Ucore Rare Metals, Inc. ("Ucore" or the "Company") is pleased to update on the early-stage performance of the SuperLig®-One rare earth element ("REE") separation pilot plant (the "Plant" or "SuperLig®-One").
Pregnant leach solution ("PLS") derived from the Company's Bokan-Dotson Ridge project in Alaska has been treated by the first circuit of the SuperLig®-One Molecular Recognition Technology ("MRT") Plant, at the IBC Advanced Technologies, Inc. ("IBC") Utah facility, to separate and recover the REE contained therein, as a group.
Since announcement of the completion of SuperLig® certifications, PLS analysis, automation control verification, water testing, and process flow testing of the Plant (see Ucore Press Release dated April 4, 2016), PLS has been run through the first processing circuit of the Plant, with the following results:
- Rare Earth Class Separation from Gangue Metals - The REE, as a group, have been separated from the impurity metals in the PLS ("Gangue Metals"). The Gangue Metals are non-REE constituents such as iron, thorium, uranium, zinc, copper, nickel, titanium, zirconium, and other trace base metals. This early-stage separation of REE from Gangue Metals distinguishes SuperLig®-One from other, less selective technologies such as solvent extraction and ion exchange ("Legacy Separation Technologies"). In the case of Legacy Separation Technologies, Gangue Metals are co-extracted with the REE, necessitating the use of excessive separation stages downstream in order to achieve the same purity levels obtained by SuperLig®.
- Rare Earth Element Recovery - The REE, as a group, have been recovered at the > 99% level, leaving essentially no REE in the tailings. This accomplishment replicates prior lab-scale work, permitting practically all of the REE originally present in the PLS to be available for commercial utilization. Legacy Separation Technologies result in appreciable quantities of REE remaining in the tailings.
- Rare Earth Element Purity - The purity of the recovered REE, as a group, have been qualified as > 99%. The paucity of impurity metals in the pure REE solution, resulting from the initial SuperLig® circuit, greatly facilitates subsequent separation of the individual REE.
- Verification of Results and Confirmation of Scale-up Parameters - The results have been verified analytically at IBC using inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy ("ICP"). The results obtained are consistent with the previous lab-scale test work performed at IBC, confirming that the SuperLig®-One Plant is scaling as expected.
"We're pleased with IBC's continued rapid progress towards confirming the use of MRT for the separation of rare earth elements at pilot scale," said Jim McKenzie, President and CEO of Ucore. "To see the results of the Rare Earth Class Separation, completely consistent with those predicted at bench-scale, provides us with further confidence regarding the ability for SuperLig® to scale to full production levels. We look forward to releasing ongoing results as they become available."
The next stages of operation will consist of running pure REE solution sequentially through each unit operation in the Plant to accomplish the following:
- Removal of Scandium (Sc) - Sc is a highly valued REE used in advanced aluminum alloys for the aerospace sector.
- Class Separation of Light REE (lanthanum to neodymium plus yttrium) and Heavy REE (samarium to lutetium) - Separation of remaining REE (scandium having been separated earlier) into these two groups is an important juncture, since 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 - This phase of the SuperLig®-One pilot program will demonstrate separation of Heavy CREOs, as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy. These separations will produce terbium and europium at over 99% purity, plus dysprosium at 99.99% purity. The remaining solution containing heavy REE (holmium to lutetium; gadolinium and samarium) and light REE (lanthanum to neodymium and yttrium) will be retained for future separations, as required.
After 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/academic-papers
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").