Mr. Pat Ryan reports
UCORE PROVIDES UPDATE ON THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF IMC'S RAPIDSX RARE-EARTH-ELEMENTS SEPARATION TECHNOLOGY
Ucore Rare Metals Inc. has provided the following update regarding the company's wholly owned subsidiary, Innovation Metals Corp. (IMC), and its activities concerning the commercialization of RapidSX technology for the separation and purification of rare earth elements (REEs) at IMC's commercialization and development facility (CDF) in Kingston, Ont., Canada.
After completing extensive process and hardware design activities this year, the commissioning of the RapidSX demonstration-scale plant is currently scheduled to begin in Q1 2022. Following a comprehensive, independent techno-economic study and the subsequent design of a commercial-scale REE separation facility, Ucore and IMC anticipate that the RapidSX technology will be ready for commercial adoption and implementation in Ucore's Alaska strategic metals complex (SMC) engineering development program by Q2 2022, coupled with IMC's rollout of a revenue-producing licensing model by the end of 2022.
"Dr. Gareth Hatch and the entire IMC team have put forth a tremendous effort in recent months towards the commercial realization of the RapidSX rare earth separation technology -- a technology that we believe is the critical link in re-establishing a North American rare earth element supply chain," stated Ucore chairman and chief executive officer Pat Ryan, PEng. "Our belief is led by our actions, and we have supported and funded IMC's efforts for the development of RapidSX and the co-ordinated plan for its subsequent deployment into the first modern rare earth separation plant in North America, the Alaska SMC -- on schedule for production of individual rare earth oxides in H1 2024."
Following initial extraction rate testing in the summer of this year, the team at Kingston Process Metallurgy (KPM) subsequently completed a series of additional extraction rate tests to further validate the approach being taken and to quantify the effects of the underlying phenomenon being exploited using the RapidSX columns. Such tests utilized various mixed REE solutions, including commercially available feedstocks procured from a U.S.-allied source.
A subset of the tests was observed by an independent third party as part of the independent evaluation of the RapidSX technology, initiated earlier in the year. With the associated empirical work now concluded, an independent report describing the findings is scheduled for January, 2022.
Completion of RapidSX hardware design and demo plant layout
IMC has completed the initial design and layout of the individual column assemblies for the RapidSX demo plant, as well as the pump and piping networks and other physical hardware required. The company is in the final stages of selecting and subsequently procuring the components of the instrumentation and control system that will be utilized for the demo plant. The layout of the RapidSX columns that make up the demo plant had been further optimized to reduce the overall footprint at the CDF.
Working with IMC's laboratory partner, KPM, the company has undertaken initial hazard identification and analysis (HAZID/HAZAN) work at the CDF, ahead of completing a standard hazard and operability (HAZOP) study for the demo plant. HAZID/HAZAN is an important best-practice risk assessment process for engineering projects of this type, and the associated HAZOP study will be an essential means of ensuring safe, efficient and reliable plant operations.
Construction and commissioning of the demo plant
Procurement of the other components for the demo plant is well under way, with some fabricated subassemblies and off-the-shelf items already having been received. The current target for the completion of construction is the end of Q1 2022, with commissioning and operation during an initial test campaign to commence shortly thereafter. IMC is carefully managing the procurement process, cognizant of the current volatility in the general supply chain at present as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mathematical process modelling
IMC has made significant progress in recent months on the mathematical modelling of the chemical processes that occur during the operation of the RapidSX technology. These models will form the basis of the proprietary software that will be utilized at the commercial scale for the control of RapidSX-based separation facilities to optimize parameters for the physical hardware platform. The mathematical models have already been effectively used in the development of REE separation flow sheets and regimes for extraction rate testing and will assist in the finalization of the flow sheet for the initial campaign, which will be undertaken using the demo plant.
In addition to the continuing RapidSX development work, IMC has also been working with researchers at the University of Toronto to develop and evaluate proprietary, cost-effective methods of reducing the quantity of yttrium in heavy REE (HREE) rich feedstocks, prior to separation using RapidSX. The empirical work is being overseen by IMC technical advisory board member Prof. Gisele Azimi, associate professor in the departments of chemical engineering and applied chemistry and materials science and engineering.
Yttrium is a lower-value REE, and reducing the quantity of yttrium in HREE feedstocks (such as from the Bokan/Dotson Ridge rare earth element project) prior to subsequent separation, has the potential to reduce operating costs as well to reduce the required plant size, thus reducing capital costs. The work has progressed very well to date, and Ucore looks forward to reporting on further developments in early 2022.
The advancements made by IMC are just one of many steps in the development of the Alaska 2023 plan that Ucore is currently progressing, including:
- Securing third party allied sourced feedstock for the Alaska SMC (see Ucore's Oct. 19, 2021, news release regarding the memorandum of understanding with Vital Metals);
- Engineering planning for the Alaska SMC REE separation and purification plant founded on modern RapidSX technology;
- Securing offtake agreements for the sale of rare earth oxides;
- Forming strategic alliances for the production of rare earth metals and alloys;
- Working with prospective partners for various sources of project financing:
- Debt financing, offtake prepurchase and supply, USG matching grant funds, leaseback arrangement (see Ucore's Oct. 7, 2021, news release regarding the MOA (memorandum of agreement) with Southeast Conference) and other financing;
- Engineering and testing for the Bokan/Dotson Ridge zone mill flow sheet;
- Community and stakeholder engagement to ensure prudent environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) activities.
About Ucore Rare Metals Inc.
Ucore is focused on rare metal and critical metal resources, extraction, beneficiation and separation technologies with the potential for production, growth and scalability. Ucore has a 100-per-cent ownership stake in the Bokan/Dotson Ridge rare earth element project in southeast Alaska, United States. Ucore's vision and plan are to become a leading advanced technology company, providing best-in-class metal separation products and services to the mining and mineral extraction industry.
Through strategic partnerships, Ucore's vision includes disrupting China's control of the U.S. REE supply chain through the development of a heavy rare earth processing facility -- the Alaska strategic metals complex in southeast Alaska -- and the long-term development of Ucore's heavy rare earth element mineral resource property located at Bokan Mountain on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.
Ucore is listed on the TSX Venture Exchange under the trading symbol UCU and in the United States on the OTC Markets' OTCQX Best Market under the ticker symbol UURAF.
About Innovation Metals Corp.
IMC has developed the proprietary RapidSX process -- for the low-cost separation and purification of rare earth elements, nickel, cobalt, lithium and other technology metals -- through an accelerated form of solvent extraction. IMC is commercializing this approach for a number of metals to help enable mining and metal recycling companies to compete in today's global marketplace. IMC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ucore Rare Metals.
About the RapidSX technology
IMC developed the RapidSX separation technology with early-stage assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense, later resulting in the production of commercial-grade, separated rare earth oxides at the pilot scale. RapidSX combines the time-proven chemistry of conventional solvent extraction (SX) with a new column-based platform, which significantly reduces time to completion and plant footprint, potentially lowering capital and operating costs. SX is the international rare earth element (REE) industry's standard commercial separation technology and is currently used by 100 per cent of all REE producers worldwide for bulk commercial separation of both heavy and light REEs. Utilizing similar chemistry to conventional SX, RapidSX is not a new technology, but it represents a significant improvement on the well-established, well-understood, proven conventional SX separation technology preferred by REE producers.
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