Under the terms of the MoU, Commerce will provide quantities of mixed rare earth carbonate concentrate, using material from the Ashram deposit, sufficient to perform bench and pilot scale testing of the metallurgy and metals separation metrics of the prospective feedstock.
The bench work will be conducted by IBC Advanced Technologies, with pilot scale test work expected to take place at the recently completed SuperLig-One MRT pilot facility in Vineyard, Utah, US.
The objective of the test work is to complete a definitive assessment of the suitability of the Ashram concentrate as potential feedstock for the SMC, with a view to a subsequent long-term supply partnership and offtake relationship.
Jim McKenzie, president and CEO of Ucore, said: “Commerce has undertaken extensive research and testing resulting in a high-quality and high-grade mineral concentrate that will allow for cost-effective processing to our ideal feedstock, and therefore, looks to be a very promising candidate for processing via an MRT separation circuit. The Ashram deposit is large tonnage, good grade, hosts a well-balanced REE distribution with an enrichment in the magnet feed REEs, and perhaps most importantly, is highly accessible. In combination with the SMC, Ashram promises to be a key link in a self-contained North American REE supply chain.”
Commerce is well advanced with its metallurgical testing and flowsheet design for the production of the Ashram concentrate, incorporating the conventional approach used by current and past rare-earth producers. This involves an initial phase of beneficiation to produce a high-grade mineral concentrate of >45% REO and at high recovery at ~75%, followed by a hydrometallurgical phase that further processes the mineral concentrate through to a mixed rare earth carbonate product suitable for separation. The Ashram metallurgical test work and pilot plant is located and operated at Hazen Research in Golden, Colorado, US.
“We are excited to be working with Ucore and look forward to delivering a sample of our REE mineral concentrate to the SuperLig test facilities in Utah as soon as possible. Security of supply is vitally important, and with our simple mineralogy and successful use of standard processing, we look forward with Ucore to realising the goal of an independent North American REE supply chain,” stated Chris Grove, president of Commerce Resources.
Ucore is now engaged in the detailed engineering and planning of the SMC rare-earth separation facility, a joint venture with IBC. The SMC will utilise SuperLig Molecular Recognition Technology for the separation of REE, capitalising on advanced pilot phase testing of the SuperLig-One pilot platform. The SMC is being designed and engineered as a modular facility, capable of accepting feedstock from varying supply sources and a range of high-quality concentrates. Ucore anticipates the release of a comprehensive design and build schedule for the SMC facility, including an economic analysis of supply sources, in the coming months. With prospective supply sources located in Quebec, Alaska and the Southeastern US, the selection of the location of the SMC is contingent upon incentives and logistical considerations from multiple competing jurisdictions.