Clay vs Hardrock

Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) company code IXR
Ionic Clay Rare earth elements vs Hard Rock Rare Earth ElelemENTs Projects

Significant project and cost advantages associated with ionic clay projects like Makutuu

Mining/Processing StagesIonic Adsorption Clay-hosted REEHard Rock-hosted REE
MineralisationSoft material, negligable (if any) blasting
Elevated HREO/CREO product content
Hard rock;
Bastnaesite and Monazite (LREO dominant); Xenotime (HREO dominant)
MiningLow relative operating cost:
Surface mining (0-20 m)
Minimal stripping of waste material
Progressive rehabilitation of mined areas
High relative operating costs:
Blasting required
Could have high strip ratios
Processing Mining SiteNo crushing or milling
Simple process plant
Potential for static or in-situ leaching with low reagent consumption at ambient temperature
Comminution, followed by benefication that often requires expensive (flotation) reagents to produce mineral concentrate.
Mine ProductMixed high-grade rare earths precipitate, either oxide or carbonate (+90% TREO grade) for feedstock directly into Rare Earth separation plant, low LaCe contentMixed REE mineral concentrate (typically 20-40% TREO grade), high LeCe content, requires substantial processing before suitable for feed to rare earth separation plant
Product Payability70-80% payability as mixed Rare Earth oxide/carbonate/chloride35-40% payability as a mineral concentrate
Processing - EnvironmentalNon-radioactive tailings
Solution treatment and reagent recovery requirments (somewhat off-set by advantageous supporting infrastructure)
Tailings often radioactive (complex and costly disposal)
Legacy tailing management
Processing - Refinery
(Typically not on Mining site)
Simple acid solubilisation followed by conventional REE separation
Complex recycling of reagents and water
High temperaturte mineral "cracking" using strong reagents to solubilise the refractory REE minerals
Complex capital-intensive plant required
Radionuclide issues follow REE mineral concentrates
Advantage of Ionic Adsorption Clays (IAC)

Significant project and cost advantages with ionic clay projects like Makuutu vs hard rock REE projects

Mining/Processing StagesMakuutu Ionic Adsorption Clay (IAC)Hard Rock-hosted REE
Mineralisation
  • Soft material, negligible (if any) blasting
  • Elevated HREO/CREO relative to TREO head grade
  • Lower grade TREO (0.04 – 0.3 % TREO)
  • Hard rock; Bastnaesite and Monazite (LREO dominant); Xenotime (HREO dominant)
  • High La,Ce component of TREO head grade, ~ 5% HREO content
  • Higher grade TREO (> 0.7% TREO)
Mining
  • Bulk Mining, low relative operating costs:
    • Surface mining (0-20 m), 3 m of cover
    • Minimal stripping of waste material (strip ratio = 0.8)
    • Progressive rehabilitation of mined areas
  • Selective Mining, high relative operating costs;
    • Blasting required
    • Could have high strip ratios
    • Grade control requirements high
Processing Mining Site
  • No milling
  • Simple process plant, bulk process methods
  • Potential for static or in-situ leaching
  • Low reagent consumption at ambient temperature
  • Comminution, Intensive crushing and grinding required to liberate REE minerals
  • Beneficiation via simple screening a possible option
  • Expensive (flotation) reagents and utilities required to produce mineral concentrate
Mine Product
  • Mixed high-grade rare earth carbonate, +90% TREO grade product
  • Low La,Ce content (25-30%), high HREO/CREO content (70-75%), high basket value (US$39/kg REO)
  • Magnet metals ~ 33.3% (including 5% Dy+Tb)
  • High margin product
  • Mixed REE mineral concentrate (typically 20 – 40% TREO grade), gangue entrainment requires high product transport costs
  • High La,Ce content (~70%), low basket value per kg of product (US$13-20/kg REO)
  • Requires substantial processing (i.e. cracking) before suitable for feed to rare earth separation plant
  • Low margin product if mineral concentrate only
Product Payability
  • 70-80% payability as a mixed Rare Earth carbonate
  • 35-40% payability as a mineral concentrate
Processing - Environmental
  • Non-radioactive tailings
  • Solution treatment and reagent recovery requirements (somewhat off-set by advantageous supporting infrastructure)
  • Tailings often radioactive (complex and costly disposal)
  • Legacy radionuclide tailing management
Processing - Refinery
(Typically not on Mining site)
  • Mixed rare earth carbonate, +90% TREO grade product a highly desirable feedstock directly into rare earth separation plant
  • Simple acid solubilisation followed by conventional REE separation
  • Complex recycling of reagents and water
  • High temperature mineral “cracking” using strong reagents to solubilise the refractory REE minerals
  • Complex capital-intensive plant required, i.e. high capex requirement
  • Radionuclide issues follow REE mineral concentrates to cracking plant
  • Social licence to operate concerns re radioactive tailings

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