Tag Archives: ISR

Metso Outotec VSFX solvent extraction tech set for Taseko’s Florence Copper Project

Metso Outotec has signed an agreement with Florence Copper Inc, a subsidiary of Taseko Mines Ltd, to supply copper solvent extraction and electrowinning technology for a plant to be built in Arizona, USA.

The order, exceeding €20 million ($24 million), has been booked in the Metals’ segment September quarter orders received.

The Metso Outotec delivery includes the modular VSF®X solvent extraction plant and the main process equipment for the electrowinning plant.

“We are very excited to have purchased the key SX/EW process equipment from Metso Outotec, a world leader in mineral processing and hydrometallurgical technologies,” Stuart McDonald, President and CEO of Taseko Mines, says. “The VSFX technology is ideally suited for our Florence Copper Project, which is set to become one of the most energy-efficient and low-carbon copper producers in the world. The modular nature of the equipment will reduce construction time and allow Florence to commence copper production quicker than with other technologies available.”

Back in February, Taseko, having just completed a $400 million bond refinancing and fundraising program, said it was moving forward with developing a commercial operation at its Florence in-situ recovery project.

Jari Ålgars, President of the Metals business area at Metso Outotec, says: “We are looking forward to working with Taseko Mines on the Florence Copper Project. The energy-efficient VSFX solvent extraction plant, which is part of our Planet Positive product range, reduces emissions and is safe to operate. The Florence Copper Project will become an important new reference for Metso Outotec in the US copper market as a supplier of a complete production plant that uses solvent extraction and electrowinning technology for copper recovery.”

Taseko Mines eyes commercial production at Florence ISR copper project

Taseko Mines prospects of opening the US’ next commercial in-situ recovery (ISR) copper project have been strengthened following a recent hearing held by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).

At the public hearing, which came shortly after the ADEQ issued the company with a draft Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) for its commercial ISR project, Taseko’s plans for the development of the Florence copper project received “overwhelming support”, the company said.

The public hearing is a key part of the process for the granting of the full APP. It had participation from local community members, local business owners, elected state officials and city councillors, a state senator as well as representatives from the technical services sector, Taseko reported.

Russell Hallbauer, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Taseko, said: “30 interested parties spoke at the hearing, communicating great support for the company and the project, with only one individual not in favour. The ADEQ heard loud and clear that the community wants this project to advance to commercial operation.

“The company has worked very hard to inform the Florence community on not only the safeguards in place to ensure the environmental integrity of the project, but also the environmental benefits of the Florence copper extraction process. The extensive data collected from 18 months of operating the test facility is proof that the process works, both from a technical perspective as well as environmentally.”

The ADEQ will take written correspondence for another three weeks, until October 12, before writing and issuing the final permit, Taseko says.

Taseko commenced well field operations at its Florence ISR pilot project in central Arizona, US, in January 2019, reaching “commercial grade levels” less than six months after.

The commercial Florence mine is expected to have a copper production capacity of 85 MIb/y (38,555 t/y) and a 21-year mine life.

Energy Fuels buys up Prompt Fission Neutron tech in preparation for US uranium revival

US-based Energy Fuels Inc has entered into an agreement to acquire the Prompt Fission Neutron (PFN) technology and equipment, including all its related intellectual property, from GeoInstruments Logging LLC.

The deal will give the uranium producer the exclusive right to use, licence, and service this particular PFN technology globally, which Energy Fuels says is critical to successful uranium production, particularly from many in-situ recovery (ISR) deposits, as it more accurately measures downhole in-situ U3O8 (uranium oxide) ore grade, versus traditional Total Gamma and Spectral Gamma methods.

The PFN equipment and technology to be acquired by Energy Fuels includes four PFN tools; nine gamma tools with point resistivity, spontaneous potential and deviation; two low-mileage, heavy-duty logging trucks with logging and associated equipment; power supplies, computers, communication, and other technology; and all associated intellectual property, including all internal details of the tools, circuit board diagrams, firmware code, software, manuals, instructions, patents and the sole right to utilise and licence the acquired PFN technology globally.

The total consideration to be paid by Energy Fuels to GIL will be $500,000 in cash, with closing of the transaction expected to occur within around two weeks, after completion of a due diligence inspection of the equipment.

Energy Fuels currently has some PFN equipment in various states of repair, which it has used for its mining operations in the past, as do other companies in the US and around the world.

“With the acquisition of this additional PFN equipment and technology from GIL, Energy Fuels will not only be able to utilise the additional equipment to ramp-up production from its ISR properties more quickly and efficiently in the event of improved market conditions, it will also secure the ability to service, repair and maintain PFN equipment currently held by the company and others, as well as licence this technology to others in the future,” it said.

PFN technologies have played an important part in discovering, and bringing to production, some of the best uranium deposits in the world, according to Energy Fuels, including the Beverly and Four Mile uranium mines currently operating in South Australia. Energy Fuels’ Alta Mesa ISR project in South Texas, which produced nearly 5 MIb of U3O8 between 2005 and 2012, also deployed PFN technology while in production, the company said.

Many geologically younger ISR uranium deposits in the US, and particularly Texas, have a certain degree of disequilibrium, whereby the radioactivity measured in drill holes using traditional Total Gamma and Spectral Gamma methods does not accurately correspond to ore grade, due to the continued decay of uranium daughter products including potassium, thorium, lead and bismuth relative to radium, a significant gamma emitter, according to Energy Fuels.

“Traditionally, disequilibrium is calculated using mud rotary coring techniques and laboratory gamma and alpha spectrometry; all of which are expensive and time consuming,” it said. “Without accurate in-situ measurement of uranium, significant high-grade ore has been missed using the traditional downhole techniques.”

PFN technology solves this issue, Energy Fuels says, by instead using neutron activation to detect uranium in drill holes. The PFN tool creates very fast neutrons (14 MeV) and fires 108 neutrons per second. Therefore, the neutrons emitted by the PFN tool excite, at an atomic level, in-situ uranium atoms in the drill hole, creating fast (epithermal) neutrons and slow (thermal) neutrons.

The ratio of epithermal to thermal neutrons is proportional to uranium, allowing the U3O8 ore grade to be accurately calculated, according to the company. This provides a relatively inexpensive and instantaneous means for accurate assaying in-situ ore grades over large areas, while allowing for accurate orebody mapping, resource estimation, and wellfield planning, it said.

Mark Chalmers, President and CEO of Energy Fuels, said the acquisition will further solidify the company’s position as the leading uranium miner in the US, especially in the ISR space.

“We believe that acquiring PFN technology is now more important than ever, as we believe a revival of the US uranium industry is imminent,” he said.

On April 23, the US Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG) described why the US needs healthy uranium and nuclear fuel industries in order to secure US energy and national security and prevent Russia, China and other geopolitical rivals from gaining control of global – and US – nuclear markets, he said.

“We believe the NFWG report represents the strongest US government commitment to supporting US uranium miners in decades,” Chalmers said.

The NFWG report also provided actions the US government can take to support domestic uranium mining, including creating a US uranium reserve, and potentially increasing the size of the American Assured Fuel Supply, according to Chalmers.

“In response to the NFWG Report recommendations, President Trump has already announced a budget that seeks $150 million per year over the next 10 years (totalling $1.5 billion over that timeframe) to establish a strategic uranium reserve intended ‘to provide additional assurances of availability of uranium in the event of a market disruption’,” he said.

ALTA retains metallurgical innovation focus for 2019 event

The organisers of ALTA are gearing up to welcome the international metallurgical community to Perth, Western Australia, with the annual conference now just a month away.

ALTA has developed a reputation as a leading technical metallurgical-oriented event, attracting senior industry representatives from around the globe. The conference had a record attendance last year and is hoping to hit new heights in 2019.

ALTA 2019, to be held on May 18-25 at the Pan Pacific Perth, promises to continue the tradition of delivering high-quality technical content for professionals from the metallurgical and related sectors, the organisers said.

Conference Founder and Chair, Metallurgical Consultant Alan Taylor, said: “For the past 23 years, this event has provided a dynamic forum for sharing ideas, innovations, technologies and projects. Both ALTA and the industry have come a long way since our first conference in 1995, but our focus on the importance of metallurgical innovation remains the same.”

The emphasis of the program is practical rather than academic, and the themes running through the conference are the various aspects of technology and project development. “Each session has been carefully crafted to provide the best value for delegates and includes an insightful and authoritative keynote address,” the organisers said.

Taylor said: “Over many years, the conference has evolved to meet the demands of the industry. For example, in recent years, the program has been expanded to include the current hot topics of lithium processing, and in-situ recovery (ISR) and to reflect the rapidly developing field of battery metals.”

The event now incorporates separate dedicated sessions for nickel-cobalt-copper, uranium-rare earths, gold-precious metals, ISR and lithium processing.

The organisers said: “Panel discussions and Q&A are a major highlight of ALTA events, providing a unique opportunity for knowledge sharing, discussion and debate with highly-experienced professionals. Following the conference, detailed notes are published for the benefit of the wider industry and are provided via the ALTA Free Library.”

The signature nickel-cobalt-copper combined sessions are spread over three days, encompassing segments on battery metals, laterite processing, leaching process development and other key topics. The highlight of the sessions is the Pressure Acid Leaching (PAL) Forum and Panel Q&A, which acknowledges the 20th anniversary of the commissioning of the landmark Bulong, Cawse, and Murrin Murrin nickel-cobalt PAL projects, according to the organisers.

The uranium-REE sessions, organised in co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (Austria), for the fifth year, are held on May 23. They feature a Developments in IX Forum and Panel Q&A.

ALTA has partnered with Curtin Gold Technology Group (Perth) for the Gold-PM sessions, also on May 23, with The Forum and Panel Q&A focussed on fit-for purpose leaching systems, ALTA’s organisers said.

On the final day of the conference, the ISR sessions will run in parallel with the lithium processing sessions, each offering its own panel discussion, “providing a rare opportunity for open discussion and debate”.

The ISR sessions are organised in partnership with CSIRO (Perth), which will lead the Forum and Panel discussion on Enhancing ISR Permeability. The Novel Lithium Processes Forum and Panel Q&A is already attracting international interest, according to organisers.

By popular demand, this year’s ALTA will also introduce additional flexibility for attendees by including single-day and corporate shared registrations options, the organisers said, on top of a short course program. The latter three practically-oriented short courses are presented by Alan Taylor, who draws from his extensive first-hand experience gained in 40-plus years with major engineering firms and as an independent consultant.

“The courses, a valuable introduction for newcomers and a useful refresher for old hands, typically attract a highly-international audience,” the organisers said, adding that the 2019 courses cover nickel-cobalt laterites, copper SX/EW and heap leaching of copper, gold, uranium and nickel.

The organisers said this year’s exhibition area has been expanded to meet increased demand, with the floor boasting Australia and international exhibitors.

Copper starts flowing at Taseko’s Florence ISR mine

Following receipt of all necessary state and federal operating permits, Taseko Mines has commenced well field operations at its Florence in-situ recovery copper project in central Arizona, US.

The company said injection and recovery systems had been fully ramped and, following an initial leaching period, leach solutions were flowing at expected levels with copper detected in solutions recovered from process sample wells.

Russell Hallbauer, President and CEO of Taseko, said: “Our preliminary tracer tests of the well field in the third (September) quarter 2018 exhibited robust percolation rates through the orebody. These results were as good as, and in some cases better than, modelled in the 2017 technical study. The rate at which the dissolved copper is increasing in the leach solution further confirms historical test work and technical data.”

Hallbauer said the company always takes a disciplined and measured approach with its capital projects, performing the necessary work to ensure projects are technically sound, that the company understands its capital commitments and that the environment is protected. “While it has taken us some time to get to this point with Florence, the additional time taken will ensure that the project generates strong returns for our shareholders and protects the environment to the highest standards for the local community,” he said.

Florence is expected to produce copper at average operating costs of $1.10/Ib ($2,425/t) of copper, come with a capital cost intensity of $5,200/t of copper capacity and yield a pre-tax net present value of $920 million. It also has a slated copper production capacity of 85 MIb/y (38,555 t/y) and a 21-year mine life.