Argex Mining (CVE:RGX) (OTCBB:ARGEF) said late Wednesday it has achieved a "milestone breakthrough" for the iron recovery circuit at its pilot plant in Mississauga, Ontario, where its patented CTL process is running continuously.
The junior Canadian resource company is developing the advanced stage La Blache titaniferous magnetite project, and also owns the Lac Brûlé high grade ilmenite and the Mouchalagane iron ore projects, which are all located on Quebec's North Shore.
Argex hopes to scale up its proprietary, hydrometallurgical CTL process that allows it to produce high purity, "pigment-grade" titanium dioxide (TiO2) directly from run-of-mine material at its 100 per cent owned deposit.
The process is running continuously at the mini-plant in Mississauga, Ontario.
The company said late Wednesday that continued process improvements on solvent extraction for the iron circuit have increased the iron concentration from 68 gpl to 120 gpl, significantly reducing the energy consumption and also improving the recovery of TiO2 by 3 per cent.
These improvements will ultimately be incorporated into a full scale industrial production facility, Argex noted.
"Concentration by evaporation from 120 gpl to 140 gpl, which is the typical required concentration for the pyrohydrolysis acid regeneration unit, is much more energy efficient than concentrating from 68 gpl to
140 gpl," said Argex's COO and VP of technology, Enrico Di Cesare.
"This is a major breakthrough for us and substantially saves energy, capital costs, and space.
"The iron-rich solution in the form of ferric chloride is then treated in the acid recovery circuit. Work is continuing with PRO (Process Research Ortech) to simplify and improve the CTL process."
Titanium dioxide is an inorganic substance characterized by brightness and very high refractive index, making it an ideal pigment in paints, plastics and paper.
The company said that its pigment grade titanium product can be sold at "premium prices" to the end-users in the paint, plastic and coating industries.
The CTL process is unique, Argex said, due to its ability to produce high-purity TiO2, iron and vanadium through a single process directly from the ore material.
The equipment used in all parts of the process, which operates at atmospheric pressure avoiding the need to handle chemicals at high temperatures, is also readily available.
Argex said the environmentally-friendly process has high energy efficiency, low emissions and a closed-loop design, which uses relatively low levels of hydrochloric acid that is regenerated after use.
The process also produces "minimal inert tailings" from the La Blache ore deposit, the company added, which ultimately can be used by the local construction industry for raw material.
The improvements to the CTL process will be included in the company's feasibility study, which Argex said will be initiated shortly.
Earlier this month, Argex saw its shares rally after reporting results of a titanium dioxide grade sensitivity study, which showed improved project economics.
The aim of the study, conducted with Montreal-based BBA Inc, was to assess the impact of different TiO2 grades of ilmenite feedstock on the operational parameters of the CTL hydrometallurgical process.
The company said the results showed higher feedstock grade significantly increases TiO2 output tonnage and significantly reduces opex per tonne of TiO2 production.