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American Rare Earths partners with US research organisations

The date of: 2022-02-15
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American Rare Earths partners with US research organisations to produce new rare earth processing technology


“As we develop our world-class mining projects, our strategy is to also focus on new and disruptive technologies while building our processing and refining capabilities,' says American Rare Earths CEO Chris Gibbs.

American Rare Earths Ltd (ASX:ARR) has partnered with leading research and development organisations in the US to develop new bio-based, sustainable technology for the extraction, separation and purification of rare earth elements (REEs). 

ARR’s US subsidiary Western Rare Earths (WRE) is partnering with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Penn State (PSU) and University of Arizona (UA) researchers to use a naturally occurring protein to extract and purify REEs from abundant, domestic ore-based feedstocks and waste materials without harming the environment. 

Establishing domestic supply chain for REEs

Currently, China produces the majority of REEs, including yttrium and scandium.

“The absence of reliable, largescale and long-term supply severely limits commercial applications of scandium,' said LLNL scientist Dan Park, principal investigator of the project.

“We need to explore and exploit new sources and technologies to establish a domestic supply chain for scandium and yttrium for next-generation clean energy technologies.”

In the project, funded by the Department of Energy's (DoE) Critical Materials Institute, the researchers turned to the protein lanmodulin, which PSU's Center for Critical Minerals team member Joseph Cotruvo discovered.

This discovery enabled a one-step quantitative and selective extraction of REEs from electronic waste and precombustion coal — capabilities that other chemical extraction methods do not offer.

Through a collaborative effort between LLNL, PSU, UA and WRE, the team plans to develop a scalable, all-aqueous, protein-based method for high-purity recovery of the REEs scandium and yttrium from low-grade, abundant domestic allanite ore.

“Competitive advantage”

“The researchers affiliated with CMI, LLNL, UA and Penn State’s Center for Critical Minerals are the competitive advantage for the USA in its mission to responsibly secure this supply chain,” said CEO of Western Rare Earths, and president, North America of American Rare Earths, Marty Weems.

“The prospect of a sustainable, reusable, high-efficiency process that could extract, separate and purify scandium, yttrium and individual, high-value, rare earth magnet metals could revolutionize the industry.

“The simplicity we see in the technology could bode well for scaling to industrial production.

“We are honoured and humbled that CMI and the research team has chosen us as team member and will be using our Wyoming- and Arizona-sourced ultra-low thorium content feedstocks.

“This project is an excellent fit to our mission to resource the renewable future responsibly.”

Allanite feedstock from WRE is preferable as a source, as it holds low levels of thorium and uranium, elements that commonly co-occur in rare earth mineralisation and pose environmental and economic burdens due to their radioactivity.

The team’s lanmodulin-based approach offers several advantages over prior methods, including compatibility with low-grade leachates, elimination of harmful solvents and the ability to achieve high-purity separation of certain critical REEs.

American Rare Earths CEO and managing director Chris Gibbs said: “The US team led by Marty Weems have worked diligently to establish our presence on a number of top tier rare earths innovation programs.

“Thanks to the team’s efforts, we are well-positioned to play our part and be at the forefront of new technology.

“As we develop our world-class mining projects, our strategy is to also focus on new and disruptive technologies while building our processing and refining capabilities.

“We are excited by the progress being made and I congratulate the US team on their work towards our vision of transformation into a leading vertically integrated, sustainable supplier of minerals essential for a renewable future.”

About American Rare Earths

American Rare Earths owns the highly prospective La Paz Rare Earths Project, 170 kilometres northwest of Phoenix, Arizona.

The project’s resource of 128.2 million tonnes at 0.037% total rare earth elements is less than 30 metres below the surface and is contained within just 525 acres of ARR’s total La Paz footprint of 5,143 acres, pointing to potential resource upside.

As a large tonnage, bulk deposit, La Paz is also potentially the largest-rare earth deposit in the US and benefits from containing very low penalty elements such as radioactive thorium and uranium.

The Critical Materials Institute is a US DoE Energy Innovation Hub led by Ames Laboratory that seeks to accelerate innovative scientific and technological solutions to develop resilient and secure supply chains for rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean-energy technologies.

The research team includes Park and Ziye Dong from LLNL, Cotruvo and Sarma Pisupati from Penn State, Hongyue Jin from the University of Arizona and Weems from Western Rare Earths.

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