Defense Metals’ (DEFN.V) Wicheeda metallurgy tests achieve an eye-popping 90% REE extraction

02/18/2020

On February 18, 2020 Defense Metals (DEFN.V) announced that it has received final bench-scale hydrometallurgical test program results for the Wicheeda Rare Earth Element (REE) property.

DEFN’s Wicheeda Project is located in the Prince George region of British Columbia.  The company has completed a 2,000-meter drill program “designed to test the northern, southern and western extent of the Wicheeda deposit.”

“REEs ⁠- often referred to as the ‘Vitamins of Chemistry’ – are everywhere,” explained Equity Guru’s Greg Nolan a month ago,

“But there are concerns here in the West regarding supply, and it’s not exaggerated. China controls the lion’s share of the current global REE supply,” continued Nolan, “There’s no replacing REEs. Their properties are so unique—so unequaled—we’d be right-screwed if Xi Jinping were to suddenly slap a ban on exports.”

The one aspect of exploration and development that can trump all others—just ask any seasoned CEO in this arena—is metallurgy. – Greg Nolan

“Metallurgy is the science (some prefer the word ‘art’) of extracting valuable metals from their ores and modifying said metals for their intended use,” stated Nolan. “On October 23rd, Defense dropped news that should have prompted an arena wide standing oh.”

The company was optimistically targeting a total rare earth oxide (TREO) metallurgical recovery rate of 80%, and a TREO high-grade concentrate of 40% from these tests.

These (final) numbers were impressive:

  • a TREO metallurgical recovery rate of 85.7%;
  • a 48.7% TREO high-grade concentrate of cerium, lanthanum neodymium, and praseodymium oxides (Ce2O3+La2O3+Nd2O3+ Pr2O3)

The 85.7% recovery rate exceeded expectations. Taking a 4.81% head grade and achieving a 10.1 times concentrate of 48.7% also exceeded expectations.

Perhaps it would be unfair to expect the next set of results to meet that high benchmark, but that’s what happened.

“Samples of Wicheeda flotation concentrate used in a hydrometallurgical test program led to the successful development of a flowsheet capable of processing the concentrate to a high grade mixed REE hydroxide precipitate,” stated Defense Metals.

February 18, 2020 Hydrometallurgical test program highlights:

  • Initial processing via mild hydrochloric acid leach to extract gangue minerals while leaving REE (Rare Earth Elements) in the leach residue.
  • High REE extraction from flotation concentrate of ~ 90% into a chloride based leach solution with opportunities identified to increase recoveries even further.
  • Simple treatment of the leach solution with limestone achieved high (94-100%) removal of impurities such as iron, phosphorous, and thorium with only minor (2-4 %) REE losses.
  • Simple treatment of purified liquor with hydrated lime led to the production of a high grade 67.5% TREE (Total REE, see Table 1 for detailed composition) mixed REE hydroxide precipitate at high (99-100%) Critical REE recovery from solution.
  • Overall recoveries of 70-75% TREE from bulk sample to a high grade mixed REE hydroxide precipitate, and up to 76-78% TREE with reprocessing of the final leach residue.
  • Regeneration of 20% (w/w) hydrochloric acid from final process liquors for re-use in the leaching operation.

“These hydrometallurgical test results which showed REE extractions of ~90% from flotation concentrate, in conjunction with our recently released locked cycle flotation tests that produced a high grade 48.7% TREO concentrate, conclude a very successful year-long metallurgical flowsheet optimization process,” stated Craig Taylor, CEO of Defense Metals.

We believe these exceptional results show the Wicheeda REE Deposit mineralization is readily amenable to processing via well-established flotation, and hydrochloric acid leach / caustic crack REE extraction methods. Based on these positive results we expect to finalize our plans to commence continuous pilot plant testing in the near future. – Craig Taylor.

Military spending is a significant demand driver of REEs.

Companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems manufacture missiles that use rare earths metals in their guidance systems.

REEs are essential in military equipment such as jet engines, antimissile defence systems, satellites and lasers.

“Rare earth elements are crucial for high-tech manufacturing,” confirms The Verge, “These elements are produced mostly in China, and used in the US for everything from electric cars to missiles”.

REEs aren’t actually that rare.  What’s rare is to find them in sufficient concentration and continuity to build an economic mine.

DEFN stock price has been on a bit of a tear lately.

“Defense Metals’ focus in 2020 will be to complete development of the Wicheeda deposit hydrometallurgical flowsheet, initiate flotation pilot plant processing of the recently collected 30-tonne bulk sample and update the Wicheeda REE deposit mineral resource based on its highly successful 2019 drill campaign,” wrote Equity Guru’s Chris Parry two weeks ago.

“A lot of mining explorers don’t actually do much exploring, for fear that they may ruin a good story or get to the end of their CEO salary budget before they have to,” continued Parry, “Defense Metals has been doing the work, finding the good stuff, and doing so at a time when it really matters”.

The February 18, 2020 metallurgical test results strengthen that thesis.

– Lukas Kane

Full Disclosure: Defense Metals is an Equity Guru marketing client.

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