Ucore uses molecular recognition technology to generate 99%+ pure heavy rare earth concentrate
Ucore Rare Metals Inc (TSX-V:UCU) (OTCQX:UURAF) (FSE:U9U) (“Ucore” or “the Company”) is pleased to announce the results of the Company’s recent testing of Molecular Recognition Technology (“MRT”). Ucore has successfully utilized MRT to produce a near quantitative separation of a heavy rare earth concentrate (“HREE Concentrate”) consisting of 99+% of rare earth elements from a pregnant leach solution (“PLS”). The PLS was created by the extraction of metal values from beneficiated material sourced from the company’s Bokan Dotson-Ridge property in Southeast Alaska (“Bokan”).
The production of a high purity HREE Concentrate is the key and critical first step in the production, by separation, of individual high purity heavy rare earth salts. The resultant salts can be utilized to readily generate output products tailored to customer specifications. Those products include oxides, carbonates, nitrates and other salts of each of the individual rare earth elements (“REE’s”). A highly purified HREE Concentrate can be considered an end product to be sold to independent rare earth separation facilities, or can be used as input material for an in-house individual rare earth salt separation facility.
The tests on the PLS using MRT were conducted by IBC Advanced Technologies, Inc. headquartered near Salt Lake City, Utah (“IBC”). The MRT process yielded a >99% pure HREE Concentrate, separated as a group, using proprietary MRT SuperLig® resins in fixed bed format. Greater than 99% of the contained HREE’s were recovered from the Bokan PLS.
The >99% pure HREE Concentrate is a carbonate salt rare earth concentrate (“REC”) comprised of heavy rare earths ranging from samarium (Sm) through lutetium (Lu). The REC is easily convertible to oxide or other salt forms depending upon commercial requirements and contains the following rare earth content:
“This achievement speaks not just to the quality of Bokan feedstock but also to the Company’s industry leading advancements in hydrometallurgy.” said Jim McKenzie, President and CEO of Ucore. “MRT is a disruptive technology in every positive sense. It’s a revolutionary alternative to the more costly, slower and environmentally invasive Solvent Extraction (SX) based methods of REE concentration and separation. What’s more, we’re excited to now be testing MRT as a platform for obtaining individual high purity rare earth oxides. This objective that has proven highly elusive in the REE processing community, outside of the more expensive and environmentally burdensome SX methodologies currently in use in China and beyond. Ucore will keep our shareholders posted on these further tests as they become available.”
“We’re exceptionally pleased with the results of this testing on the Bokan PLS,” said Ken Collison, COO of Ucore. “The ability to generate an HREE enriched concentrate efficiently is crucial to the success of any rare earth project outside of China. We’re excited to be introducing MRT to the REE sector, especially given its substantial record of success in other industries and its potential for rapid, clean and cost effective throughput.”
“The MRT process is remarkable in that it uses green chemistry procedures throughout,” said Ed Bentzen, Project Manager of Lyntek Inc. of Lakeview, Colorado. “No solvents or pernicious chemicals are used. The highly selective separations achieved with the MRT process make REE separations and recovery at high purities possible. Conservation of the rare earth metals has great importance, especially since large amounts, as much as 30% of these metals, remain unrecovered using conventional separation processes such as Solvent Extraction.”
“This is an exceptionally clean and high grade heavy REE mixed concentrate,” said Jack Lifton, a consultant to Ucore. “By clean, I mean free of radioactive elements and free of commonly produced elements that interfere with traditional Solvent Extraction separation such as Al, Fe, and Fluoride. MRT is a proven industrial technology that is now being applied to rare earth ore metallurgy. I look forward to the next logical step, the separation and purification of the individual rare earths from the mixed concentrate via MRT.”
MRT is a branch of Supramolecular chemistry, originally pioneered by Charles Pederson at E.I. DuPont Laboratories in the 1960’s. That original research into the remarkable capabilities of MRT for selective binding of metal ions culminated in the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry to three researchers in the development of the technology in 1987 (Lehn, Pedersen and Cram).
The MRT platform now being utilized by Ucore is derived from the pioneering research of the founders of IBC (Dr’s. Reed M. Izatt, Jerald S. Bradshaw and James J. Christensen) and associates who have developed and applied this technology to the separations of metal ions. MRT is currently utilized extensively in metals processing, and is now being ushered into the rare earth separation field by Ucore as a means of both selectively extracting the rare earths as a group from a mixed polymetallic solution and of selectively isolating and refining individual high purity rare earth elements.
PLS & Mixed Concentrate Preparation
The Bokan PLS was initially produced using a beneficiation circuit set out in the Company’s PEA (see Ucore press release dated Jan 15, 2013). That beneficiation circuit, which included X-Ray Fluorescence ore sorting, magnetic separation, and a nitric acid leach to generate the REE pregnant solution, has been upgraded during the ensuing period, as described herein.
As preparation for the MRT testing process, non-REEs, including Al, Fe, Th, Ti, and Zr, are first removed from the Bokan PLS by way of precipitation at controlled pH levels. Removal by way of pH controlled precipitation results in cost saving economies and reduction in the number of MRT SuperLig® resin columns used in the process. Greater than 99% of the REEs remain in solution along with non-target elements including Cu, Ni, Zn, Co and Mn. This output solution is then fed into the first SuperLig® column designed to selectively remove these non-target elements. The rare earth metals, as a group, are then selectively removed from the resulting raffinate through binding onto an additional SuperLig® column. These bound elements are then eluted into solution as essentially a pure mixed rare earth concentrate.
The resulting solution contains greater than 99% of the REE originally contained in the Bokan PLS. Mass balance calculations show the percentage of each individual rare earth metal in the Bokan PLS and in the combined rare earth eluate to be equal within analytical error indicating minimal or no loss of the rare earth metals during the separation procedure. Recovery percentages of the combined rare earth metals are very high, i.e., near 100%.
This rare earth enriched raffinate solution is fed through a further SuperLig® extraction column which is designed to separate the HREE’s, as a group. The HREE’s are then eluted from the column with a small amount of eluant and easily precipitated from the resulting concentrated solution to form the carbonate salt. Recovery rates for the HREE’s from the Bokan PLS to the salt are in excess of 99%. The remaining raffinate containing the light rare earths, as well as yttrium, is preserved for further processing. Ucore is working to develop a high purity yttrium salt as an additional output product of the MRT process.
About Ucore Rare Metals Inc.
Ucore Rare Metals Inc. is a development-phase mining company focused on establishing rare metal resources with near term production potential. With multiple projects across North America, Ucore’s primary focus is the 100% owned Bokan – Dotson Ridge REE property in Alaska. The Bokan – Dotson Ridge REE project is located 60 km southwest of Ketchikan, Alaska and 140 km northwest of Prince Rupert, British Columbia and has direct ocean access to the western seaboard and the Pacific Rim, a significant advantage in developing near term production facilities and limiting the capital costs associated with mine construction.
Ed Bentzen, Project Manager of Lyntek Inc. of Lakeview, Colorado, has approved the scientific and technical content of this news release and is the Qualified Person responsible for its accuracy.
For further information, please contact Mr. Jim McKenzie, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ucore Rare Metals Inc. at: (902) 482-5214 or visit http://www.ucore.com