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MEI Online: Commodities: Metallic Ores: Rare Earths & Thorium: Latest News: June 18th 2015
:: Mintek Opens Rare Earth Pilot Processing Plant
Mintek, a South African company which specialises in innovative mineral and metallurgy research, has opened a pilot plant to demonstrate its new rare earth mineral extraction technology.
Speaking at the plant’s launch, Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi expressed hopes that the technology could be key to unlocking South Africa’s rare earth mineral resources.
South Africa has approximately one million tonnes of contained rare earth ores but deposits are largely scattered, as such they are largely held by a multitude of junior miners who do not have sufficient extraction technologies.
The Mintek plant employs extraction techniques that would allow ores from multiple sources to be processed together rather than individually.
“Many rare earth deposits are currently owned by junior miners and they are finding it very difficult to raise the money that is required to develop these projects.
“A significant portion of the costs of these operations is related to the refining of rare earths,” the company’s general manager of technology, Alan McKenzie explained.
Mintek has patented technology that pre-treats the ore to remove uranium and thorium before being processed to allow different deposits to be used together.
He called for private sector investment in order to take the technology forward to a commercial stage; the largest refineries process around 20,000 tonnes of ore per year but the cost of building a comparable facility could be as high as R8 billion.
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