Innovation Metals Corp. ("IMC"), a private Canadian company and the developer of the patent-pending RapidSX™ process, announced today the successful completion of a demonstration program to produce commercial-grade Pr-Nd oxide, using feedstock from the Mineração Serra Verde ("MSV") deposit in Goias State, Brazil. IMC's proprietary RapidSX solvent-extraction ("SX") process was developed for the low-cost separation of rare-earth elements ("REEs"), nickel, cobalt and other technology metals.
Pr-Nd oxide is in increasing demand for the production of high-performance permanent magnets, used in a wide variety of industrial, automotive, defense and clean-tech applications.
"We were pleased to work with MSV to demonstrate the effectiveness of the RapidSX process on Serra Verde REE concentrates," commented Gareth Hatch, President of IMC. "Combining the time-proven chemistry of SX with IMC's proprietary column-based approach, avoids the risks associated with novelty separation approaches that require expensive resins and other complex methods, not yet demonstrated at scale."
"As we aim to be a reliable and cost-competitive supplier of high-quality REE concentrates to the international market, we are assessing the various well-established and developing separation technologies," said Luciano Borges, Serra Verde's CEO. "The positive results obtained through IMC's innovative technology are an important confirmation of the commercial potential and versatility of the product we intend to offer the market's separation segment in the late 2018."
The demonstration project was conducted at IMC's pilot-plant facility in Mississauga, Canada, capable of producing 2 tonnes of REEs / month. The RapidSX process was developed as a result of funding from the US Army Research Laboratory, part of the US Department of Defense. The approach dramatically reduces the number of REE separation stages in the SX chemical circuits by up to 90%, when compared to conventional SX systems, leading to a significant reduction in plant footprint and associated capital expenditures. The process also leads to major reductions in operating costs and time to process completion, reducing processing times from weeks to just days for each REE separation completed.
The high-value Pr-Nd oxide was separated to 99.5% total REE purity using the RapidSX process; La oxide was also produced as a by-product of the demonstration program, with 99.97% total REE purity.
Although the process needs to be further demonstrated at a larger scale, these initial results indicate average separation costs of below $2.00/kg for a suite of high-value separated REEs, with capital costs for a 2,500 t REE / year RapidSX-based facility in the region of $10-15M or less (all $ in US dollars).
"The future production of commercial-grade REE products is going to require the application of new, cost-effective approaches to the separation and purification of concentrates," said Dr. Hatch. "IMC's RapidSX process is one such approach, applicable not only to REEs, but to concentrates containing nickel, cobalt, copper, zirconium, scandium and other critical metals."
"These outcomes demonstrate the potential that IMC's process has to become a new and competitive alternative for separating REEs," noted Mr. Borges. "For Serra Verde, any technology that can amplify the market for our REE concentrates will always be welcome."