Greenland Minerals Ltd (ASX:GML) is encouraged by an overview of the production of by-products from the Kvanefjeld Rare Earth Project which indicates that they are likely to deliver economic and environmental benefits.
Kvanefjeld is expected to be one of the world’s largest producers of rare earths (RE) when developed and there is potential to enhance the project with by-products including uranium, zinc and fluorspar, which will be recovered during production of the RE intermediate product.
The project is set to produce in excess of 30,000 tonnes per annum of rare earth oxide in an intermediate product, which will contain very ‘significant’ quantities of the critical magnet rare earths neodymium, praseodymium, terbium and dysprosium.
Rare earth market price
At current prices, RE is forecast to contribute more than 90% of project revenues, however, the incremental cost of by‐product recovery is low and revenue generated would contribute to improving economics by lowering RE production costs.
Importantly, the recovery of by‐products has the effect of removing environmentally adverse elements from the tailings streams thereby reducing the project’s overall environmental impact.
The Kvanefjeld deposit contains a large low‐grade uranium resource, of which a significant proportion is hosted within the main RE minerals.
To produce a high‐purity intermediate RE product it is necessary to remove the uranium via a uranium recovery circuit.
Uranium would be recovered as uranium peroxide (UO4) and would meet specifications set by uranium conversion facilities.
Recovering uranium also reduces the volume of uranium disposed of in tailings and residual radioactivity in the project area.
Zinc occurs throughout the Kvanefjeld deposit at a grade of approximately 0.23%.
The zinc would be recovered in a flotation concentrate at the first stage in the RE production process and the removal of zinc prior to RE flotation, reduces the chemical treatment stages in the refinery circuit.
Zinc concentrate will contain around 50% zinc, which is comparable to other zinc concentrates traded internationally, and the project will annually produce around 6,000 tonnes of zinc concentrate to generate approximately US$6 million per annum (1% of revenue) after allowing for treatment charges.
The Kvanefjeld deposit contains the water-soluble mineral villiaumite which is the source of fluoride in the project area.
In the upper levels of the deposit, much of the villiaumite has been dissolved by groundwater and as a result, the levels of fluoride in groundwater are naturally elevated.
Kvanefjeld will produce metallurgical grade fluorspar (Metspar) which is used in the production of steel, cement and ceramics.
The project will annually produce 12,500 tonnes of high-grade Metspar.
Fluorspar would add approximately US$4 million per annum of revenue.
Annually, by-products would generate US$60 million in revenue for the project, reducing the cost of producing REs by approximately US$1.90 per kilogram, or 40% of the cost of producing an RE intermediate product in Greenland.
This ensures Kvanefjeld will be one of the lowest‐cost, globally significant producers of rare earths.