unit operation to confirm the following functions:
- Rare Earth Class Separation, in which all rare earths, as a group, are isolated from the waste, or "gangue" materials in the PLS. Gangue materials are lesser value metals which are removed from the process stream early on.
- Removal of Scandium (Sc), a highly valuable rare earth element used in advanced aluminum alloys for the aerospace sector.
- Class Separation of the Light REE (lanthanum to neodymium plus yttrium) and the Heavy REE (samarium to lutetium). This class separation is an important juncture, since the heavy REE are more valuable as a group, scarcer on world markets, and contain more of the Critical Rare Earth Oxides ("CREOs").
- Separation of Individual REE. The first phase of the SuperLig®-One pilot program will also demonstrate the separation of the Heavy CREOs, as defined by the US Department of Energy. These consist of terbium and europium at over 99% purity, plus dysprosium at 99.99% purity. The remaining heavy REE solution, consisting of holmium to lutetium; gadolinium and samarium; as well as the light REE solution, consisting of lanthanum to neodymium and yttrium, will be retained for future work.
Following confirmatory testing of each unit operation, the Plant will undergo a continuous run of PLS.
For further information on the SuperLig®-One Pilot Plant Mission Summary, please see the following link: http://ucore.com/SuperLig-One
For background on the traditional approaches to the separation of REE and the historical advance offered by MRT, please refer to the recently published White Paper on Separation of Rare Earth Elements, entitled "Molecular Recognition Technology: a Green Chemistry Process for Separation of Individual Rare Earth Metals", at the following link: http://ucore.com/documents/WhitePaper_REE_Separations.pdf
Steven R. Izatt, President and CEO of IBC, has approved the scientific and technical content of this news release and is the Qualified Person responsible for its accuracy. Mr. Izatt, Registered Member SME, holds a B.A. degree in Chemistry from Brigham Young University (BYU), as well as an M.S. in Chemical Engineering Practice and an M.S. in Technology and Policy, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).