The Alkane Resources (ASX: ALK) Dubbo Zirconia Project is looking at a possible expanded startup capacity, given demand for niobium concentrate and yttrium and rare earth products has increased significantly.
Located 30 kilometres south of the large regional centre of Dubbo in the Central West Region of New South Wales, the Dubbo project is considered one of the most advanced developments for zirconium, niobium, yttrium and rare earth production.
The development would see the project become a significant producer of the commercially important zirconium chemicals, zirconia, yttrium, dysprosium and terbium outside of China.
China’s export control and environmental legislation to ensure emissions minimisation and energy consumption efficiency has meant that metals such as dysprosium (Dy), terbium (Tb), and yttrium (Y) are expected to be in short supply by consuming industries outside China.
The company said further development work is required to confirm the commercial viability of the Dubbo project yttrium and rare earth products. However, it is anticipated that the circuits will be added to the demonstration pilot plant.
The Demonstration Pilot Plant is located at Lucas Heights, south of Sydney, has been operating continuously since 2008 and has proven the flow sheet for the DZP.
Primary metal output from the Dubbo project was considered to be zirconium chemicals and a base case ore throughput of 200,000 tonnes per annum.
However, the company said, given the increased demand for rare earth products, niobium concentrate and yttrium, a larger production scenario of 500,000 tonnes per annum would be supported by the large in ground defined resources – at an expanded open pit mining rate – with mine life in excess of 200 years.
At the expanded production rate, the Dubbo project could produce 22,500 tpa (7.5ktpa ZrO2) of zirconium basic sulphate (ZBS), zirconium hydroxide (ZOH); zirconium carbonate (ZBC) and ZrO2, 2,500 tpa (1.75ktpa Nb2O5) of Nb -Ta concentrate; 2,475 tpa (REOs of LREE concentrate and 753tpa (REOs).
The Dubbo project is based upon a large inground resource of the metals zirconium, hafnium, niobium, tantalum, yttrium and rare earth elements.
The market for zirconium and niobium products products continues to expand, with new applications being developed and an expected significant increase in the demand for zirconium metal for nuclear power energy requirements.
With 40 nuclear reactors under construction, a further 110 planned and 272 proposed (World Nuclear Association), due to the characteristics of zirconium metal, no substitution is anticipated and demand for nuclear grade zirconium metal is expected to increase dramatically over the next ten years.
Recently, the Lucas Heights demonstration pilot plant has produced its first light rare earth and yttrium-heavy rare earth products.
These products have major economic potential driven by environmental legislation to ensure emissions minimisation and energy consumption efficiency.
In the current work program the Lucas Heights demonstration pilot plant has confirmed the process flow sheet, and is providing engineering data for capital and operating cost estimates, and has also generated substantial product for market evaluation.
Marketing activities are advanced with direct contact with potential customers in Japan, Europe and North America, and zirconium and niobium product samples being sent to Japan, China, Europe and North America.
Source: Proactive Investors