Tag Archives: rare earth elements

Ontario launches strategy to encourage development of critical minerals

The Ontario Government says it is developing its first-ever Critical Minerals Strategy to help generate investment, increase the province’s competitiveness in the global market, and create jobs and opportunities in the mining sector.

It will also support Ontario’s transition to a low-carbon economy both at home and abroad, the government said.

“By developing this strategy, we will strengthen Ontario’s position as one of North America’s premier jurisdictions for responsibly-sourced critical minerals, including rare earth elements,” Greg Rickford (pictured), Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs, said. “We are confident this will generate investment, reduce red tape, create jobs and advance Indigenous participation in the sector. Local and global markets, including Ontario-based industries, are looking for reliable, responsibly-sourced critical minerals and we are ready to capitalise on this growing market demand.”

Ontario is well positioned to become a global supplier, producer and manufacturer of choice for certain critical minerals, including, but not limited to nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum group elements, the government said.

“Industries across Ontario and around the world need a steady supply of critical minerals to support new technologies and emerging industries, including electric vehicles,” Minister Rickford said. “With the development of a Critical Minerals Strategy, the province can showcase Ontario’s competitive advantage, high mineral development potential and world-class mining sector.”

New technologies and high-growth sectors that rely on critical minerals include information and communications technology, electronics, energy, aerospace and defence, health and life sciences and transportation.

Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, said: “With an abundance of the critical minerals in Northern Ontario, along with a competitive business climate, innovation and talent, Ontario is well positioned to become a leader in the future of electric vehicle and battery manufacturing.

“In fact, recent proposed investments of almost C$6 billion ($4.7 billion) over the last several months in Ontario’s auto sector will make our province a global hub for EV manufacturing, making us stronger and more resilient as we continue to work towards economic recovery.”

To inform the Critical Minerals Strategy, the province is releasing a discussion paper for public consultation on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. A consultation with industry and Indigenous communities will also help guide the development of the strategy to be released this fall.

ColdBlock and Nucomat partner to automate mineral sampling prep process

Two technology companies that take laboratory efficiency and workplace safety to a new level have pooled their expertise to help automate one of the more labour intensive and risky elements involved in the mineral sampling process.

The combination of the ColdBlock Digestion 3rd Generation Product Line and Nucomat’s Compact Sample Preparation Unit will enable an automated process of “raw sample in, analysis-ready sample out at unprecedented speed and level of operator safety” for labs dealing with mineral samples, according to Nick Kuryluk, CEO of ColdBlock Technologies.

Ahead of a CEMI-hosted webinar to discuss the combination, IM put some questions to Kuryluk and Michael Van de Steene, Software Team Lead at Nucomat.

IM: Since unveiling the ColdBlock Digestion solution back in 2015 at the annual PDAC Convention, what has happened to the technology in terms of speeding up the sampling process for mining companies? I think back then, you were claiming the technology delivered fast digestion rates of between 10 and 15 minutes. Have you managed to speed this up even more?

NK: Since 2015 when we unveiled the technology at PDAC, we have focused on developing a solid evidence generation package that validated the performance of the technology in both the academic setting and the real-world setting through mining organisations and commercial laboratories.

The performance parameters that were validated include 1) high return on investment (ROI), 2) elevated workplace safety, and 3) high analytical accuracy and precision.

  • 1) The Amira Global P1196 project included SGS, Freeport McMoRan, New Gold, Centerra Gold and Newcrest. This project demonstrated that ColdBlock delivers similar analytical measurements to fire assay for gold determination and similar analytical measurements to hotblock for base metal determination (ie copper and iron determination). However, it was further validated that the ColdBlock process can be performed in minutes compared to hours and the cost savings were substantial (average of 50% cost savings vs fire assay for gold application);
  • 2) In regard to workplace safety, we eliminated the use of lead for gold determination (commonly used in fire assay) and, thus, eliminated potential lead contamination for workers and lead waste. For base metal applications, we reduced the use of hydrofluoric acid and perchloric acid in the digestion process, both of which are harmful reagents; and
  • 3) We have now published several papers. The body of work consistently demonstrates the high accuracy and precision in the recovery of elements in both mining and environmental samples. In 2019, the Geological Survey of Canada presented their work comparing ColdBlock to both microwave and hotblock for environmental applications (soils and sludges). It was demonstrated that ColdBlock improved precision from 12.9-1.3% with a 60% time saving.
The ColdBlock Digestion mechanism

The speed of our digestion system remains the same, however, it is unmatched when compared to conventional methods. We can digest sample materials for gold analysis in minutes compared to hours with fire assay. We can also digest sample materials for base metal analysis in minutes compared to hours with hotblock.

IM: Is Nucomat competing in the same sample preparation field as ColdBlock? Where do the two companies’ solutions overlap?

MVdS: Nucomat and ColdBlock Technologies manufacture complementary technologies that will take laboratory efficiency and workplace safety to a higher level.

NK: ColdBlock delivers solutions in optimising laboratory efficiency, productivity and safety:

  • Sample digestion system based on focused short-wave infrared radiation and a cooling zone;
  • Consumables and accessories;
  • Ancillary product solutions; and
  • Laboratory services in method development.

MVdS: Nucomat provides lab automation solutions for sample preparation, handling and testing for quality control laboratories. Our systems aim to control the sample preparation burden for 24/7 applications. These automated systems offer unique advantages compared to manual sample preparation, such as:

  • Operator safety;
  • Traceability and repeatability;
  • Gravimetric accuracy;
  • Validated results; and
  • Web-based remote control.

NK: Together, ColdBlock and Nucomat have joined forces to deliver a powerful solution offering a substantial ROI, elevated workplace safety and throughput while achieving high analytical accuracy and precision.

IM: How will this tie-up between the companies work? Will Nucomat be providing the automation solution for ColdBlock’s technology? How does this relate to the Amira Global P1196A project and delivering the ColdBlock 3rd Generation Product Line?

NK: This collaboration will deliver the integration of the ColdBlock Digestion 3rd Generation Product Line with Nucomat’s Compact Sample Preparation Unit (pictured below in a three reagent configuration). The combined technologies will provide an automated system capable of rapid acid dispensing and digestion. An optional making up to mass feature is also being considered. When combined, these features will enable a process of raw sample in, analysis-ready sample out at unprecedented speed and level of operator safety.

The details of the commercial framework are in progress. The integrated product line will first be offered through the Amira Global Project P1196A initiative. This will be delivered in Q2 (June quarter) 2021. The commercially available product will also be delivered through direct sales and a channel distribution model, which is targeted for Q3 (September quarter) 2021.

IM: What is the end goal of the collaboration?

NK: The end goal of the collaboration is to deliver a powerful solution to today’s challenges of sample preparation and to meet the current needs of the laboratory environment.

The aim is also to address a segment of small and mid-size laboratories that are looking for automated solutions but cannot justify the risk and ROI on a large full-scale automation system.

We aim to deliver:

  • High ROI, including high efficiency/productivity;
  • Elevated workplace safety; and
  • High analytical accuracy and precision.

IM: Is the agreement a reflection of the need to provide more environmentally sensitive sample digestion technologies that are automated to the mining and metals industry? Will the collaboration speed up the development of such a solution?

NK: The agreement is a reflection of both ColdBlock and Nucomat working together to respond to the current needs of the laboratory environment and to deliver a powerful and sustainable laboratory solution.

ColdBlock and Nucomat deliver solutions that are already proven in the marketplace. As such, this collaboration will speed up the development and commercialisation of the integrated solution.

With respect to gold application as an alternative to fire assay, we eliminate the need to use lead as part of the digestion process. So compared to fire assay, we eliminate lead waste and we eliminate lead contamination to workers.

IM: Where in the mining and metals space do you see the most demand or opportunities for deploying such a solution? Do you already have a trial lined up for the solution?

NK: The applications of our technologies are in the following spaces:

  • Mining and minerals applications such as precious metals (namely gold), base metals (such as copper, zinc, iron and nickel) and rare earth elements;
  • Metals and alloys;
  • Environmental; and
  • Other industry applications.

ColdBlock and Nucomat are working together with Amira Global to recruit participants for the Amira Global P1196A project that will see the delivery of ColdBlock’s third-generation product line with Nucomat’s automation solution. This includes both mining organisations and commercial laboratories.

Participating prospects currently come from Canada, USA, South America and Australia.

ColdBlock Technologies and Nucomat will be taking part in a CEMI-hosted webinar titled, ‘The Integration of ColdBlock Digestion with The NUCOMAT Automation System’ on December 2.

Eurobattery Minerals and Uppsala University to continue battery minerals extraction work

Eurobattery Minerals AB, a mining and exploration company with a vision to help Europe become self-sufficient in ethically-sourced battery minerals, has announced an extension of its ongoing collaboration with Uppsala University, in Sweden.

The company has supported the university in its application to the Swedish innovation agency, Vinnova, for a project that focuses on new and modern methods of extracting rare earth elements (REE) from the shales in Fetsjön and other apatite-rich discoveries in Sweden.

As part of this project, Eurobattery Minerals will provide both mineralised samples from Fetsjön, as well as financial funding, it said. Vinnova is expected to announce its decision at the beginning of spring 2021.

Scientists from the Department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University have figured out an efficient way of extracting REE from phosphates typically located in black shales, such as in Fetsjön, according to Eurobattery Minerals. The next step is to create a small experimental plant and run university-led REE beneficiation experiments on a larger scale.

“We are thrilled to continue to support the scientists at Uppsala University,” Roberto García Martínez, CEO of Eurobattery Minerals, said. “In Fetsjön, we know from previous comprehensive drilling and analyses that the REE level in the black shales is high. As critical components to the electric revolution, we are interested in finding efficient and sustainable methods to obtain those minerals from our projects.”

The project is headed by Dr Jaroslaw Majka, Associate Professor in Metamorphic Petrology at the Department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University.

Dr Majka said: “We are excited about the possibility to conduct larger-scale testing of this new industrialised method for extracting rare earth elements. We believe that it will enable more efficient and sustainable extraction of these key components in electric vehicles and other battery-run equipment.”

LKAB plots path for fossil-free industrial mine waste recycling park

LKAB says it is planning a fossil-free industrial park for recycling mine waste and producing critical raw materials.

In the ReeMAP project, of which the aim is to develop technology for recycling mine waste, LKAB also plans to produce input materials, including hydrogen, and to electrify processes and, thereby, virtually eliminate carbon dioxide emissions in mine-waste recycling.

Ibrahim Baylan, Sweden’s Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, comments: “LKAB continues to develop Sweden’s strengths as an innovative nation. ReeMAP is an important initiative to utilise today’s mine waste, leading to increased circularity and contributing to the green transition with both phosphorus and rare earth elements.”

ReeMAP will apply fossil-free processes for recycling mine waste (tailings) from LKAB’s iron ore production and upgrade it to phosphorus products and rare earth elements; products which, owing to import dependency and their economic importance, are classed by the EU as critical raw materials. In addition, gypsum and fluorine products will also be produced at the industrial park, through the hydro chemical processes.

As part of the ReeMAP project, LKAB has already started producing apatite concentrate from mine waste in a pilot plant.

A “pre-study” for the park is to be completed in 2021, with full production, following environmental permitting and construction, estimated to be achievable by 2027.

The planned recycling of mine waste will entail a circular business model and improve resource utilisation, since all valuable minerals will be extracted, according to LKAB. Residual mine waste will continue to be landfilled.

“Thanks to electrification, the process will be almost entirely free of carbon dioxide emissions,” the company said. “Certain minor emissions may arise, due to the release of chemically-bound carbon in apatite (bound in remnants of calcite mineralisation).”

Production of mineral fertiliser will result in a reduction of 700,000 t of carbon dioxide emissions (corresponding to 1% of Sweden’s emissions in 2019), as compared with the alternative of increasing production of mineral fertiliser using conventional technology, it said.

Leif Boström, Senior Vice President for LKAB’s Business Area Special Products, said the investment in the fossil-free industrial park amounted to several billion Swedish kronor.

“The industrial park will be a centre for chemical engineering where innovative technology is used to recover valuable resources,” he said. “Here, we will set a global standard for clean products, energy efficiency and emissions.”

LKAB said: “In agriculture, high crop yields are made possible by the addition of plant nutrients in the form of phosphate fertiliser. As much as half of all agricultural production is dependent on fertilisers. The purity of the product is also important. For example, the phosphate fertiliser LKAB plans to produce will be free of cadmium, a hazardous substance which is contained in some of the material imported into the EU. Rare earth elements are used in many high-tech products, for example, permanent magnets for electric vehicles and wind turbines.”

ReeMAP’s Project Manager, Ulrika Håkansson, explains that several challenges related to technological development, localisation and industrialisation must be addressed.

“We will need up to 50 ha to accommodate our facilities,” Håkansson said. “A railway line and port access are also important, since we plan to ship as much as a million tonnes of product a year. Production, especially hydrogen production, will be energy intensive. We are now looking at all of these requirements and conditions for possible localisation in Luleå, Skellefteå and Helsingborg.”

Jan Moström, President and CEO for LKAB, explains the importance of ReeMAP for LKAB’s strategy and future: “We have an ambition to be one of the most innovative, resource-efficient and responsible mining companies in the world. Through our development projects SUM, HYBRIT and now ReeMAP, we have assumed a global leadership role for industrial transformation and to provide the world with tomorrow’s resources.”

The European Union is tomorrow launching the European Raw Materials Alliance with LKAB as a partner. The aim is to increase the union’s degree of self-sufficiency in critical raw materials. Initially, the alliance will focus on rare earth elements.

Via ReeMAP, LKAB will have potential to produce 30% of the current EU requirement for these materials, it says.

LKAB invests in phosphorus and rare earth production pilot in Sweden

Sweden-based miner LKAB says it will invest SEK45 million ($4.8 million) in pilot plants that could see phosphorus and rare earth metals produced from its own mine waste.

These plants are part of a prefeasibility study to define a commercial mine waste recycling process, ReeMAP, LKAB President and Group CEO Jan Moström said.

The company has made this decision after laboratory tests during 2018 confirmed it could produce more phosphorus and rare earth metals than previously estimated.

From LKAB’s iron ore production, a residual product resembling sand is currently placed in tailings dams. In the ReeMAP project, LKAB intends to recover the residual product and extract rare earth metals (REE) and monoammonium phosphate (MAP) from it.

Recovery and upgrading to phosphorus and rare earth metals is enabled by a patented process that has been developed by the Swedish company EasyMining, which is a Ragn-Sells innovation company within the Ragn-Sells Group. EasyMining is a partner in the ReeMAP project. The core process is based on EasyMining’s CleanMAP technology, which separates phosphate from water through ion sorption instead of energy demanding evaporation. At the same time, it removes impurities such as cadmium, uranium, fluorine in the MAP.

Leif Boström, Senior Vice President, Special Products Division, LKAB, said: “We are going to build two pilot plants for development and preparation for full-scale industrialisation: one in the orefields and one in Uppsala.”

The orefields plant will produce apatite from tailings sand, while the plant in Uppsala will be run by EasyMining, according to Boström.

Full-scale industrial production of MAP will correspond to an estimated 500% of Swedish demand and production of REE will amount to about 2% world production, according to LKAB. The pilot phase will continue through 2020, with a decision to go ahead with full-scale production possibly taken in 2021.

A pilot plant and a part of the full-scale production facilities will be situated close to LKAB’s existing plant´s in northern Sweden. Subsequent processing will take place in another location, for which three main alternatives are now being assessed, according to the company. The three main alternatives are Luleå, Helsingborg and Skellefteå.

Moström: “ReeMAP is a very good example of circular economy, of recovering and reintroducing resources. We will focus on developing an operation in the location that is the best alternative from an environmental point of view, minimises transportation of materials and utilises resources in the best way.

“If we succeed with the industrialisation process, we will create a whole new industry in Sweden that will supply the agriculture and engineering sectors with critical raw materials while at the same time generating jobs and value for society.”