Rare Element Resources Ltd. ("RER" or the "Company") is pleased to provide an update on the pilot scale rare earth processing and separation test work campaign which supports the Company's progression to the next phase of design and planning for a demonstration scale rare earth processing and separation plant. This plant is intended to demonstrate, at industrial scale, the separation of rare earth elements utilizing the Company's proprietary intellectual property in preparation for the commercial phase.
Since February 2019, Umwelt-und Ingenieurtechnik GmbH Dresden ("UIT"), an affiliate of Synchron, a significant shareholder in the Company and a General Atomics affiliated company, has operated a hydrometallurgical pilot plant in Germany utilizing ore from the Company's Bear Lodge Project in Wyoming.
Using the Company's technology, UIT processed 1.1 tonnes of ore, with an average grade of approximately 10% total rare earth oxide (TREO), to produce 13.6 kg of neodymium/praseodymium (Nd/Pr) oxide at commercial grade. This represents an average Nd/Pr recovery rate of 89.5%. Lanthanum (La) oxide, and a mixed mid and heavy rare earth concentrate were also recovered. The Company's innovative patented process was further optimized and involves significantly fewer steps in a closed cycle with attendant environmental benefits and expected lower operating and capital costs compared with current technologies.
Throughout 2020, UIT will continue conducting additional pilot plant test work to further optimize the separation processes and the development of scale-up design criteria for the demonstration plant along with development of operating and capital cost estimates. To date, UIT has completed the leach-precipitation phase of the campaign, has started the solvent extraction (SX) separation phase, and is anticipated to complete its work by the end of the year.
The demonstration plant will process the already stockpiled high-grade ore, approximately 900 tonnes, from Wyoming's Bear Lodge Project. The Company anticipates, once funding is secured, the demonstration plant design will be finalized and followed by construction within a period of 18-24 months. Operations to process and separate rare earth elements from the stockpiled ore will follow in an additional 12-month period.
Randall Scott, President and CEO of RER, stated: "We are pleased that over the last several months, the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Energy have announced significant funding initiatives to advance domestic rare earth production as well as rare earth-containing permanent magnet manufacturing. The overwhelming dependence of the U.S. and allied nations on China as the principal rare earths producer and supplier is comparable with Chinese dominance of the medical supply chain that has been highlighted by the COVID-19 global crisis. America's dependence on Chinese rare earths poses a grave economic, energy, and technology threat and must be urgently addressed. We are pleased that our government has recognized this. It is our goal to play a key part in these initiatives to bring rare earth production to the U.S."
Synchron, UIT and General Atomics are privately held companies engaged in the development and production of advanced technology products and systems for the energy and defense sectors.