Arafura Resources Limited (ASX: ARU) has made two significant breakthroughs in its progress towards finalising offtake agreements on rare earth products from its 100%-owned Nolans Neodymium- Praseodymium (NdPr) Project in Australia’s Northern Territory.
The company reports that its rare earth separation piloting programme is now underway to produce final samples for customer assessment, while its ustomer engagement programme has been expanded to include strategic relationship with USA Rare Earth
Arafura Managing Director Gavin Lockyer said that in some cases for the company to advance engagement with potential customers across the world, it necessitates providing samples of its final rare earth product offering from Nolans – specifically NdPr oxide (4,357 tonnes per annum) and SEG-HRE carbonate (603 tonnes per annum) – for qualification purposes.
“Accordingly, piloting of the Nolans rare earth separation flowsheet is in full swing using rare earth chloride solution feedstock generated by the Company’s rare earth processing pilot plants,” Mr Lockyer said.
This work is being undertaken at the globally-recognised ANSTO Minerals in Sydney, a leader in process development and piloting of rare earths and other critical minerals.
Mr Lockyer said operation of the first of two solvent extraction (SX) circuits is now complete.
“This produced refined SEG-HRE liquor that contains the middle and heavy rare earths including Samarium, Terbium and Dysprosium. The second SX circuit is scheduled to run in January 2020 to separate the company’s key NdPr oxide product.”
In an important expansion of its customer engagement, Arafura has entered into a strategic relationship with USA Rare Earth LLC which allows for the treatment of Arafura’s SEG-HRE carbonate product by USA Rare Earth’s proprietary processing technology.
“Today USA Rare Earth and its JV partner Texas Mineral Resources Corp. (OTCQB: TMRC) submitted a tender for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Cornerstone Initiative for Heavy Rare Earth Element Separation, the objective of which is to establish a commercially sustainable U.S. domestic capability for the separation of heavy rare earths in support of DoD and essential civilian products.
“This market opportunity is unique and at the early stage of development, but it demonstrates the importance of being able to produce separated rare earth products to meet supply chain opportunities that are evolving outside of and independent of the Made In China 2025 strategy,” Mr Lockyer said.