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Alaska REE facility targeted for 2020

 

Last updated 3/16/2018 at 4:18am

IBC Advanced Tech REE MRT separation rare earth refinery Southeast Alaska

Ucore Rare Metals Inc.

The Strategic Metals Complex being planned for Ketchikan will be a commercial scale version of SuperLig-One, a pilot plant that successfully demonstrated the ability to use molecular recognition technology to separate rare earth elements.

Ucore Rare Metals Inc. March 5 said it plans to be producing rare earth elements at its Ketchikan, Alaska Strategic Metals Complex, or Alaska SMC, in 2020.

The exploration turned innovation company said it is now entering the second phase of due diligence for the Alaska SMC, a facility that will utilize molecular recognition technology to separate rare earths and produce individual REE oxides used in many high-tech applications.

As part of its due diligence, Ucore is now looking for a good location within the Ketchikan Gateway Borough to set up the rare earth separation facility.

The Gravina Island Industrial Complex is one location that might fit the bill.

Located across a narrow passage from Ketchikan, regular ferry service could transport workers from the Southeast Alaska town to an SMC on Gravina Island. This easy access to a plentiful workforce would allow SMC employees to go home to their families at night, an arrangement good for the worker, employer and community.

"The residents of Ketchikan have expressed a great interest in our Alaska SMC project" said Ucore COO Mike Schrider. "We're pleased to finally be in a position to reveal our initial schedule highlights as well as additional aspects of the design and planning process as they materialize in the immediate term."

Other due diligence activities include finalizing engineering designs for the SMC; determining the costs to build and operate the facility; and selecting feedstock for the REE separation plant from a short-list of competing alternatives.

"The decision to embark on the engineering design is a significant milestone for Ucore and Alaska; as together we accelerate to becoming a technology-based producer of individual, saleable REE oxides in the worldwide market," said Ucore President and CEO Jim McKenzie.

Ucore envisions ramping up production of the SMC over a roughly four-year span – with the first phase of the facility, slated for completion in 2020 or 2021, able to process 1,000 metric tons of rare earth concentrates per year. The second phase would increase throughput to 2,500 tpy and by 2024 the company plans to have the facility processing 5,000 tpy of REE concentrate.

In 2014, the Alaska Legislature authorized the Alaska Import Development and Export Agency to invest up to US$145 million to help finance the development of a mine at Ucore's Bokan Mountain rare earth deposit about 32 miles from Ketchikan as well as processing facility for the operation.

Ucore still has plans to develop a mine at Bokan Mountain, but after it has the separation facility processing concentrates from outside sources.

"We envision the Alaska SMC as the first component of the nearby Bokan Dotson Ridge rare earth element project's surface complex," said Ucore Vice President of Project Development Randy McGillivray.

Once completed, Ucore plans to submit the engineering, business and construction plans for the state-of-the-art Alaska SMC to AIDEA for consideration under the Legislature's authorized funding package.

"Ucore is in a position to construct a state-of-the-art rare earth separation facility that is neither energy-intensive nor a threat to air and water quality," McGillivray added. "We have the opportunity to permit and construct the first large-scale REE separation facility using clean-green molecular recognition technology, in an environmentally sustainable and safety conscious manner."

–SHANE LASLEY

 

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