Orbite's first commercial samples of heavy rare earths extracted
Orbite Aluminae, which has developed a process for extracting heavy rare earths from aluminous clays in Canada has announced extraction of first commercial samples.
Posted: Wednesday , 08 Aug 2012
LONDON (Mineweb) -
Orbite Aluminae, which has developed what it says is a commercial process for extracting rare earths metal concentrates from aluminous clays in Canada (see From red mud to rare earths - Orbite's ground breaking technologies), has announced that it has successfully extracted the first commercial samples of heavy rare earth oxides, gallium and scandium from its aluminous clay deposit in Grande-Vallée, Quebec. With its patented and patent pending, now proven technology, the Quebec clean tech company reckons it is now set to become the first commercial North American rare earths, gallium and scandium producer, ahead of its closest competitors. By 2013, it plans to offer heavy rare earth separation services to third parties and to produce from its own resources by 2014.
Orbite comments that rare earths (dysprosium, erbium, neodymium, praseodymium, etc.) and rare metals (gallium, scandium, yttrium) are products of high commercial value considered scarce and seldom available in high enough concentrations to be profitable. Orbite's technology allows for the low-cost extraction of rare earths and rare metals using the ecological and environmentally-friendly alumina extraction process.
Orbite has evaluated the content of its Grande-Vallée aluminous clay deposit at more than 22% (ratio to total rare earths) in heavy rare earths and has noted a strong presence of scandium.
To conduct testing for the extraction of individual rare earth and rare metal samples, Orbite retained the services of European companies CMI-UVK and MEAB, which validated extraction rates of more than 93% purity, i.e.: gallium at 93.86%; scandium at 93.11%; yttrium at 87.47%; neodymium and dysprosium, both at 99.9%; cerium at 99.5%; and gallium oxide at 99.99%.
"Our rare earths deposit holds significant commercial potential, and we expect to be the first in North America to offer a heavy rare earth extraction and separation technique as a derivative of our alumina production. Orbite's entry into the global rare earths market should also help to reduce the economic risks associated with the concentration of separation techniques in China," affirmed Richard Boudreault, President and Chief Executive Officer of Orbite Aluminae.
China is currently home to the majority of the world's rare earths. The United States and Australia also hold considerable reserves, and there are some interesting developments under way in South Africa, but so far have not been able to maximize their potential due to the competitiveness of Chinese pricing and the environmental issues surrounding the commercialization of these products. The search for rare earths - which in reality are not so rare as the name suggests - has also defined a number of early stage possibilities notably in Canada and Greenland, but these are still a long way from commercial exploitation.
Orbite has not yet completed a full feasibility study on a commercial size operation which means there is as yet no certainty the proposed operations will be economically viable the company warns in a statement on the latest developments. However a revised Preliminary Economic Assessment did suggest very decent profitability at current and projected rare earths prices and an IRR of 114% assuming a Project life of 25 years requiring a $500.4 million initial investment, generating annual steady EBITDA of $572 million and the pre-tax NPV at a 5% interest discount rate would go up to $7.73 billion. The payback period would be less than one year on these calculations.