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Hastings Rare Metals Gains From Major Breakthroughs By ANSTO

Hastings Rare Metals (ASX: HAS) will benefit from two major technical breakthroughs achieved by ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation) with the completion of Phase 2 of the development program for the extraction of target minerals.

ANSTO separated Zircon (Zr), Niobium (Nb) and Hafnium (Hf) from the bake-leach liquor with effective rejection of the major impurities.

ANSTO separated Yttrium (NYSE:Y) and Rare Earth Elements (NYSEMKT:REE) with effective rejection of the major impurities.

ANSTO has now successfully built upon the validation and verification of the previous sulphation and water leaching works announced to the market last month.

Alastair Metcalf, CEO for Hastings, commented: "Producing separate streams each containing valuable constituents is an achievement that can sometimes take years to attain.

"Having these streams ready for customer product tailoring is a very strong position for Hastings. Our current discussions with strategic partners can now be bolstered with the support of these very significant technical achievements.

"I would like to extend my personal thanks to ANSTO for the results of the R&D efforts so far. Further success in tailoring our products to meet customer requirements is expected."

Producing 10% of the world's Dysprosium

Hastings has two rare earths projects in Western Australia, with the Hastings deposit hosting JORC Indicated and Inferred Resources of 36.2 million tonnes at 0.21% TREO, including 0.18% HREO, plus 0.89% ZᵣO₂ and 0.35% Nb₂O₅.

Adding some scale to this - Hastings is the largest heavy rare earth project in Australia, and ranks fourth largest globally, (HREO projects defined as > 35% HREO:TREO).

The project has resources for +25 years at 1mtpa, to produce over 10,000tpa, including heavy rare earths; 140tpa Dysprosium oxide (equating to 10% of world supply), 830tpa Yttrium oxide (equating to 6% of world supply), and 590tpa Mixed rare earth oxide, along with 2,630tpa Niobium oxide and 6,170tpa Zirconium oxide.

Steve Mackowski, Technical Director, provides in depth insight

Some detailed comment on the milestones was provided by Steve Mackowski, Technical Director for Hastings.

"The development program for the chemical circuit of the Hastings Project can be viewed in three phases. Phase 1 targets getting the valuable components of the ore into solution. This is the most critical step as the recovery of valuables governs the economics of the entire operation. This is where typically 50% of the CAPEX and OPEX is expended.

"Sulphation baking converts the relatively insoluble valuables into sulphates so that they then become soluble in water. The baked ore is then dissolved in water and the valuables go into solution.

"This step was demonstrated at pilot scale in 1990 by WSL and confirmed by Hastings in the validation and verification stage of the test program that has previously been reported. Recoveries of valuable constituents of around 75% were achieved in Phase 1 - a world comparable result. Importantly, this gives the Hastings Project a very significant saving in development time compared to some of our peers.

"Phase 2 involves extracting the valuables from the solution generated in Phase 1. As is always the case in these hydrometallurgical operations, both the valuables and proportions of the valueless gangue go into solution. So in the Hastings' case aluminium from the mica dissolves.

"In other projects other gangues dissolve, for example phosphates and iron oxides. Producing this liquor can result in very unstable liquids where premature crystallisation (uncontrolled conditions) can occur. ANSTO has modified the final physical and chemical conditions such that the liquor is stable over extended periods; a very creditable effort.

"With completion of the Phase 2 Primary Solvent Extraction work ANSTO has successfully recovered the valuables. This work highlights the benefit of technological advances of solvent extraction research and experience since the original pilot plant at WSL built 20 years ago.

"The ANSTO scientists have re-designed the original WSL concept to remove the Zr / Nb / Hf first, followed by removal of the rare earths. The improved circuit is more controllable with excellent recoveries of all of the valuable components whilst rejecting the impurities. This work now has two streams ready for processing to produce customer specific products.

"Phase 3 of the development program for the chemical circuit can now commence. This is where specific customer requirements are tailored into the process design, and where final products come out of the hydrometallurgical circuit.

"The development schedule is on track. Physical experimentation that will enhance the sulphation pilot plant design has just been awarded to ANSTO."


Asian investors have identified the potential of Hastings Rare Metals with investors from the region showing particularly strong interest in the recent heavily oversubscribed A$3 million capital raising.

The latest two milestones are significant in their own right that would potentially take years to achieve.

Where Hastings differentiates itself to other rare earth project is that the Hastings project is 85% heavy rare earths which involve higher value products.

The Hastings rare earth project is the largest in Australia, and the fourth largest in the world.

The project has resources for +25 years at 1mtpa, to produce over 10,000tpa, including heavy rare earths; 140tpa Dysprosium oxide (equating to 10% of world supply), 830tpa Yttrium oxide (equating to 6% of world supply), and 590tpa Mixed rare earth oxide, along with 2,630tpa Niobium oxide and 6,170tpa Zirconium oxide.

Worth noting the project resource has scale to continue growing even further, open at depth along strike to the south.

Even with Hastings ticking all these boxes, and a defined clear pathway to production - the valuation of the company is just $15 million - which remains slight when compared to peers in Australia and overseas with similar stage projects.

Proactive Investors considers that the current share price of Hastings will not be on offer heading into 2013 - where the company is set to deliver milestone announcements including Pilot Plant, a Pre-Feasibility Study and drilling results from a new program.