Canadian listed exploration and development company Commerce Resources Corporation last month provided an update on its metallurgical programmes which are focused on upgrading the Ashram Deposit fluorspar content to acid-grade.
The testwork will serve two primary purposes, namely: evaluating several approaches for upgrading deposit material to a higher value acid grade, including additional processing of the current flowsheet’s fluorspar concentrate, and investigating the additional recovery of rare earth minerals from the concentrate.
The company noted that, the work is being carried out by research institute Hazen Research, based in Colorado, in the US and has been underway for several weeks.
The programme is being completed, in part, as the company has received requests from industry for acid-grade fluorspar samples such as those produced from the Ashram Deposit.
Commerce stated that interest from stakeholders has been increasing of late in line with the price of the commodity.
In Ashram’s flowsheet, the fluorspar concentrate is the non-magnetic fraction of the magnetic separation stage, with the magnetic fraction being the primary rare earth element (REE) concentrate.
Further, the fluorspar concentrate is a tailings stream of the REE concentration process.
“The project’s flowsheet effectively upgrades the fluorspar through each process stage, from a relatively low head-grade of less than 8% calcium fluoride, to a fluorspar concentrate of high-grade, more-than-80% calcium fluoride.
“As a result, the current REE flowsheet effectively produces a potentially saleable metallurgical-grade fluorspar product at no additional cost, while having no negative impact on the REE recovery to the primary REE concentrate,” Commerce Resources says.
Further, if successful, the sale of the fluorspar would reduce the footprint of the project’s tailings management facility while providing another revenue stream and also serving as a source of secure supply for the market.
The economic aspect of a fluorspar by-product was not considered in the preliminary economic assessment, effective from July 2012 and revised in January 2015. However, the flowsheet development since 2015, as well as market fundamentals, will be evaluated as part of a prefeasibility study.
Commerce Resources Corporation notes that Fluorspar prices remain robust at between $400/t and $500/t, underpinned by strong market demand and long-term fundamentals from the chemical industry.
Acid-grade fluorspar, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the market, is used to manufacture hydrofluoric acid and subsequent fluorochemicals, which are used in a variety of consumer products.
Fluorspar is also used in the production of aluminium and is a key component in enhancing the operational performance of lithium-ion batteries.
Fluorspar is consumed during industry use and therefore cannot be recycled, which means that new production is required to meet global demand, the company states. This bodes well for fluorspar producers.