Uranium miner Energy Fuels on Tuesday announced a “major” milestone in US rare earth element (REE) production, with the company successfully producing REE concentrate at it White Mesa mill, near Blanding, Utah.
The REE concentrate was produced using existing infrastructure and technologies at the mill from a 1 t sample of monazite sands from a North American source. This, the company said, was the first REE concentrate produced from monazite sands at any significant quantity in North America in more than two decades.
The company has 3 t of additional samples of these monazite sands, which it would process in the next two months to further refine the process for recovering REEs and uranium from these types of ores.
"While it is still early days, and we still have a lot of work to do, this is a proud moment, not just for me, but for the entire Energy Fuels team who has diligently worked on making REE concentrate production a reality,” said Energy Fuels president Mark Chalmers.
The White Mesa mill has a long history of recovering other metals along with uranium from uranium ores. Many of the ores from the Colorado Plateau contain vanadium, and the mill has recovered more than 54-million of vanadium as a co-product with uranium from these ores over the life of the mill, making Energy Fuels the largest conventional vanadium producer in the US in recent years.
Similarly, the mill has recovered tantalum and niobium from uranium ores in the past.
“The recovery of REE concentrate from monazite sands is no different in concept than the recovery of these other metals. As a result, the mill is able to recover REEs along with uranium from these monazite sands using existing infrastructure and technologies at the mill, with only minor routine process adjustments,” said Chalmers.
The company believes that using existing infrastructure and technologies, it is able to avoid years of permitting and development, along with the financial cost that competitors would face.
Assuming the company was able to secure adequate quantities of monazite sands, it expected to be able to produce commercial quantities of REE concentrate by early 2021.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
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