Ucore advancing Bokan toward feasibility
Looking to capture more metals in mine section of M3 plan
Last updated 2/21/2020 at 4:02am
Ucore Rare Metals Inc. Feb. 6 said it is taking a closer look at the mine portion of its mine-to-metal-to-market "M3" strategy for its Bokan-Dotson Ridge rare earth project in Southeast Alaska.
Introduced by Ucore in September, M3 includes three initiatives to meet the needs of an independent rare earth supply chain in the United States – advancing its Bokan-Dotson Ridge to shovel-ready status; developing an associated facility to separate the rare earths found at Bokan into individual metals; and developing and cultivating a North American market for these REEs.
In order to advance the mine component of the M3 plan, Ucore has engaged SGS Canada Inc. to advance the design of the prospective first-stage mineral processing plant at Bokan.
The initial stage of the SGS engagement will involve lab scale optimization of the mineral processing beneficiation flowsheet for the Bokan mill. As part of the design process, SGS will consider the recovery of a variety of co-product critical elements not previously incorporated in the prior flowsheet design.
Preliminary testing carried out last year indicate that beryllium, zirconium, niobium, and hafnium could be viable co-product elements present in the two existing leach streams in the current recovery systems being considered for Bokan. Incidental concentrations of titanium and vanadium, two more critical metals, are also present in the Dotson Ridge deposit and are being considered for recovery.
Using the flowsheet for a 2013 Bokan Mountain preliminary economic assessment as a base reference, SGS will perform a series of mineralogy studies and metallurgical tests, introducing potentially valuable collateral metals into the mineral concentrate.
The revised and upgraded 2020 flowsheet is expected to optimize the beneficiation processes for the rare earth elements, and consider the incorporation of the co-product metals niobium, zirconium, beryllium, hafnium, titanium, and vanadium.
This laboratory optimization process will include a variety of sample size fractions in preparation for forthcoming pilot-scale testing of the Bokan mill design and finalization of the 2020 flowsheet.
"The development of the Bokan mineral resource is a pillar of Ucore's portfolio of business assets," said Ucore Rare Metals President and CEO Jim McKenzie. "Ucore is committed to the continued development of the Bokan project, with aspirations of ultimately developing a proven mineral reserve through the continued support of our shareholders, other stakeholders, and the possible U.S. government funding opportunities that are being pursued."
Determining the flowsheet and which metals will be recovered is vital to finalizing the second part of M3, the Alaska Strategic Metals Complex (SMC), a commercial scale REE separation facility slated to be built near the town of Ketchikan, which is about 30 miles from Bokan.
"Defining the initial Bokan-site mill output before it reaches the planned Alaska SMC is an essential phase in the execution of Ucore's technical and engineering initiatives for the Bokan Project," said Ucore Rare Metals COO Mike Schrider. "With this important next step, we'll build upon previously executed work, while maximizing the mine's potential output via the integration of available co-product metals
In 2020, Ucore plans to carry out additional testing of materials from the Bokan project and expects to learn about the federal government's various decisions to contribute funding to develop separation facilities that can produce rare earths in the U.S.
If these circumstances are positive for the development of the M3 plan, then the company plans to work on a feasibility study for the Southeast Alaska critical metals project, currently expected by early 2022.