Minerals technology company, Alkane Resources (ASX: ALK) has signed an agreement with a South Korean firm to develop new methods for refining zirconium and rare earths using an electrolytic process.
Alkane, through its subsidiary, Australian Strategic Metals will invest $1.8 million in a pilot plant being developed by Korea’s Zirconium Technology Corporation.
The plant will convert ores from Alkane’s Dubbo Project metals mine to high purity zirconium and rare earths such as neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium.
These materials are in demand for use in advanced industries such as the nuclear sector, the electric vehicle industry and electronics, but the market is dominated by Chinese sources.
These elements represent over 80 per cent of the Dubbo project’s projected revenue streams.
The technology is based on a carbon-free process to convert metal oxides into metals being developed in association with Chungnam National University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Daejeon in Korea.
According to Alkane the technology has the potential to cut processing costs by 50 per cent and produce very high purity metals.
It is rare for a mining company to invest in downstream processing, but should the technology succeed it will add value to its Dubbo resources of zirconium, rare earths, hafnium and niobium.
Alkane managine director, Nic Earner said the company had been monitoring development of the South Korean technology.
Earner said: “Once piloted and proven, we believe this technology has the opportunity to reshape the metallisation industry for (our) product lines.”
Picture: Wikipedia commons
Subscribe to our free @AuManufacturing newsletter here.