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Ucore, Materion unite for Pentagon REE bid

 

Last updated 1/10/2020 at 4:13am

Ucore Rare Metals Inc.

Rare earth oxides produced from a solution derived from Ucore's Bokan Mountain mine project in Southeast Alaska.

Ucore Rare Metals Inc. Dec. 23 announced that it is collaborating with an Ohio-based advanced material manufacturer to respond to an open request from the Pentagon for a strategic assessment of the domestic heavy rare earth element (HREE) market, in conjunction with an engineering evaluation of the viability of HREE separation capabilities at various sites within the United States.

Materion Corp., Ucore's new Ohio-based colleague, is an advanced materials supplier with a unique product portfolio that includes high performance alloys, beryllium products, clad metal strip, composite metals and ceramics.

Ucore and Materion have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a rare earth consortium for the purpose of preparing and submitting a bid to the U.S. Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) program, which ensures the U.S. Department of Defense has the materials it needs by making investments to close gaps in defense manufacturing capabilities and create and sustain reliable sources that are critical to Pentagon's focus on readiness.

Materion brings nearly a century of advanced metals research and manufacturing, as well as extensive experience in working with the federal government, to the association.

"Materion is pleased to team with Ucore to bid on this strategic project for the United States," said Materion President of Performance Alloys and Composites Clive Grannum. "This initiative complements Materion's existing relationships across the U.S. government for critical materials supply, most notably our beryllium mining, separation facility and metal processing operations in Utah and Ohio. Entry into the American HREE market also leverages Materion's well-established supply channels and dedicated customer base. We look forward to exploring alternatives for a domestic, multi-stage solution to America's increasing need for these strategically important metals."

Ucore brings the Bokan rare earth mining project in Alaska and roughly a decade of REE separation and market research to the consortium.

"Ucore and Materion together offer the U.S. federal government a single-source solution to meet the urgent need for a domestic HREE supply chain," said Ucore Rare Metals President and CEO Jim McKenzie. "Ucore's broad experience in the REE technology markets and comprehensive work in analyzing multiple separation technologies and feedstock sources, along with the significant financial support of the state of Alaska, make us a natural choice for domestic HREE development. Materion's extensive background in U.S. government contracts, together with more than 60 years' experience in advanced solvent extraction technologies and existing sales presence across American advanced materials markets, makes for an unparalleled partner for this important initiative."

The consortium is further bolstered by the team of technical advisors and suppliers Ucore has assembled as it looks to develop a next generation rare earth separation facility.

These advisors include SGS Canada, a testing and certification firm that has invested significantly in solvent extraction design and testing facilities; Mech-Chem Associates, a Norfolk, Massachusetts-based engineering and design firm; and Solvay, a Belgium-based advanced materials company that has formulated a solvent extraction product specifically for heavy rare earths.

"Beyond the core members, the team will benefit from the involvement of internationally known advisors such as Solvay of Belgium for deployment of SX reagents, SGS of Canada for metallurgical consulting expertise, and American engineering firm Mech-Chem for plant configuration and design," said Jeff Green, president of J.A. Green & Company, a Washington D.C.-based government relations firm that specializes in defense contracting. "Together, the team is well qualified to devise a commercially sustainable HREE production regime for the U.S."

More details on these companies and what they bring to Ucore's plans to develop a HREE separation plant can be read in Ucore builds REE separation plant team, published in the November edition of North of 60 Mining News.

Drawing upon the established history of its member companies, this consortium offers extensive critical metals experience, and a secure avenue for the federal government to invest in a domestic HREE supply chain, including industrial plant design, construction, operations management and financing.

Ucore and Materion expect that their bid will represent the only heavy REE supply chain option to be fully sourced and controlled within the U.S.

Pursuant to a successful bid under the IBAS program, Ucore and Materion have agreed to jointly conduct a strategic assessment of the domestic HREE market and an engineering evaluation of related separation capabilities within the United States. Such an evaluation will consider the viability of multiple U.S. and U.S. allied rare earth element feedstock sources.

–SHANE LASLEY

 

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