Existing infrastructure and technologies were used at the White Mesa Mill to produce REE Concentrate


Energy Fuels is working with the US Department of Energy. (Credit: Peggy Greb, US department of agriculture)

Energy Fuels has produced a rare earth element carbonate concentrate (REE Concentrate) on a pilot scale at its White Mesa Mill near Blanding, Utah in the US.

The firm used existing infrastructure and technologies at the Mill to produce REE Concentrate from one tonne sample of monazite sands is from a North American source.

The monazite sands are natural uranium ore that also contains high concentrations of REEs.

The high purity REE Concentrate is ready to be sent to a separation plant, following which final acceptance test work is planned at the downstream REE processing facility.

Moreover, the mill recovered the contained uranium, which is planned to be sold into the nuclear fuel industry, the firm said.

Energy Fuels to process three tonnes of monazite sands samples in two months

The company plans to process three tonnes of additional samples of the monazite sands in the next two months in order to further refine the process for recovering REEs and uranium.

Energy Fuels president and CEO Mark S Chalmers said: “While it is still early days, and we still have a lot of work to do, this is a proud moment, not just for me, but for the entire Energy Fuels team who has diligently worked on making REE concentrate production a reality.”

The company is negotiating with various parties to procure sources of monazite sands for processing and recovering REE Concentrate and uranium at the mill, on a commercial scale.

Additionally, the firm is discussing the potential sale of REE Concentrate to an REE separation facility.

In the past, the mill recovered other metals along with uranium from uranium ores. It also recovered over 54,000,000 pounds of vanadium as a co-product with uranium from Colorado Plateau’s ores.

Chalmers said that the use of existing infrastructure and technologies at the mill to recover the uranium and the REEs from monazite sands could avoid the years of permitting and development and reduce costs.

Chalmers added: “Assuming the Company is able to secure adequate quantities of monazite sands, we expect to be in a position to produce commercial quantities of REE Concentrate by early 2021.

“Successful testing at scale also demonstrates the importance of the White Mesa Mill in helping the U.S. re-establish its domestic REE supply chain.

“While the recovery and management of uranium and other radionuclides is a critical hurdle in REE production for most other facilities, it is a function the White Mesa Mill has performed successfully and responsibly for over 40 years.”

Energy Fuels is also working with the US Department of Energy and Penn State on the project to recover REEs from coal-based resources.