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Australian Strategic Materials higher on producing high-purity zirconium metal at Korean plant

The production of high-purity zirconium from commercial-grade zirconia is an important milestone for ASM, particularly for the development of its strategically important Dubbo project.

Australian Strategic Materials Ltd - Australian Strategic Materials higher on producing high-purity zirconium metal at Korean plant
Zirconium metal powder produced at the Ziron Tech Pilot Plant in Korea

Australian Strategic Materials Ltd (ASX:ASM) has produced 8.6 kilograms of high-purity zirconium metal at the commercial pilot plant of subsidiary Ziron Technology Corporation in South Korea.

Zirconium powder produced with the help of Ziron Tech has 98% purity and just 1.5% hafnium.

Successful production of high purity zirconium metal from commercial-grade zirconia is an important milestone for ASM with the company also receiving confirmation that the sample meets Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) standards.

Shares at new high

Shares continue to rise on the back of strong newsflow from the Korean technology work and today are up more than 15% to $4.17, a new record high while ASM’s market cap is approximately $325 million.

The planned flowsheet for ASM’s Dubbo Project in Central West NSW incorporates the production of both industrial-grade zirconia and dehafniated zirconia (ZrO2) as well as hafnium oxide (HfO2).

This will be done using a process patented by Australia's Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTO) with ASM having an exclusive global licence.

“Significant” for Dubbo Project

ASM managing director David Woodall said: “The production of zirconium metal is a significant result for ASM and the potential development of the Dubbo Project.

“The successful production of zirconium and the other metals planned to be produced at Dubbo has enabled ASM to optimise the project flowsheet.

“In the 2018 FEED study, the plan was for the project to produce predominately zirconium oxychloride (ZOC), today’s result will see the percentage of ZOC reduced significantly to focus on and meet the high-purity zirconium metal and hafnium production targets, with potential benefits in the capital and operating costs.”

Crucial for Korean market

ZironTech has received confirmation that the laboratory sample of dehafniated zirconium metal previously produced from Dubbo ore and submitted to KAERI meets its standards.

Approval of KAERI is crucial for the Korean market as the company has chalked out plans to produce 2 tonnes of high-purity dehafniated zirconium before the end of the year.

ASM has now successfully produced key permanent magnet metals of neodymium, praseodymium, neodymium-praseodymium alloy, dysprosium, titanium metal, titanium alloy, titanium metal powder, and zirconium using its innovative metallisation process.

Focus on constructing new plant

The company is now focusing on producing 250 kilograms of neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) metal, to be turned into sintered permanent magnet samples in partnership with the Korean Institute of Rare Metals (KIRAM) for the Korean market.

Work on the production of ferro-dysprosium and ferroniobium is scheduled for the current quarter and this will mark the completion of the metallisation of the final products sourced from the Dubbo Project.

Woodall said: “I am returning to Korea to continue investment discussions, oversee the design and construction of a 250 kilograms per day continuous metal plant in Korea, and to continue advancing discussions for a potential partner in the metal business.”

Dubbo Project

ASM’s cornerstone Dubbo Project has a long-term resource of ‘critical materials’ including zirconium, rare earth, niobium and hafnium.

These materials are used in a range of sustainable technologies and new manufacturing industries such as renewable energy and electric vehicle production.

ASM, together with its partners, is advancing oxide separation and metallisation technologies to create a range of value-added materials from the Dubbo Project.

Quick facts: Australian Strategic Materials Ltd

Price: 3.96 AUD

ASX:ASM
Market: ASX
Market Cap: $471.44 m
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Australian Strategic Materials focused on new plant construction and talks...

Australian Strategic Materials Ltd's (ASX:ASM) Dave Woodall speaks to Proactive's Andrew Scott soon after announcing they've produced 8.6 kilograms of high-purity zirconium metal at the commercial pilot plant of partner Ziron Technology Corporation in South Korea. Zirconium powder produced with...

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