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Greenland Minerals & Energy's Kvanefjeld Yields High Grade Rare Earth Product

Greenland Minerals and Energy (ASX: GGG) has produced a high purity rare earth intermediate product, highlighting the effectiveness of the process route for the Kvanefjeld project in Greenland.

The wholly-owned Kvanefjeld multi-element deposit (rare earths, uranium) is rapidly emerging as a premier specialty metals project with a comprehensive pre-feasibility study demonstrating the potential for a large-scale, cost-competitive, multi-element mining operation.

Importantly, the product of the high purity proves that the non-refractory nature of the Kvanefjeld ore minerals allows for the use of simple, atmospheric acid leach circuits without requiring complex high-temperature acid back or caustic cracking processes that are required in many rare earth operations.

The mixed rare earth carbonate intermediate product is low in impurities and contains 94% rare earth oxide with 14.75% of this being the more valuable heavy rare earths.

With the process to produce a high-quality RE intermediate product now well established, the company is working on the evaluation of processes to isolate cerium and lanthanum from the critical rare earths such as praseodymium, neodymium, europium, dysprosium, terbium, and yttrium.

The demand outlook for these elements is strong with ongoing supply concerns and strong pricing forecasts.

De-coupling of the high demand critical rare earths from the bulk light rare earths provides greater marketing flexibility and value recognition.

Process Route

The company has developed an effective hydrometallurgical process route for the treatment of the rare earth and uranium-rich mineral concentrates generated via froth flotation.

This uses simple equipment with scaled-up test work now having produced a high purity rare earth intermediate product - a chemical precipitate formed by the addition of sodium carbonate to a purified rare earth chloride stream.

Low levels of calcium (1.26%), aluminium (0.12%) and silica (0.5%) were the most significant impurities.

Very low levels of uranium (11 ppm), lead (1.4 ppm) and thorium (2.5 ppm) were measured in the sample which reveals how well these radionuclides were controlled by the impurity removal processes.

All process steps in the refining process have now been tested at bench scale or small continuous scale. The process engineering for the refinery is well advanced with key process design documents completed.

Kvanefjeld Project

Greenland Minerals has claim to the world's largest rare earth resources, and one of world's larger uranium resources at the Kvanefjeld Project, which has an overall resource inventory of 956 million tonnes containing 575 million pounds of U3O8, 10.33 million tonnes of total rare earth oxides and 2.25 million tonnes of zinc.

This has the potential to rival BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam project in South Australia, with sufficient Resources to sustain a mine life of more than 50 years.

Notably, the unique rare earth and uranium‐bearing minerals at Kvanefjeld can be effectively beneficiated into a lowmass, high value concentrate, then leached with conventional acidic solutions under atmospheric conditions to achieve particularly high extraction levels of both heavy rare earths and uranium.

Kvanefjeld is strategically located between North American and European markets at a lower latitude than long established mining regions of Alaska and northern Canada while the Fjord system in south Greenland provides direct shipping access to project area, year round.

An international airport is located 35 kilometres away, and a nearby lake system has been positively evaluated for hydroelectric power.

A Mine and Concentrator Study released in March indicated that the initial 3 million tonne per annum project will generate a pre‐tax, ungeared internal rate of return of 32% and a cash payback period of three years, based on long term prices of US$70 per pound U3O8 and US$23 per kilogram total rare earth oxides (TREO).

The company is also a key participant in European Unions' EURARE Project, which will provide up to €375,000 toward metallurgical studies and logistical costs as well as benefit from collaborative research programs.

Rare Earths demand

Prices for critical rare earth elements had stabilised and started rising towards the later part of the June 2013 quarter after several quarters of price retreat.

These are important to energy efficient technologies and are forecast to be in severely short supply in the near to mid‐term.

The price increases are in general alignment with market expectations that highlight ongoing supply issues for the high‐demand heavy rare earths, along with the light rare earths neodymium and praseodymium which are important to the magnet sector.

Analysis

This is value accretive for Greenland Minerals and Energy as the ability produce a high purity rare earth intermediate product from the non-refractory Kvanefjeld ore means that the process route requires simple, atmospheric acid leach circuits, removing the need for more complex high-temperature acid back or caustic cracking processes.

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