Friday, 16 March 2012

Rare Element Resources starts separation and heavy rare earth testing at Bear Lodge

Rare Element Resources (AMEX:REE) (TSE:RES) said late Thursday that it has started both separation testing and metallurgical heavy rare earth testing of materials from its Bear Lodge project in Wyoming - in an effort to determine the best methods for extracting rare earths from the property.

The company has inked an agreement with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization to develop and test a process to produce separated rare earth products from concentrates derived from ore material at Bear Lodge.

In addition, Rare Element has also begun metallurgical testing of drill core samples from the three areas at the property that were found to contain high-grade heavy rare earth elements. This heavy rare earth work is being done at Mountain States R&D International in Vail, Arizona.

"We are very fortunate to have engaged ANSTO and MSRDI for our test work," said chief operating officer, Jaye Pickarts.

"They both have excellent international reputations in the REE scientific community. As we continue our research into the processing of the ore types at Bear Lodge, we are working to determine the most comprehensive and economic methodology for extraction of the rare earth elements that our potential customers will want."

For the separation study, which will be conducted in two phases, the company's strategy is to begin production of a bulk, mixed rare earth carbonate, and then progress to the separation of the bulk concentrate into heavy rare earth elements products using solvent extraction technology.

As the work advances, Rare Element said it could adjust the product suite to add or further separate additional products.

The first phase of the study, taking place over the next few months, will identify whether any further purification processing is required for the production of a mixed rare earth carbonate. The second phase will identify solvent extraction processes that will chemically achieve the desired separated rare earth element products.

Once this is done, the company plans to continue separation testing for individual rare earth oxides, the specifications of which will be determined by customer requirements, it said.

For the heavy rare earths testing, the company will conduct hydrometallurgical concentration testwork on 2011 drill core obtained from the Carbon, East Taylor and Whitetail Ridge areas at Bear Lodge. According to exploration results from last summer, these areas have been found to contain significantly higher concentrations of heavy rare earth elements.

The company said preliminary exploration of these western areas indicate high grades, greater than 3% rare earth oxide, and substantial quantities of light rare earth elements, along with some of the highest grades of heavy rare earths in North American rare earth element deposits.

The oxidized-mineralized bodies in these three areas are particularly enriched in europium, terbium, dysprosium, and gadolinium, with locally high yttrium.

The test work will focus on creating an upgraded rare earth element pre-concentrate, using a combination of physical and chemical processes, followed by further concentration using the process already developed for the Bull Hill deposit.

Rare earths elements refer to the lanthanide group of 15 specific elements, plus scandium and yttrium, used for everything from smartphones to guided missiles. Some of the major applications include hybrid automobiles, advanced wind turbines, computer hard drives, metal alloys in steel, additives in ceramics and glass, and many others.
While some rare earths are relatively common, they are dispersed in a way that makes it difficult to find deposits with high enough  ore grades to economically exploit.
Due to their unique attributes, new applications are constantly being developed for rare earths. Demand for the metals is expected  to continue to grow steadily as China, which produces 97 percent of the world’s rare earths, has cut exports by more than half of  2004 levels to 30,000 tons in 2010.
Rare Element Resources said Thursday that it has been, and continues, to negotiate with some "highly recognized companies" for potential off-take partnerships.

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