Rare Element Resources developed rare earth element (REE) extraction/separation technology in 2013. The patented recovery process resulted in a high-purity, total rare earth concentrate while recycling reagents and water in pilot-plant testing.
World-Class Technology Partner and Majority Shareholder
In 2017, an affiliate of General Atomics (GA), one of the largest, most advanced technology companies in the world, took an equity position in Rare Element Resources. As a leader in new technology development, both commercially and for national security, GA is aware of the importance of developing a secure, domestic supply of critical REEs. The Company, our proprietary recovery process, and the Bear Lodge Project are the cornerstones of their efforts.
Since then, GA and its partners have brought the full force of their technology development team to refine and enhance the extraction/separation process. In 2020, the first high-grade, separated REE product (neodymium/praseodymium) was produced from Bear Lodge material. This was done at a lower cost and in a more environmentally sound way than traditional industry methods.
Extensive pilot-plant testing was undertaken at Europe’s Umwelt-und-Ingenieurtechnik GmbH (UIT) labs in Germany. General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) and LNV, an Ardurra Group, Inc company, were integral members of the team. The process involves four steps:
Step 1: Physical Upgrading – crushing and screening of the feed sample to 1mm sizing allowing for more surface area for the subsequent steps.
Step 2: Primary Hydromet Processing – counter-current leaching and selective precipitation separates out the waste and a majority of the naturally occurring radioactive material normally associated with REEs.
Step 3: Separation and Refining – chemical digestion and solvent extraction, removes the thorium and cerium (not currently a marketable REE). The process allows for a high recycling rate of process streams and a significant reduction in the production of waste material.
Step 4: REE Separation/Refining – a multi-step process allows for removal of the Nd/Pr at a >99.5% purity (high demand magnet material), as well as SEG (samarium/europium/gadolinium), lanthanum and a heavy rare earth concentrate.
The primary goal of the Demonstration Plant is to validate the Company's REEs extraction/separation process at a scale sufficient to provide design and performance data, as well as economic metrics for a potential follow-on, commercial-scale extraction/separation facility. In 2021, the partners announced completion of a financial award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office in the amount of $22M. This money is dedicated to the design, permitting, licensing, construction and operation of the planned demonstration plant. Further, in November 2022, the Company was named a grant recipient from the Wyoming Energy Authority (WEA) for an additional $4.4M to support non-federal costs. Collectively, these funds will cover more than half of the expected $44M in costs.
As of early 2023, the development team and the DOE have completed design of the demonstration plant, which will be built in Upton, WY. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license is expected in summer 2023, and construction is expected to commence in the second half of 2023.
Planned REE Processing Demonstration Plant
To be Located in Upton, Wyoming