VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – Mississauga-based private rare earths company Innovation Metals Corp (IMC) has successfully demonstrated that its proprietary RapidSX can produce commercial-grade praseodymium-neodymium (Pr-Nd) oxide, using feedstock from the Mineração Serra Verde (MSV) deposit in Goias state, Brazil.
The company has proven that the solvent-extraction (SX) process can be applied to 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, defence and clean-tech applications.
“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,” commented IMC president Dr Gareth Hatch.
The demonstration project was conducted at IMC’s pilot-plant facility in Mississauga, capable of producing 2 t/m of REEs. The RapidSX process was developed with funding from the US Army Research Laboratory, part of the US Department of Defence.
According to IMC, the approach dramatically reduced the number of REE separation stages in the SX chemical circuits by up to 90%, compared with conventional SX systems, leading to a significant reduction in plant footprint and associated capital expenditures. The process also led to significant 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, while lanthanum oxide was also produced as a by-product of the demonstration programme, with 99.97% total REE purity.
The company noted that despite the process needing further demonstration at a larger scale, the initial results indicated average separation costs of below $2/kg for a suite of high-value separated REEs, with capital costs for a 2 500 t/y REE RapidSX-based facility in the region of $10-million to $15-million or less.