Tag Archives: solvent extraction

Metso Outotec to supply VSFX tech for Li-Cycle battery recycling plant

Metso Outotec says it has signed an agreement with Li-Cycle North America Hub Inc for the supply of manganese, cobalt, and nickel solvent extraction technology for a battery recycling plant to be built in Rochester, New York in the US.

The contract value, which is not disclosed, has been booked in the Metals December quarter 2021 orders received.

The Metso Outotec delivery includes three modular VSF®X solvent extraction plants and related Dual Media Filters, and basic engineering.

Jari Ålgars, President of the Metals business area at Metso Outotec, said: “We are looking forward to working with Li-Cycle on this battery recycling project. The energy-efficient, modular VSFX solvent extraction plant, which is part of our Planet Positive product range, reduces emissions and is safe to operate. The Li-Cycle project will be an important new reference for Metso Outotec in the battery recycling business.”

First Cobalt to use Metso Outotec modular solvent extraction tech at refinery

First Cobalt Corp has awarded a contract to Metso Outotec for the design and manufacturing of solvent extraction cells as well as technical support for the layout of a new solvent extraction plant and its process control at First Cobalt’s refinery in Ontario, Canada.

The company says it received several tenders from global vendors and Metso Outotec was selected based on competitive pricing and its “technically superior” bid.

The contracted solution involves the latest advancements in solvent extraction in terms of modular design, process control and ease of installation and start up, First Cobalt says. The installation time of the modular mixer-settlers is expected to be 30% less than the conventional solvent extraction mixer-settlers used at other projects. In addition to the reduction in site install time, the footprint needed for the selected plant equipment is less than conventional solvent extraction equipment, according to the company. Metso Outotec confirmed that the solution to be supplied comes under its VSF®X solvent extraction plant, which is part of its Planet Positive product range.

Phase 1 deployment of First Cobalt’s three-phase approach to market entry, slated for the December quarter of 2022, will focus on processing cobalt hydroxide to produce a high-quality, sustainable and traceable battery-grade cobalt sulphate. Refinery studies have previously estimated it could produce 25,000 t/y of battery-grade cobalt sulphate from third-party feed.

In January 2021, the company secured long-term cobalt hydroxide feed arrangements with Glencore AG and IXM SA, a subsidiary of CMOC, to provide a total of 4,500 t/y of contained cobalt to the First Cobalt Refinery commencing in the December quarter of 2022. In March 2021, the company further de-risked the project by signing a flexible, long-term, offtake agreement with Stratton Metal Resources Ltd for the sale of future cobalt sulphate production, with quantities determined by First Cobalt.

Once operational, First Cobalt’s Refinery will be North America’s only producer of cobalt sulphate for the electric vehicle market, the company claims.

Trent Mell, President & CEO of First Cobalt, says: “We are happy to be moving forward with Metso Outotec, an industry-leading business partner. Their expertise and ability to deliver quality projects significantly de-risks our own. We move one step closer to becoming North America’s only provider of cobalt sulphate and we do not intend to stop there. Plans for our Canadian Battery Materials Park also include battery recycling, nickel sulphate production and a partnership with a battery precursor manufacturer.”

Northern Minerals lays the groundwork for Steinert XRT ore sorter installation

Northern Minerals is set to commission a Steinert sensor-based ore sorter for use at its Browns Range rare earth pilot plant, in northern Western Australia, after gaining the relevant regulatory approvals for installation of the machine.

The ore sorting equipment concentrates ore prior to the beneficiation circuit by selecting ore and rejecting waste based on X-ray Transmission. This has the potential to double the feed grade and reduce production costs, according to the company.

Both the Western Australian Office of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation have now cleared the installation and commissioning, with construction commenced on the structural and mechanical equipment (pictured). Commissioning is scheduled for mid-2021.

The total capital investment for the procurement, installation and commissioning of the ore sorter is budgeted at A$5.9 million ($4.3 million), Northern Minerals said.

Previous trials of ore sorting technology at Browns Range, announced in October 2018, identified the potential to double the mill feed grade. This would lead to an increased production rate of heavy rare earth carbonate and a potential lowering of overall operating costs.

Once the ore sorting system is commissioned, Northern Minerals plans to run additional test work at pilot plant scale on all ore types to establish baseline data on feed grade improvements, it said. This work will also help evaluate material flow-through benefits of ore sorting on overall processing efficiencies, feeding into any future commercial, large-scale project feasibility studies at Browns Range.

Northern Minerals says it is also evaluating the economics of further downstream processing options for Browns Range ore.

To date, Browns Range has produced a mixed heavy rare earth carbonate for small-scale export to offtake partners. The options being assessed would take a further step along the supply chain to produce separated heavy rare earth oxides.

The company announced in August 2019 it had commenced a scoping study with US-based K-Technologies Inc to investigate a separation technology on intermediate mixed rare earths materials produced at Browns Range. K-Tech’s technology is focused on continuous ion exchange, continuous ion-chromatography and related advanced separation methodologies.

The study continues to progress well, with positive test results being achieved at K-Tech’s facilities in Florida albeit slower than planned because of constraints associated with COVID-19, Northern Minerals said. However, the company expects to see separated dysprosium and terbium oxides from the study before the end of this year.

Separately to collaborating with K-Tech, Northern Minerals is pursuing studies into traditional solvent extraction to produce oxides from the mixed heavy rare earth material produced at Browns Range.

Northern Minerals CEO, Mark Tory, said: “With approvals in place for the ore sorter and installation now under way, we will be in a strong position to thoroughly evaluate the flow-through benefits of that technology at a pilot plant scale.

“The results will provide a valuable input into future feasibility studies to assess the commercial viability of a large-scale heavy rare earths mining and processing operation at Browns Range.

“In addition to our investment in ore sorting to improve the mill feed grade, we are also committed to assessing opportunities to further unlock value at Browns Range through downstream processing to oxide products, which opens up a wider field of offtake and future project financing opportunities.”

Northern Minerals started producing rare earth carbonate through the Browns Range pilot plant in October 2018 as part of a three-year pilot assessment of economic and temporarily technical feasibility of a larger scale development at Browns Range.

Protea Mining Chemicals develops world first copper-cobalt processing solution

Diversified chemicals group, Omnia Holdings, reports its Protea Mining Chemicals division has become the first in its field – globally – to develop a solution that helps copper and cobalt mines reduce product contamination (improving metal purity levels) and maximise throughput in the solvent extraction (SX) process.

This pioneering solution took six years to develop and was carried out in partnership with chemicals manufacturers and copper and cobalt mining customers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Omnia said.

“Finding safer, more efficient ways to extract valuable resources and enhance profitability continues to be a priority in the mining sector – which has been particularly constrained by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company said.

“This discovery will extend the life of copper and cobalt mines and assist profitability. Protea Mining Chemicals is working closely with other mines to replicate this success in other regions.”

Michael Smith, Managing Director at Protea Mining Chemicals (pictured), said: “Over the past few decades, many unsuccessful attempts have been made by mining houses, global chemical manufacturers, as well as SX equipment and process engineers to address this issue of contamination. Needless to say, this has been a very challenging journey and we are delighted by what we have been able to achieve.”

The news comes hot on the heels of Omnia’s BME breaking the South African record for the largest electronic detonator blast.

Ucore partners with Kingston Process Metallurgy to demo RapidSX technology

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.”

Ucore adds IMC’s RapidSX to US-made rare earth supply chain plans

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.”

Outotec and Neste to introduced bio-based diluent to metals extraction sector

Outotec says it and Neste have jointly verified the viability of applying a bio-based diluent as a new solution for metals extraction.

Neste MY Renewable Isoalkane™ is a fully bio-based diluent for extracting metals in hydrometallurgical processes, Ouotec said, explaining that the diluent is based on Neste’s NEXBTL technology and produced entirely from bio-based waste and residue raw materials.

Laboratory studies and pilot trials at the Outotec Research Center in Pori, Finland, and Neste’s Technology Center in Porvoo, Finland, have confirmed the high-level performance of the product for solvent extraction of copper, and it can be also used for other base metals, according to Outotec.

“Thanks to its renewable origins and being readily biodegradable, the bio-based diluent reduces environmental risk and has a remarkably smaller carbon footprint over its life cycle when compared to fossil equivalents,” Outotec said. Moreover, Neste MY Renewable Isoalkane evaporates at a lower rate, which improves copper extraction efficiency and safety due to significantly reduced volatile organic compounds, the company added.

Neste MY Renewable Isoalkane is fully compatible with conventional fossil diluents at solvent extraction plants, and can be introduced into the extraction process without any downtime, Outotec said.

Kari Knuutila, Chief Technology Officer at Outotec, said: “This cooperation with Neste is part of our continuous innovation efforts of improving the environmental performance of our technologies and helping our customers to meet their sustainability goals. In this project, experts from two industries discovered synergies and co-created a new application for Neste’s bio-based product.”

Mercedes Alonso, Executive Vice President, Renewable Polymers and Chemicals at Neste, said: “Using Neste MY Renewable Isoalkane as a replacement to fossil diluents provides significant ecological benefits, while simultaneously improving the efficiency, economy and safety of metals extraction processes.”

Outotec and Neste have agreed to cooperate in introducing the Neste MY Renewable Isoalkane to metal producers. Outotec will provide technical industry expertise, whereas Neste will be responsible for the production, sales and deliveries of the bio-based diluent to the solvent extraction sites globally.

First Quantum Minerals reports land slippage at Cobre Las Cruces copper mine

First Quantum Minerals reports that during the early morning hours of January 23, a land slippage occurred on the slope of the northern zone of the open-pit mine in the Cobre Las Cruces mining hydrometallurgical complex, in Gerena, Spain.

The company clarified that the slippage did not cause harm to any persons nor any impact on any third-party facilities or land.

First Quantum said: “The company has immediately activated the established safety and environmental emergency procedures, evacuating the area and isolating the incident. Furthermore, the relevant administrations have been informed without delay, and the company is in constant communication with them.”

At the present time, production in the CLC hydrometallurgical plant has been temporarily suspended while investigations are being conducted, the company said.

“The company is monitoring the situation continuously and is taking all the necessary measures to resolve the incident and will provide updates as appropriate.”

The CLC operation produced 70,738 t of copper cathode in 2018, slightly behind the 73,664 t produced in 2017.

The operation uses conventional open-pit mining, based on hydraulic shovels and trucks, with drilling and blasting in the lower marls and ore zones. The project has a relatively high stripping ratio supported by the high-grade ore, according to First Quantum, and uses contract miners for all mine production.

The CLC metallurgical plant relies on an atmospheric leaching process to recover copper from the rich Las Cruces chalcocite ore. A unique feature of the plant is the use of eight OKTOP agitated reactors to dissolve the copper under conditions of high temperature and high acidity. Oxygen is also added into the reactors to complete the reaction. The feed to the leaching reactors is mined ore that has passed through three stages of crushing and a single stage of grinding.

Once leached, the liquid is separated from the ground solids to become PLS, the feed for the solvent extraction (SX) area. In the SX area, the copper is passed to an organic solution and then to the electrolyte that feeds the electrowinning cells. The electrowinning cells produce LME-grade copper cathodes.