Hexagon scores ‘significant’ U.S. test for its rare earths processing tech
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Special Report: Hexagon’s RapidSX rare earths processing tech will be evaluated for use at Ucore’s planned Strategic Metals Complexe downstream rare earths processing facility in Alaska.
Hexagon Energy Materials (ASX:HXG), recognising a strong global push to develop new sources of supply outside China, recently expanded into US downstream rare earth processing.
Hexagon signed a deal to acquire a 49 per cent interest in an advanced, proprietary low-cost downstream REE separation tech called RapidSX in October 2019.
Now, under an agreement with Hexagon’s partner Innovation Metals Corp (IMC), TSX-listed Ucore will assess this tech for the separation of rare earth elements (REE) concentrates into high-purity REE oxides (REO).
This could also include other commercially available, US-allied sourced, mixed REE concentrate sources that are currently under nearer-term consideration for potential utilisation at Ucore’s planned Alaska Strategic Metals Complex.
Ucore has evaluated a range of alternative REE-separation processes over the past several years, making its selection of RapidSX a noteworthy third-party validation of the technology, Hexagon managing director Mike Rosenstreich said.
“Ucore’s interest in and commitment to evaluating RapidSX is significant,” Rosenstreich said.
“They are a REE industry stalwart in the USA with an advanced project with US$145 million in designated financing from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
“Ucore plans to develop heavy and light REE downstream processing capabilities through its planned Alaska Strategic Metals Complex to produce separated high-purity REOs.”
IMC chairman and chief executive officer Dr Gareth Hatch said that successful commercialisation of the RapidSX technology could address the lack of US-based operational REE separation capacity.
“Without the downstream capacity to separate and purify REEs, the US and its allies are vulnerable to potential supply disruptions, price spikes and trade disagreements related to REEs,” he said.
RapidSX boasts low capital costs due to the reduced size and number of separation stages compared to traditional solvent-extraction approaches along with low operating costs due to reduced separation times, reagent and power consumption, manpower requirements and in-process metal inventories.
Hexagon has an option to acquire a 49 per cent interest in the tech by contributing its commercial and marketing skills and investing $US2m ($2.97m) into the construction of a commercial demonstration plant.
A further payment of $US4m will be made from Hexagon’s share of the JV future cash flows.
The demonstration plant is planned to be completed in Q4 this year and have a production capacity of 60,000 to 80,000kg of REO’s per annum from a site in North America.