Hastings Rare Metals (ASX: HAS) and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) have teamed together for a joint technical paper, which was presented at the AUSIMM Industry Conference.
HAS wholly-owns the Hastings project, which is the largest heavy rare earth project in Australia, and the fourth largest globally.
The project hosts resources for +25 years at 1mtpa to produce over 10,000tpa, including: 140tpa dysprosium oxide; 830tpa yttrium oxide; 590tpa mixed rare earth oxide; 2,630tpa niobium oxide; and 6,170tpa zirconium oxide.
The defining factor for the project is that the Hastings deposit contains predominantly heavy rare earths (85%), such as dysprosium and yttrium, which are substantially more valuable than the more common light rare earths.
Highlighting the future need of dysprosium, there are over twenty global firms requiring a long term secure supply for their electric/hybrid vehicles, wind turbines or rail production.
Hastings Project Process Development - Past and Present
The paper was co-authored by Steve Mackowski, technical director for Hastings Rare Metals, along with Doug Collier, Karin Soldenhoff and Chris Griffith, the leading rare earth oxides research team of ANSTO.
The work builds on the extensive test work undertaken by the previous developers, and focusses on obtaining superior recoveries of the valuable components into solution
"This is particularly pleasing, since the Hastings mineralogy is unique, and requires a different approach to processing compared to the more typical light REO circuits," said Mackowski.
"This work, which commenced in 2011, builds on the extensive test work undertaken by the previous developers, and focusses on obtaining superior recoveries of the valuable components into solution.
"2012 saw the development of a much improved primary solvent extraction (SX) circuit, when compared with the previous single extraction stage results."
A two stage approach, of extracting the Niobium/Zirconium and then separately extracting the REO has significantly improved recovery and enhanced the selectivity.
Mackowski added, "Continuous operations at a mini-pilot scale provides the confidence that we have the right circuit configuration to achieve high value component recoveries and excellent rejection of the non-valuable material.
"The Hastings Project is now poised to progress development to tailor the final quality and form to meet the requirements of the end users."
Hastings Rare Metals aims to capitalise on the strong demand for heavy rare earths created by expanding new technologies, and has recently validated the extensive historical work and completed a Scoping Study to confirm the economics of the Project.
About the Hastings deposit
The Hastings deposit contains JORC Indicated and Inferred Resources totaling 36.2 million tonnes (comprising 27.1mt Indicated Resources and 9.1mt Inferred Resources) at 0.21% TREO, including 0.18% HREO, plus 0.89% ZᵣO₂ and 0.35% Nb₂O₅.
Importantly for the deposit, it is close to infrastructure and is well progressed on the path to production. Scoping Study complete.
Demand for rare earths
China currently supplies over 95% of rare earths, although the country has recently imposed export quotas, which reduced to around 30,000tpa in 2010.
Tightening the future supply further is that China also prohibited new operations/expansions and eliminated 20% of processing capacity in 2012, while in the past year has been concentrating supply to a few.
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