The two were awarded funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program, giving them about 70% of the needed money for the test work in Prince George.
"The objective of the SRC amenability study is to investigate XRT sorting for the purpose of upgrading Wicheeda REE mineralization prior to downstream processing," Defense Metals said, pointing out that sensor-based sorting has various advantages when applied to REE mining projects because beneficiation occurs without water and with less grinding.
"The investigation will assess how much gangue can be removed from the head feed. The investigation will then carry out an iterative study of different sorting sizes to process in the XRT sorter assessing both the grade of the upgraded concentrate and the grade of the waste for economic studies whereby the optimum operational parameters can be determined."
By using XRT sorting, the company said it can benefit Wicheeda with a relative low cost for unmineralized waste removal and volume reduction at the front end of processing, the potential for a significant positive benefit on downstream flotation and hydrometallurgical processes through the reduction in water, as well as heating and reagent consumption costs.
Depending on the testing's success, the reductions could lead to overall lower size, throughput and capital cost for future REE facilities.
"We have already demonstrated the ability to produce a greater than 50% REO concentrate during flotation pilot plant test work, and we hope unlocking the benefits of XRT sorting will yield downstream processing benefits of increased head grade, flotation concentrate, and hydrometallurgical feed streams," Defense Metals chief executive Craig Taylor said.
The Wicheeda REE project has indicated mineral resources of 4.89 million tonnes averaging 3.02% LREO (light rare earth elements) and inferred mineral resources of 12.1Mt averaging 2.90% LREO.
Flotation pilot plant processing of a 26t bulk sample of Wicheeda REE material yielded a mineral concentrate averaging 7.4% NdPr oxide (neodymium-praseodymium) critical magnet metals.
Defense Metals has an option to acquire 100% of the 1,708-hectare Wicheeda rare earth element property in the future.