Ucore Rare Metals’ wholly-owned subsidiary, Innovation Metals Corp (IMC), has executed a binding agreement with Kingston Process Metallurgy Inc (KPM) that will see Kingston become IMC’s long-term laboratory partner for the commercialisation of the RapidSX™ technology.
The news follows a strategic update from earlier in the month when Ucore said it was evaluating various location opportunities for a “commercialisation-phase” facility where RapidSX was intended eventually to operate at demonstration scale, using a number of customers’ feedstocks.
IMC’s proprietary RapidSX technology is being developed for the cost-effective, bulk/commercial separation and purification of rare-earth elements (REEs) – including both heavy REE (HREEs) and light REEs (LREEs) – for the production of REE oxides (REOs), in addition to other critical metals, such as lithium, nickel and cobalt for lithium-ion battery materials.
IMC developed the RapidSX separation technology with the assistance of $1.8 million in funding from the United States Department of Defense, resulting in the production of commercial-grade, separated REOs at the pilot scale.
“The technology 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, as well as potentially lowering capital and operating costs,” the company said. “SX is the international REE industry’s standard commercial separation technology and is currently used by 100% of all REE producers worldwide for bulk commercial separation of both HREEs and LREEs.”
The latest agreement has seen IMC secure the premises for the RapidSX Commercialisation and Development Facility (CDF) in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. This will see the RapidSX CDF occupy half (5,000 sq.ft (465 sq.m)) of the KPM pilot facility.
With more than 40 employees, KPM specialises in commercial process development and optimisation, with techno-economic and process modelling in parallel. It has the demonstrated expertise, multidisciplinary skills, and fundamental knowledge to develop concepts and solve unique challenges for its clients, Ucore said.
IMC CEO and Ucore CTO and Director, Dr Gareth Hatch, said: “IMC is thrilled to partner with KPM in the commercialisation of RapidSX. KPM has an accomplished track record of metallurgical process development and commercialisation, with a particular emphasis on clearly establishing the techno-economic feasibility of processes and appropriate unit-operation selection early on in the commercialisation process.”
Pat Ryan, Chairman and Interim CEO of Ucore, said: “The development of an individual REE separation and purification plant is Ucore’s targeted first commercial development component of our strategy.
“In order to meet this critical objective and in the shortest timeframe possible, our planned Alaska Strategic Metals Complex (SMC) will be designed to have the ability to produce REOs from commercially available, US allied-sourced REE feedstocks, addressing US security of supply for the most critical and highest-value REEs, specifically, praseodymium, neodymium, terbium, and dysprosium.
“We expect the Alaska SMC to operate at a commercial scale utilising pre-Bokan mixed REE concentrate feedstocks while the Bokan HREE project continues to be developed.”