Ucore Rare Metals says it has executed a binding share purchase agreement with Innovation Metals Corp and its shareholders that will see it acquire 100% of IMC and its RapidSX™ accelerated solvent-extraction-based separation technology.
IMC is a privately held Canada-based company that has developed RapidSX for the separation and purification of critical metals including rare earth elements (REEs), lithium, nickel and cobalt. An accelerated solvent-extraction-based separation technology, it has been developed and successfully piloted by IMC.
Among other test work, RapidSX has proven highly effective at the pilot scale (pictured) in separating both heavy REE (HREE) and light REE (LREE) feedstocks to commercial-grade rare-earth oxides with expected significant technical and economic efficiencies relative to existing technologies, according to Ucore.
The C$5.8 million ($4.1 million) deal, backed by a C$2.8 million convertible debenture financing, furthers Ucore’s “M³ Plan of Action”. This is “a comprehensive, near-term strategy” predicated on building an economically robust, 100% made-in-USA HREE and LREE supply chain solution to address US critical metals independence, according to Ucore. Such a plan is needed to mitigate current concerns about the extreme concentration of the REE supply chain in China with scalable, secure, complete and cost competitive HREE and LREE downstream transformation capacity, the company says. Much of this plan hinges on successfully extracting and concentrating rare earths from the company’s Bokan-Dotson Ridge rare earth project, in Alaska.
Developed over several years, initially at the lab-scale level and then more recently with pilot facility column testing, RapidSX combines the chemistry of solvent extraction technology (the REE industry’s current standard bulk commercial separation technology) with a new column-based platform, which significantly accelerates separation performance, Ucore says. This results in a smaller process plant size and lower expected capital and operating costs, according to the company.
IMC has also turned its present-day attention to using RapidSX with other feedstocks, including nickel and cobalt from nickel-cobalt concentrates and lithium from lithium brines.
Ucore Chairman, Pat Ryan, said: “Ucore’s acquisition of IMC represents a significant opportunity for Ucore, its shareholders and all stakeholders, while accelerating our M³ Plan of Action.
“After significant study, the most convincing element of our analysis was understanding that RapidSX is not a ‘new’ technology but rather an important improvement on well-established, understood and industry expected SX separation technology. We firmly believe that the RapidSX technology holds considerable merit for Ucore’s own prospective Alaska Strategic Metals Complex, as discussed in our M³ Plan of Action, as well as industry-wide commercialisation in particular due to the scalable and modular nature of RapidSX.”
Mike Schrider, Chief Operating Officer of Ucore, said the further development of RapidSX to the point of commercial readiness will allow the Ucore-IMC team to support “all efforts by the US government and its allies to prospectively achieve this nationally secure pathway to independence”.
Ucore may well have another partner to consider within its strategy, too.
Back in October, IMC and Australia-based Hexagon Energy Materials announced an investment agreement pursuant to which Hexagon acquired a one-year option to acquire a 49% equity ownership in an incorporated joint venture with IMC to be called American Innovation Metals Inc (AIM) for the commercial development of the RapidSX REE technology. In order to exercise its option, Hexagon is required to pay IMC a total of $2 million in cash, in addition to $4 million in deferred compensation payable through Hexagon’s share of future distributable cash flows from AIM.
Ucore said: “The IMC-Ucore team continues to look forward to Hexagon exercising the Hexagon-IMC REE joint venture option. In accordance with the purchase agreement between Ucore and IMC, all of Hexagon’s commercial rights and obligations have been fully maintained in accordance with the terms of the investment agreement between Hexagon and IMC.”