Canada’s entry point to a domestic North American rare earths products production center

Why is Appia Energy Corp.‘s (CSE: API | OTCQB: APAAF) Alces Lake discovery of an accessible extensive hard rock deposit of the rare earth bearing mineral, monazite, so very important to the non-Chinese world’s demand for magnet rare earths? It is because Appia’s monazite is, in fact, the neodymium rich variant, which is the most desirable for the production of rare earth permanent magnets. it is not only rich in neodymium (Nd) and praseodymium (Pr), but also contains 1% of xenotime, the best heavy rare earth bearing hard rock mineral.  

Monazites are typically up to 50% higher in contained Nd and Pr than bastnaesite, the ore mined at Mountain Pass by MP Materials Corp. (NYSE: MP) and the residual mineral from China’s Baotou region iron mining, which up until recently was the world’s most-produced source mineral for light rare earths. Lynas Rare Earths Limited (ASX: LYC) is currently the world’s largest producer of rare earths derived from monazite deposits at Mt. Weld in a remote area of northern Australia.  

Monazites are produced today as a byproduct of the processing of heavy mineral sands to recover zircon and ilmenite, respectively the ores of zirconium and titanium. Until recently processing monazite for rare earths was inhibited by the fact that monazites always contain radioactive thorium and sometimes uranium. The monazites were thus returned to the tailings from these operations and in the USA the environmental regulations required that they be returned to the worked-out deposits and distributed so that the residual background radiation was equal to or less than it was before the deposit was worked. 

In the last five years as Chinese bastnaesite deposit grades have declined and mining created pollution has become a big problem in China the Chinese rare earth industry has begun to import very large quantities of monazites from the USA, Madagascar, South Africa, Brazil, and Australia. All of this material was produced as a byproduct of heavy mineral sands processing for zircon and ilmenite. 

In order to solve the thorium/uranium problem, China requires that all imports of monazite go first to China Nuclear Corporation, which removes the thorium and uranium, and then ships a clean mixed rare earth carbonate to the Chinese refiner that ordered the material. China nuclear is licensed to process up to 50,000 tons of monazite containing up to 30,000 tons of total rare earths a year.    

In the USA the only licensed uranium mill, Energy Fuels Inc.‘s (NYSE American: UUUU | TSX: EFR) White Mesa Utah facility, has replaced China as the destination for monazite produced from its heavy mineral sands operations in Georgia by US Chemical Group, Chemours. Energy Fuels removes the uranium, which is a payable for Energy Fuels, and is storing, legally, the thorium, which has been committed to a medical radioisotope group. The first clean mixed rare earth carbonate produced by Energy Fuels from the Chemours’ monazite has already been sold to and shipped to Neo Performance Materials Inc.‘s (TSX: NEO) European solvent extraction rare earth separation facility. 

Appia is working with Canada’s and the world’s most attractive (Report’s the Fraser Institute) mining investment jurisdiction, the Province of Saskatchewan. The Province’s Saskatchewan (Mining and Refining) Research Center, the SRC, has agreed to develop a hydrometallurgy for Appia’s monazite and the SRC has already designed and begun the construction of a 3000 ton per annum rare earth solvent extraction separation facility, where the separation and purification of Appia’s monazite will be proven and piloted in what will be Canada’s anchor for a total rare earth permanent magnet supply chain. Saskatchewan is the home of Canada’s uranium mining industry and so the sale of any recovered uranium and the storage (or use) of any recovered thorium is not a problem. 

North America is well on its way to becoming a world center of monazite processing, and Appia is Canada’s entry point to a domestic North American rare earth products production center. 

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11 responses

  1. Rare Earths Investor Avatar
    Rare Earths Investor

    I commented on the recent Energy Fuels presentation from a Uranium conference and maybe you could offer an opinion on the following Mr. Lifton? Do you see any major differences between the US DoD and DoE in terms of their RE funding objectives, the entities that they are selecting to award and size of the amounts being awarded?

    If I remember correctly, REEMF got the only larger award from the DoE but the rest of the awards have been relatively small (e.g. MP and Energy Fuels plus a number of uni’ depts). In contrast, the DoD awards to Lynas, MP, Urban Mining and EMAN were siginifcantly larger.

    Any comments to help investors would be gratefully received.

    Thank you, GLTA

  2. Jack Lifton Avatar
    Jack Lifton

    The Federal bureaucrats of both the DoE and DoD are lifetime employees. When they need advice on how to accomplish assignments given to them to seek solutions (NOT to implement them!) to questions of policy they either speak to each other or to approved academics. Neither group usually has any practical hands on experience. Academics, of course, recommend giving grants either to themselves or to other academics who they portray as subject matter experts. The bureaucrats cannot approach actual hands-on experienced industrial experts, because most of them have actual jobs and thus the bureaucrat could be accused of favoring the industrial expert’s employer.
    Thus experienced people are simply excluded from the government bureaucracy’s selection.
    The lightweight “technical” journalists and the sector “analysts” are usually also consulted by the bureaucrats. This we get grants awarded to companies with good public relations and investor relations, not to those with actual successful experience in the subject matter.
    DoE is looking at the politics of coal. The DoD is trying to find a way to say that they “studied” the matter .
    I think that North America will have a total domestic rare earth enabled products supply chain for about one-half of its needs sometime after 2025. The DoD is only (rightly) concerned with defense production. The smartest private sector manufacturers will back such supply chains for their own or their own industry’s needs.

    1. Pete Rozelle Avatar
      Pete Rozelle

      Once upon a time this type of work was in the domain of the U.S. Bureau of Mines. And it did contribute to commercial production in the U.S. domestic supply chains.

  3. Joe o Avatar
    Joe o

    Jack. Thinking out loud re: energy fuels and monazite. Think medallion resources potentially could be working with energy fuels re: their monazite sand process. Supposably economics look pretty solid. Re: other REE companies. Any home for ucore rapid SX tech? Your colleague Gareth Hatch company IMC has been working on it awhile. See any possibilities for success. reemf and tmrc seem to be churning forever, was hopeful they would accelerate their progress. Thanks

    1. Jack Lifton Avatar
      Jack Lifton

      Energy Fuels needs no help from Medallion or anyone else in extracting the rare earths from monazite. EF’s process already exceeds 95+ % efficiency. I can’t comment on EF’s choice for a dedicated SX technology for the rare earths, but it certainly is the only rare earth processor in the Americas with a continuous 35 year history of running SX (for Uranium/Vanadium separation).

  4. joe 0 Avatar
    joe 0

    Jack. Let me rephrase. If energy fuels decides not to send overseas ( Estonia?) for separation. Doesn’t it make sense to work with mdl in any capacity. Or one of the new fangled separation tech that either ucore, tmrc, reemf or Purdue university is working on
    Can’t see the economics long term shipping overseas for separation. Same with MP if they can’t get their SX working ( profitable)in US

    1. Marie Avatar

      As I understand it the big difference between Medallion and UUUU is that the prior can use and will be using its technology worldwide and at any location. UUUU is just here. Period.

      1. Jack Lifton Avatar
        Jack Lifton

        The issue in processing monazite is to have the legal right and chemical skills to separate the radioactive components, uranium and thorium as well as the license to resell them or store them. The USA today has just one such legal private entity with those characterostocs, Energy Fuels. Medallion will not receive a license to handle and dispose of radioactives from any nation where it may find monazite, because it does not have the necessary background or skills. Legacy separation technology is fine; no special technology is required.

  5. Marie Avatar

    If APPIA is now “Canadas entry point”, what about Vital Metals which you have reported on many times?

  6. Joe o Avatar
    Joe o

    Ucore/vital metals. Ucore needs to secure funding for specialty metals complex. And prove their separation tech, rapid sx. If it happens, actually a nice combo.

  7. joe 0 Avatar
    joe 0

    Wonder why we are still just talking SX still when the last 10 yrs tmrc, ucore, reemf etc have been trying to move forward with newfangled techs. I know jack touted ucore when MRT was being tested ( “ game changer”) and I think at times showed real excitement for tmrc and reemf separation techs. Really haven’t heard much since. Purdue combo of ligand assisted chromotography sounds like a combo of MRT and Tmrc tech. Sure would love an update on what once where all hyped to kingdom come.

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