Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Great Western gets rare earth metal-making environmental permit for UK subsidiary

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 safety standards".
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 customers."
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 Western said.
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 specifications.
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 North America.
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 testing.
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.

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