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Peak Resources: pilot plant can produce high purity rare earth oxides

Peak Resources (Peak; ASX: PEK; OTCQX: PKRLY) has completed the Solvent Extraction Pilot Plant work for its Ngualla Rare Earth Project in Tanzania with the production of the fourth and final separated high purity rare earth oxide.

Importantly, this positions Peak as one of the few companies outside China to have practically demonstrated the entire process route from feed mineralisation to production of high purity rare earth oxide products.

The pilot marks the last step in the practical demonstration of processing of Ngualla’s mineralisation to high purity separated rare earth oxide products through the three metallurgical stages of beneficiation, sulphuric acid leach recovery and solvent extraction.

Pilot Plant

The delivery of both a high purity +97% cerium oxide product and a +90% cerium oxide using a simpler process marks the conclusion of the six month Solvent Extraction Pilot Plant operation at ANSTO Minerals' test facility near Sydney.

This has demonstrated that Peak has the technology to produce high purity rare earth oxide products from the Ngualla mineralisation and provided samples for evaluation by potential offtake partners.

It has quantified operating data to accurately determine separation plant capital and operating costs.

Cerium Oxide

The fourth and final product, high purity cerium oxide, has been produced in two forms to study cost and marketing options for this lower priced product used in the catalyst and glass polishing industries.

The first form, a 97%* purity cerium oxide, was produced via classic solvent extraction techniques.

As the majority of cerium was recovered earlier in the process, only enough solution remained for batch tests rather than a continuous operation.

ANSTO Minerals is confident that a +99% purity product will be achievable in a continuous operation where full equilibrium of solutions will be established.

The second form, a +90% purity cerium oxide, was produced by direct precipitation. This simpler method of production can potentially offer cost savings as it is a single stage process and uses cheaper reagents.

A cost benefit analysis will be completed to determine the optimum method of cerium production as part of the current Pre-Feasibility Study.

However, cerium oxide represents just 8% of predicted revenue from the Ngualla project. The real drivers are the neodymium-praseodymium and mid+heavy high purity oxide products that together contribute 85% of projected annual revenue.

Independent Confirmation of High Value Product Purity

Adding to Peak’s achievements, London Metal Exchange certified Laboratory Services International has independently verified the samples of the neodymium-praseodymium and mid+heavy high purity oxide products exceed 99.9% purity.

In addition, the radioactive elements of thorium and uranium could not be detected, being below the very low detection limit of 0.5 parts per million.

Analysis

The completion of testwork on the 1.3 tonne bulk sample from Ngualla is a key milestone, clearly demonstrating that the company can produce the high value neodymium-praseodymium products from the project.

Notably, the key differentiator against other peers is that Peak is one of a handful of companies outside of China to have practically demonstrated the technology to produce high purity rare earth oxides from source mineralisation.

High purities also add value by allowing access to wider markets for Ngualla’s products.

Cerium production from Ngualla represents just 8% of predicted revenue. The lower priced cerium and lanthanum oxides are relative by-products at 15% of total project revenue.

The real value drivers for Ngualla are the neodymium - praseodymium and mid + heavy high purity rare earth oxide products  which together contribute 85% of projected annual revenues. 

This is likely to be good timing for Ngualla as it comes on stream as high value strategic rare earths are predicted to be in high demand in coming years.

The successful operation of the Pilot Plant and detailed engineering data as a result neatly segues as input into the Pre-Feasibility Study now in progress.  There are milestones ahead for Peak.

 

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