Geomega ready to scale up REE recycling — “We fully expect 2021 […]
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Watch Mr. Kiril Mugerman, President & CEO of GeoMega Resources, appear as a guest on CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia where he discusses his company’s innovative, patented rare earth recycling process. Air date: August 10th 2020.
Geomega Resources Inc, which is a rare earth cleantech developer for mining and recycling, is partnering up with USA Rare Earth, which is a funding and development partner of the Round Top Heavy Rare Earth and Critical Minerals Project in West Texas, to recycle rare earth–containing production waste. This waste comes from USA Rare Earth’s production of sintered neodymium iron boron permanent magnets (sintered neo magnets) in the US.
USA Rare Earth has committed to solar power for its Round Top Heavy Rare Earth and Critical Minerals Project in West Texas, saying the state’s sunshine levels make it the most appropriate form of energy for the site.
The process of manufacturing and machining sintered (compacting powder into a solid mass) neodymium magnet blocks generates up to 30% magnet chips and scrap, which needs to be recycled. “Every rare earth magnet factory produces waste; it is just the nature of the business because it is a difficult material to work with,” said Geomega Resources President and CEO Kiril Mugerman. “When Hitachi operated this plant, the waste was sent to Asia.” A neodymium magnet manufacturing facility that takes advantage of the full capacity of the equipment acquired by USA Rare Earth would generate somewhere around 600 metric tons of waste annually, which Geomega plans to recycle back into the North American REE supply chain.
As part of its mine-to-magnets strategy, earlier this year USA Rare Earth purchased the sintered neo magnet manufacturing equipment formerly owned and operated in North Carolina by Hitachi Metals America, Ltd. (Earlier post.) USA Rare Earth is currently evaluating options for the location of the plant, which will become the first neo magnet manufacturing plant in North America since the Hitachi facility ceased operations in 2015.
Geomega Resources (TSXV: GMA), a rare earth clean technologies developer, and USA Rare Earth, the funding and development partner of the Round Top heavy rare earth project in Texas, announced Thursday that they have entered into a letter of intent (LOI) to recycle rare earth-containing production waste from USA Rare Earth’s future production of sintered neodymium iron boron permanent magnets.
The $14 billion-a-year rare earth magnet market is more than 60% controlled by China which, under Made in China 2025, is increasingly using rare earth magnets in finished and semi-finished products, as opposed to exporting the magnets, and industry sources estimate the rare earth magnet market will nearly double by 2027.
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“The process of manufacturing and machining neo magnet blocks generates up to 30% swarf and scrap (up to 600t), which needs to be recycled. This and material from machining of other blocks will be the feed for Geomega’s recycling plant located in St-Bruno, Quebec which, after processing, could become a rare earth oxide feed required for USA Rare Earth’s magnet plant.”
Q: Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business? A: Yes, I recommend people try their best to think outside the box. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Try to be different in your approach which gives you a first mover advantage and, if you are successful, others will follow you.
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“How does my company, Geomega Resources, fit into the rare earths recycling cycle? Geomega uses chemical processing to extract and produce purified rare earth oxides that are otherwise trapped in magnets. The magnet cannot be directly reused, because often the shape, size, coating and magnetic specifications will be hard to match to a specific application. Geomega’s process allows us to recover the rare earths and to ship them to metal and magnet manufacturers that will be able to make new products to the specifications of the end users.”
“Today, the USA is already producing rare earth elements but the problem is that it’s all going to China. It goes to China and it is refined there. As it’s refined, it’s made into magnets. What we need to hear more is what the US has started taking steps towards now with the most recent proposal by Senator Ted Cruz to subsidize the purchases of those process materials when they are produced in North America. Right now, that’s looking like the most important and best step forward to take that control. We know that’s exactly what China does when they subsidize local producers. There are so many discounts for them, but that’s something that’s missing in the USA right now.” Kiril Mugerman
Geomega’s process allows the company to “maximize the reagent so that there is minimal to no waste,” he says. What waste there is is treated locally without the need to store trailings. Geomega’s process produces REE oxides with 99.5 percent purity, Mugerman says. The company is in the process of constructing a demonstration facility in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec, in the Greater Montreal area. Construction of the industrial complex was completed at the end of 2019 with final detail work underway. While the pandemic has delayed progress on the plant, Mugerman says he hopes it will be operational by year-end. Once operational, the plant will be able to process 1.5 metric tons in an eight-hour shift, he says.
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“China’s production of critical minerals from raw materials has come at a high cost to the environment,” says Kiril Mugerman, President, Geomega Resources. “Now e-waste is being recycled using the same polluting technologies. It is important to provide a cleaner solution to both primary ores and recycling. Just because recycling is helping to avoid unnecessary mining, it doesn’t mean that we need to recycle using an old, dirty process that harms the environment.”
Advanced engineering work continues on Quebec-based Geomega Resources’ rare earth demonstration plant with first production still slated for the end of this year or early 2021 despite COVID-19 related delays.
It’s been ten years since the first REE crisis and the problem is far from resolved but the first few seeds signal promise, and we may finally see a flower grow.
“We discuss company’s plans to recover #rareearths from magnets, with CEO Kiril Mugerman claiming they provide the most easily accessed and highest grade concentrate available. They have just completed a pilot plant so now the focus is on building a demonstration plant. We talk through the original plan to explore and develop their large Montviel deposit but after struggling to raise capital, they segued to #rareearths recovery.”
Jeff Falk, “The United States must reduce its dependence on China-dominated supply chains for critical goods, according to a new report by experts in the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and at the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute.”
Kiril Mugerman, “When you recycle magnets, you are dealing with material entering at an average 30 percent rare earth oxide (REO). It doesn’t matter if we are getting a magnet from China, the US, Canada, or wherever — it’s always going to be running at approximately 30 percent rare earths. And it’s not just any rare earths. It always has those four elements: Nd, Pr, Dy, Tb. We don’t have to deal with any of the low value elements, like lanthanum and cerium. Mines like that just do not exist. Even if you were to imagine a mine with a grade of 80 percent REO, only 20 percent to 30 percent of that would be the 4 HHREE which would make the HHREE content 18 to 27 percent. Again, this is just hypothetical because a mine like that cannot exist because REO distribution is controlled naturally and you cannot have a mine with one element and not the other. Chemically they just stay together. “