American Rare Earths has revealed significant breakthroughs in metallurgical technology as part of the SynBREE project.
The project, a consortium led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), is part of the Environmental Microbes as a BioEngineering Resource (EMBER) program within the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a U.S. Department of Defense agency.
The groundbreaking results include the successful preconcentration of Halleck Creek ore to 3.5% Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO) at a 12:1 upgrade ratio.
This achievement represents a remarkable approximately 200 per cent increase from the existing flowsheet design, utilising cost-effective and conventional Dense Medium Separation (DMS) techniques.
This advancement is a significant leap forward in the field of rare earth element processing.
Key highlights of these results include:
- A substantial reduction in the need for Wet High-Intensity Magnetic Separator (WHIMS) by 70 per cent from the existing design, leading to a significant decrease in both capital and operating expenditures.
- The feed mass entering direct leaching processes has been reduced to 7 per cent from 16 per cent, marking a 56 per cent reduction in material reporting to leach circuits. This further contributes to a considerable reduction in operating costs.
- The SynBREE project, under this new development, has been selected to advance to the next phase of study. The company is actively engaged in discussions regarding funding and the next steps.
American Rare Earths CEO Donald Swartz stated: “The program set out to fill a critical DoD supply chain gap, and these results help to ensure that the U.S. maintains its technological edge.
“Since that time, we have completed new exploration programs and developed mining plans in near-zero strip ratio ore that is approximately 55 per cent higher grade than what was utilised in this work program.
“This is a continuation of our work to de-risk the Halleck Creek project, which is free of the sovereign risks associated with projects identified in Latin America, SE Asia and Africa,” said Swartz.
Under the expert guidance of Dr Yongqin Jiao and Dr Dan Park at LLNL, and consortium member Dr Rick Honaker at the University of Kentucky, the team has successfully performed preconcentrating test work for the project.
Preconcentrating is a vital step in the processing of critical minerals like rare earth elements, as it efficiently separates the less valuable gangue material from the more valuable ore.
LLNL’s Dr Yongqin Jiao stated: “Our protein-based rare earth separation technologies continue to be advanced and are greatly enhanced by this conventional beneficiation technique that will improve the economic viability.
“Removal of the gangue materials at the solid-state enhances the concentration of the rare earth elements, creating an optimal solution feed for downstream bio-separation.”
Dr. Jiao said that the recent findings by Professor Honaker at the University of Kentucky showcased low-cost density separation coupled with magnetic separation of allanite, have a substantial impact on the overall process efficacy and economic feasibility.
“These findings contribute significantly to refining our approach and enhancing the efficiency of the rare earth element extraction process,” said Jiao.