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Rainbow Rare Earths enters into rare earths separation technology agreement

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Global Mining Review,

Rainbow Rare Earths Ltd has announced that it has entered into an exclusive intellectual property licensing agreement (the agreement) with K-Technologies, Inc. (located in Lakeland, Florida, USA) to use its rare earths separation technology in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Technology highlights

  • K-Tech has developed a continuous ion exchange and continuous ion chromatography intellectual property (IP), suitable for use in the downstream separation of rare earth elements into separated rare earth oxides or carbonates in phosphogypsum applications, such as at the company’s Phalaborwa asset in South Africa.
  • The K-Tech process achieves the separation of rare earth oxides in fewer stages with greater flexibility leading to significant capital and operating expenditure savings compared to traditional technology, which uses numerous solvent extraction (SX) steps to achieve the same results.
  • Apart from the economic benefits, the process eliminates the use of the toxic and highly flammable solvents and diluents required for SX with significant environmental and safety advantages for the project.
  • The technology has undergone successful bench and pilot plant scale testing in rare earth separations from leach solutions and has been successfully applied in commercial applications in a number of different industries including the sugar, lysine, base metals, potassium, and phosphate chemicals industries, as well as various biological and specialty chemical applications.
  • The technology targets individual rare earths in solution and therefore the requirement to separate a full spectrum of rare earth oxides is removed, creating substantial efficiencies in a processing circuit.

In the case of Phalaborwa, K-Tech would be capable of developing the IP to target the specific rare earth oxides of value within the asset’s gypsum stacks, namely neodymium and praseodymium (Nd/Pr), dysprosium (Dy) and terbium (Tb), which together account for virtually all of the value of the basket. This would generate cost savings and simplify the overall separation process, allowing Rainbow to realise a higher value from the separated rare earth products compared to the sale of a mixed rare earth carbonate as originally envisaged at Phalaborwa.

Key points from the agreement

  • Rainbow has secured the exclusive IP licensing rights to the technology for use on the separation of rare earth elements from phosphogypsum opportunities across the SADC region in Africa for an initial period of four years.
  • The IP rights, if deployed as envisaged at Phalaborwa and any other phosphogypsum projects, would remain in place for the life of each project.
  • Rainbow is not required to make an upfront payment for the technology. A licensing fee of up to US$5.5 million will be paid for each project at which the technology is deployed as part of the construction capital.

George Bennett, CEO, commented: “We believe that this agreement provides Rainbow with a significant competitive advantage and that the IP is ideally suited to our Phalaborwa Project, where it would enable us to focus on the separation of only the most valuable rare earth oxides within the basket – Nd/Pr, Dy and Tb, which are all critical building blocks for the green revolution.

“If the results of a successful Preliminary Economic Assessment currently underway at Phalaborwa are achieved using this proven separation technology, the IP will bring considerable benefits. In addition to the anticipated CAPEX and OPEX savings, when compared to a traditional separation circuit, the IP will enable Rainbow to participate efficiently in the downstream separation process, allowing us to capture the full rare earth oxide price for our material.

“We are also excited to be in a position to utilise the technology to secure an interest in other rare earth phosphogypsum opportunities in the region, where we believe tremendous value can be unlocked.”

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