This US boron player has a new name and renewed focus on the vital element used in permanent magnets
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The company’s focus was – and still is – the development of the Fort Cady Borate project in the US, which hosts a multi-generational borate resource where boric acid, borate specialty materials, gypsum, and potassium sulphate (SOP) would be produced.
ABR’s share price took a nosedive last year after studies showed the financial metrics on the three-stage rollout of the Fort Cady borate mine were in fact marginal, with a meaningful EBITDA only delivered on the completion of phase 1C.
5EA has now rebranded as a vertically integrated boron products business and last month entered a research collaboration agreement with Georgetown University for the advancement of boron-based materials research in permanent magnets.
Traditional uses of boron extend to more than 300 commercial and household products, while advanced uses in military vehicles and body armour, permanent magnets, semi-conductors, wind turbines, nuclear reactors, and pharmaceuticals.
“What we’re trying to do is increase the usage of boron in permanent magnet technology,” chief commercial and technical officer Dr Dino Gnanamgari said.
“This can also have a variety of different benefits, such as increasing magnetic density or mechanical properties beyond the current magnet technology, which has been around for quite some time and is set from a ratio perspective – which is Nd2Fe14B – where there are two atoms of rare earths for every atom of boron.
“The research has not begun yet, so we can’t go into too much detail, but we’re hoping to increase the efficiency of these permanent magnets through increased usage of boron.”
Importantly, without boron, the entire technology falls apart – it’s not substitutable for any other element.
Plus, boron priced inside of a permanent magnet is around 150th the price of the rare earths that go into it.
Currently, the US only accounts for around 20% of the global borate supply and the Government considers boron critical to national and economic security.
So much so, that the Fort Cady project was designated Critical Infrastructure by the US government.
“Our critical infrastructure status and designation was from Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), under the Department of Homeland Security and basically means the US government is looking at our project, looking at boron fundamentals, seeing a supply demand issue, seeing that the applications are critical and that we need to make sure that we have enough supply,” 5EA SVP of corporate development and investor relations Chance Pipitone said.
“So, our resource is very much in the interest of national security and the US Government sees that as a very strategic resource – and wants to make sure that we come online over the coming years.”
The company is targeting an updated BFS for the project in Q2, CY2022, after which it expects to move into construction, with the ultimate aim of producing 500,000 tonnes per annum and adding lithium to the stream.
“The advanced economic study and ultimately small-scale production later in this year, Q3-Q4, that’s when we’re going to have actual sellable product and that’s a big milestone for the group,” Pipitone said.
“Our process involves in situ mining, which is a fraction of the carbon intensity of any of our peers.
“And investors, particularly in the US, want critical materials exposure, especially domestic US critical exposure, because there’s a major call to onshore.”
Pipitone says that the resource is already proven, having been mined in 1981 and that this is really round two. The focus is now on optimising and enhancing the process.