In a news release, Defense Metals Corp. (DEFN:TSX.V; DFMTF:OTC; 35D:FSEQB) announced that on hydrometallurgical testing at its Wicheeda property in British Columbia, extraction of rare earth elements (REEs) from a flotation concentrate into a leach solution was high, at about 90%.
Treating the leach solution with limestone removed 94–100% of the impurities, such as iron, phosphorous and thorium, while losing 2–4% REEs.
Overall recoveries, from a bulk sample to a high-grade, mixed REEs hydroxide precipitate, were 70–75% total REEs. With reprocessing of the final leach resident, overall recoveries increased to 76–78%.
"These are exceptional results that show the Wicheeda REE deposit mineralization is readily amenable to processing via well-established flotation and hydrochloric acid leach/caustic crack REE extraction methods," Defense Metals CEO Craig Taylor said in the release. "Based on these positive results, we expect to finalize our plans to commence continuous pilot plant testing in the near future."
SGS Canada Inc., which conducted the testing, developed a flowsheet for processing the concentrate into a high-grade, mixed REEs hydroxide precipitate.
The company also identified a handful of ways to improve recoveries further. They include locked cycle testing to determine the results of recycling regenerated hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. Optimizing the gangue leach circuit could reduce the loss of REEs, and reprocessing the leach residue back to the caustic crack stage could increase overall REEs extraction. Other methods are adopting a two-step impurity removal process to reduce co-precipitation of the REEs and including hydrochloric acid and caustic regeneration in the process to reduce the overall consumption of reagents.
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