Great Western Minerals Group (CVE:GWG) announced Monday that its alloys processing subsidiary Less Common Metals (LCM) has received an environmental permit, allowing it to carry out the electrolytic production of rare earth metals at its new Hooton Park location, in Birkenhead, U.K.
The permit, Great Western said, has been issued by the U.K.
Environment Agency, and enables LCM to produce rare earth metals in
accordance with the "highest of national environmental, health and
Great Western president and CEO, Jim Engdahl, commented: "The process
of fused salt electrolysis of rare earth oxides to metals increases the
existing metal and alloy making capability at LCM into bulk production
of metals, principally for the permanent magnet alloy business.
"This represents one more step toward Great Western being the most fully integrated rare earth company in the world.
That, in turn, translates into additional self-sufficiency for our
production cycle and certainty of supply for Great Western's global
Earlier this year, Great Western said it successfully carried out the
first full-scale melt with LCM's newly acquired furnace at Hooton Park, part of the company's plan to significantly boost alloy production capacity at LCM.
The installation of the new furnace, which began in November 2011 and
was completed by mid-January 2012, was undertaken by a team comprised
of engineers from the furnace supplier, alongside LCM personnel, Great
After "extensive" testing of the power, water, vacuum and control
systems, the furnace was approved to start melting trials of
neodymium-iron-boron alloys for permanent magnet applications.
Subsequent trials, which continued into February, focused on the
production of alloys that fully conform to detailed customer
Photos and a brief video of the first pour with LCM's new furnace can be seen on the Great Western's website at www.gwmg.ca/lcm-first-pour.
Managing director of LCM's metals and alloys, Ian Higgins, added:
"The detailed design and production of the first two metal making cells,
which have now been received by LCM, was carried out by a leading
United Kingdom-based foundry technology company.
"The initial trials of the metal making system are scheduled to commence in May 2012.
"Our plan is to have six cells in full operation by the end of 2012
at a level of production that will fully supply the requirements for
LCM's recently commissioned strip casting furnace."
The company's specialty alloys are used in the battery, magnet and aerospace industries.
Great Western is an integrated rare earths company, with its flagship
Steenkampskraal mine in South Africa and exploration properties across
Earlier this year, the company said it completed the first phase of
its exploration program at the 474-hectare, former-producing
Steenkampskraal rare earth property.
The drill program had two primary goals: to provide information in
support of a fully compliant NI 43-101 resource estimate report for the
area, and to collect a representative mini-bulk sample for metallurgical
The program consisted of 39 diamond drill holes totaling 3,780
metres, including 17 holes for resource delineation, totaling 1,932
metres, and 22 holes dedicated to metallurgical sampling, 1,848 metres.
Assay results are pending and will be reported as they are received from
the laboratories, the company said.
The company also launched a 3,000-metre exploration program that will
include on-strike and down-dip drill holes at the Steenkampskraal
project, in order to test the extension of the mineralized vein system.
Great Western also announced that the first 125 metres of the decline
at the Steenkampskraal mine has been refurbished, with 50 metres
remaining to be completed.
The Steenkampskraal mine now contains a full complement of ancillary
buildings, including management offices, change houses, laundry service,
mine workshops, and storage facilities.
In addition to its Steenkampskraal rare earth property in South
Africa, Great Western also owns four rare earth exploration projects
throughout North America, and two rare earth processing plants through
its subsidiaries Less Common Metals in Birkenhead, U.K., and Great
Western Technologies in Troy, Michigan, where it makes rare earth
element-based specialty alloys.