Canadian company Orbite Aluminae Inc. announced on Tuesday it has successfully extracted the first commercial samples of heavy rare earth oxides and scandium from its aluminous clay deposit at its Grande-Vallee property in Quebec, aided by the use of its patented heavy rare earth and rare-metal extraction and separation technology.
Manufacturers, users and researchers of rare earth elements from around the world have combined forces to create a Rare Earth Technology Alliance (RETA), and among its first plan of action is to map out an education and outreach strategy to enable its members cope with the supply shortages currently enveloping users of rare earths.
With this development, Orbite Aluminae Inc. now asserts it is the only company by far in North America equipped with an operational and successful technology to pick up and separate heavy rare earth oxides, such as dysprosium and erbium, and rare metal oxides, such as gallium, scandium and yttrium, from shale clay.
This likewise contradicts the pronouncement of rare earths and metals expert Jack Lifton who earlier said that no non-Chinese company has yet to emerge as being successful in extracting rare metals.
"This is an important milestone," analyst Marc Johnson was quoted as saying by The Northern Miner Newspaper.
"Since not only is the successful extraction of individual rare-earths and in particular of scandium from the shale clays a first in North America, it also demonstrates that once captured within the circuit, the rare-earth by-products can be recovered with little to no loss to tailings."
Rare earth elements (REE) are 17 chemical elements in the periodic table. REE deposits contain the 17 elements, but their distribution and proportions vary. They are considered scarce because of the difficulty in finding them in high enough concentrations to be profitably mined. REEs with a low atomic number are generally known as light rare earths, while those with a high atomic number are categorized as heavy rare earths.
In almost all deposits, the concentration of heavy rare earths in their ores is very low compared to light rare earths. Heavy rare earth elements are used in the manufacturing of many products, including permanent magnets, rechargeable batteries, phosphors, and polishing compounds. Neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, yttrium, and terbium are the REEs most commonly used in these applications.
The Quebec-based junior said it will utilize the technique to recover individual rare earths as a byproduct of alumina production in as early as 2014, The Northern Miner Newspaper reported.
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