Niocorp Developments (TSX: NB) in Quebec has completed the demonstration of its process for removing calcium and magnesium from ore extracted from the Elk Creek Critical Minerals Project.
The successful result was part of the company’s Phase 1 operations for the plant. It also represented success in optimizing the business process flow diagram for this project. Additionally, the flowsheet was originally designed in tandem by L3 Process Innovation and Niocorp.
“The L3 team has worked very hard to complete Phase 1 of the demonstration plant and deliver results. We look forward to the completion of the remainder of the demonstration plant operations and, more importantly, rare earth metallurgical performance measurements showing the full potential economic benefits of rare earths for the Elk Creek Project,” said Scott. Honan, COO of Niocorp.
Niocorp is busy developing a critical mining project in Nebraska that will produce niobium, scandium and titanium.
Critical minerals and rare earth metals
Niobium can produce high strength, low alloy steel. It is a lighter, stronger steel used in automobiles as well as structural and pipeline applications. Scandium produces strong alloys with corrosion resistance. It also appears in advanced solid oxide fuel cells for certain battery types. Titanium is used in various light alloys. It commonly appears in pigments used in paper, paint and plastics, aerospace applications, armor and medical implants.
Magnetic rare earths, such as neodymium, praseodymium, terbium, and dysprosium, are required to manufacture certain types of magnets, which have uses in defense and various civilian applications.
The process of removing calcium and magnesium carbonates from the ore uses heat treatment and leaching. This is a well-known and proven process, and is part of the Phase 1 demo flowsheet. This step worked, producing a mixture of calcium and magnesium carbonate on a large scale. Eliminating carbonate minerals like this reduces production steps and increases efficiency.
The Elk Creek resource consists primarily of carbonate minerals. Its project’s mineral resource estimate does not include calcium or magnesium because the company has yet to test whether the deposit is worthwhile. However, the company plans to carry out an assessment and add these two elements to the resource estimate if the test is positive. The company will evaluate the material extracted from the demonstration plant after a financing round.
Phase 1 demonstration plant operations are underway as the company prepares for phases two and three.