“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. “
The Economist, “Many of the elements used in smartphones are finite resources and have no functional substitutes. Rather than digging in the ground for the elements needed for new handsets it makes sense to extract them from old phones – but only about 10% of handsets are recycled now. So recycle your phone if you get a new one this year. Why? It is you might say, Elementary.”
Check out our posts on social media for an example of recycling rare earths below. The picture shows the magnets from an older pair of headphones compared with newer ones. The old ones are from over 10 years ago and have a ferrite magnet, which is big, bulky, and produces fairly bad sound. The new ones are much better. The red circle marks the NdFeB (Neodymium) magnet in the modern headphones, which weighs about 0.65 grams.
“We realized that there is this niche opportunity to enter a market where we are processing rare earths — not from a mining concentrate, but from industrial use and end-of-life applications…. Now, we are going to be buying it, processing it, producing rare earths and we will be the first rare earth producer in North America.” Kiril Mugerman
Lowering the risk when scaling up — that’s my main technological risk. Everybody knows that there is always a risk in scaling-up, but doing it in small steps is a big advantage. The ISR technology has been scaled-up. This is the final iteration of the pilot plant. Proprietary technology, environmentally safe, small footprint, low CAPEX, as I said. Why environmentally safe? Because the recovery of my main reagents is +95%. I don’t have liquid effluent coming out of my plant. It’s very important because I’ll show you where I’m developing my plant. Then, iron oxide — 70% of this is magnet is iron. When they recycle those magnets in China, usually the iron goes together with their waste hydrochloric acid into the tailings facility. Basically, it’s a red mud issue. We don’t want to be dealing with red muds, especially where I am outside Montreal.
The permanent magnet market — it was 160 thousand tonnes in 2018. Today, it’s closer towards two hundred thousand tonnes. That market is growing. Every single magnet that has to be made produces 15-30% waste by weight. That’s a lot of magnet to be recycled. We are starting with the first plant of approximately $10M ten million dollars in sales and growing to full capacity within the plant, then probably looking to add a second plant as soon as possible close to magnet manufacturers. Most of them are in Asia, but you’re seeing more and more interest of some of those manufacturers to come to Europe and North America. That magnet sector today is generating $1.2 billion dollars annually. It’s expected to grow to $1.8 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money and it’s a sector that we want to take a big chunk out of. We think we can generate a lot of revenues and that’s why we think it’s a very good opportunity to invest in GEOMEGA today.
“Japan will conduct the financing through a government-owned resource investment company: the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp., or Jogmec. Legislation will be revised to allow it to take stakes in rare-earths smelting projects. Processing facilities, which have a large environmental impact, are now primarily concentrated in China. And Beijing has employed its dominance in rare earths to exert pressure before. In 2010, it quietly cut exports to Japan amid a dust-up over a territorial issue. Jogmec will also take steps to ensure Japan’s stable access to cobalt, a mineral used in lithium-ion batteries, to counter Chinese enterprises securing rights in Congo. The resource company could spend up to around 20 billion yen ($182 million) in all on both efforts.”
Strengths of Geomega as per @GITI_SG on twitter,
“It is environmentally benign recycling, not messy mining. The project is feasible at current rare earths prices. No use and disposal of ten thousands of tons of acids for processing, but in-house recovery of >90% of recycling agents used. Geomega turns out only the hot items among the rare earths. This project helps alleviate the rare earths inherent imbalance of by-products, i.e. hard rock mining (massively) overproduces 9 rare earths products in order to meet demand of 5 hot rare earths products. 4 of the 5 hot rare earths products plus cobalt will be produced by Geomega through recycling. Geomega’s know-how is proprietary, not licensed from China. Different from other western recycling companies, who try to pry out grams of rare earths from consumer electronics at hugely disproportionate cost, Geomega will recycle industrial magnets in larger quantities and can therefore offer China-competitive prices.”
Quebec-based GeoMegA Resources has developed a proprietary, environmentally-friendly ISR technology that recycles rare earth elements using magnet residue and recycled magnets as the main source of feed. The company intends to process feed from magnet manufacturers, alloy makers, and recyclers across Europe and the US at it’s Canadian facility. The company uses organic, solvent-free proprietary technology to isolate and purify four high demand, high priced rare earth elements, which represents an estimated 30% of annual global demand for rare earth elements and 80% of the total market value.
Why are we doing all this? It’s the circular economy principle. Once we are doing this recycling, it closes the production cycle as Europe and North America are trying to do right now. I’ll finish by saying that rare earth prices are low, but that’s what drives demand and demand is positive for innovation and recycling. That’s where we are today in the rare earth cycle. Low capex, low opex, small footprint, clean process, and cash flow — these are the objectives of the company in the near future. Thank you very much.
Kiril Mugerman: We are recycling those magnets. When we receive them, what happens is that we crush them if we receive them as solids. Sometimes we receive them as powders already, which is crushed material. Then it goes into a reactor where a process happens. It’s a sequence of three reactors where basically a process goes from one to the next one to the next one and we get our final product. The closer it goes towards the end of the process, the more similar to a traditional process. The first stages are very different and innovative, and do not produce the same waste that are produced in traditional technologies today.
However, Quebec and Canada are light years away from having an integrated industry, says Kiril Mugerman, president and chief executive officer of Ressources Géoméga, an SME from Boucherville that owns the Montviel rare earth deposit. , in the Nord-du-Québec region.
“The sooner we produce oxides in North America, the faster we will attract companies capable of making alloys,” he insists.