Aussie rare earth developer realises ‘exceptional’ recoveries with pilot program

Rare earth mineral and mineral sands mine developer VHM Ltd (ASX: VHM) has released the results from a test program at its world-class Goshen project. The pilot-scale test confirmed that the project’s Rare Earth Mineral Concentrates (REMC) are highly amenable to conventional processing to produce a Mixed Rare Earth Carbonate (MREC) product.

Rare earth mineral and mineral sands mine developer VHM Ltd (ASX: VHM) has released the results from a test program at its world-class Goshen project. The pilot-scale test confirmed that the project’s Rare Earth Mineral Concentrates (REMC) are highly amenable to conventional processing to produce a Mixed Rare Earth Carbonate (MREC) product.

According to test results, recoveries of 97% of critical light rare earths Neodymium (Nd) and Praseodymium (Pd), and 92% and 94% of critical heavy rare earths Dysprosium (Dy) and Terbium (Tb) respectively from the REMC feed are achievable using the processing pathway developed at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) test facility.

“The performance of the Pilot Hydromet Plant is outstanding. These recoveries are world leading and meet required specifications of Western strategic offtake partners. The success of this plant opens opportunities for VHM to partner with other industry players,” VHM Managing Director Graham Howard said.

Designed to emulate commercial operating levels, the Pilot Hydromet Plant ran continuously for 120 hours using a conventional Sulphate Bake path followed by Water Leach and Purification stages to produce more than 100 kilograms of MREC filter cake. The final MREC product had between 2.5-3% total impurities which offers advantages to the refining process.

Moreover, the test program validated the process flowsheets developed during the pre-pilot testwork at a larger and continuous scale. It also confirmed previous testwork that exceptional high extractions to water leach (99%) can be achieved with overall recovery rates to final MREC expected from commercial processing of the Goschen orebody.

Image: VHM Limited. Process flowsheet to convert REMC to MREC.

“VHM can now provide valuable intellectual expertise to strategic partners who will benefit from knowledge sharing and the proof of concept of this Pilot Hydromet Plant,” Mr Howard said, confirming that samples of the MREC product meet the criteria for potential domestic, European, North American, and Asian offtake partners for specification testing and to advance discussions regarding commercial offtake. 

Moving closer to production and world-leading potential 

Data from the pilot testwork program will be used to inform the Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) design work for the commercial scale Hydromet Plant and will be provided to key vendors to lock in procurement. VHM will also assess opportunities to accelerate the schedule of development as and when reasonable proposals become available.

“It should be noted that a large part of this processing success is due to the unique and favourable mineralogy within the Goschen ore body,” Mr Howard said. 

Located in the premier mineral sands province in North-West Victoria, VHM’s 100%-owned Goschen Project has a substantial deposit of 413,107 tonnes of total rare earth oxide and its first production of REMC, zircon and titania products remains on schedule for 2025 with production of MREC product to follow.

VHM has identified a total resource inventory of 820Mt across its portfolio which includes an initial 192Mt of total heavy mineral resource in its Cannie project. The company believes it has the potential to accumulate one of the world’s largest critical mineral inventories.

The Cannie project 13.5 kilometres south of Goschen hosts grades of the rare earth minerals, zircon, rutile, and leucoxene notably higher than most of those at the more advanced Goschen project.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Reach Markets has been engaged by VHM Limited to assist with their investor communications and may receive fees for its services.

 

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