IMAGE: BioLantanidos Project Director, Mr. Arturo Albornoz; Mining Regional Chief, Mrs. Victoria Fariña.; and Mayor of Bio Bio, Mr. Rodrigo Diaz, observe a container with REE concentrate | Bio Bio Regional Government
On Thursday October 29 was held the official visit to the first plant of ‘Rare Earths’ of Chile and South America, located in the commune of Penco in the Bio Bio region. On that occasion authorities like the Regional Mayor, the Mining Regional Chief and the Mayor of Penco learned more about BioLantanidos Project.
Just over a year ago a group of engineers, geologists and other professionals of the Bio Bio region embarked in a project of unique features… the creation, from the very base, of the industry of the so-called ‘Rare Earths’, a group of minerals widely required around the world for manufacturing technology such as notebooks, smartphones, televisions and wind turbines, among others.
The project was challenging, with a country like China leading the global supply and production of these elements and with little information on methodologies and processes required in the industry. However, these challenges were those who led this group to develop the skills to achieve their goal.
That was how, in record time for the mining industry, BioLantanidos professionals managed to create the Pilot Plant ‘El Cabrito’, the first plant in Chile and South American entirely dedicated to the production of these items.
‘El Cabrito’ is a Metallurgical Test Plant created for research, application and/or technological verification, which will allow the company to obtain valuable information on this new industry with a view to creating the first commercial plant, scheduled for the first quarter of 2017.
Details of the Pilot Plant
The Pilot Plant ‘El Cabrito’ consists of two production processes bounded: one is used internationally, the heap leaching, and the second is proposed by the company, a continuous plant that recirculates the elements necessary for its operation.
Both processes were build to compare the efficiency of the ‘Rare Earths’ production methods existing today with the one proposed by BioLantanidos, created 100% by Chilean professionals, and that will become the newest Lanthanies production process to date.
The Pilot Plant has a capacity of 1 tonne per hour of clays containing ‘Rare Earth’, meanwhile, the first commercial plant will process about 200 tons per hour of clay (a ton of clay has about 250 grams of REE Concentrate, ie, all the elements together).
Chilean authorities highlight potentialities of BioLantanidos
During the official visit, which included the presentation of BioLantanidos Project and a tour around the facilities of the new Plant, authorities from the Region of Bío Bío were optimistic about this new industry and talked about the advantages of the project.
“The purpose of this visit was to present to the authorities, the Mayor, the Regional Chiefs and the Directors of the Services, how is the project, what is the size of the project, how we are doing the extraction, how well we are doing and how we will develop the project in the future, because in December we are ready to enter the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the first commercial plant that will be installed here”, said Arturo Albornoz, Project Director of BioLantanidos.
For his part, the Mayor of the Region of Bio Bio, Mr. Rodrigo Diaz Worner , said: “For me it was a very pleasant surprise to know the development that this project is taking. The bonding, the virtuous articulation that is being achieved between the management team, its consultants and the University of Concepción. Rediscovering an industrial potential, linked to mining, on the edge of knowledge and located within the region of Bio Bio, it is really remarkable”.
“The capacity for innovation is noticed and the challenges that I have heard in the presentation, and then on the tour, talks about a company that wants to be world class. Also I see tremendous potential: the location in the site they want to exploit is close to the port, therefore, the supply chain can be shortened. It is a huge competitive advantage. And I also find it very significant that there is a desire for transparency and ethics and respect for the environment and communities”, said the highest regional authority.
“I find it extremely interesting. I think that what we have to do from the Regional Government is to give all facilities so that this project can be developed correctly, obviously, fulfilling all existing environmental regulations. But the concept that is leveraged here and the fact that investors in the region are those who are driving this process, gives us many assurances that we can succeed in this”, concluded Diaz.
The Regional Chief of Mining, Victoria Fariña Concha, complemented the words of the Mayor stating that “Project BioLantanidos crowns a new era in mining (…) not only changes the face of mining in the region, but it will also change the face and is a new era for mining in the country, and why not say, in South America”.
Finally, the Mayor of Penco, Victor Higo Figueroa, added that “we are very fortunate to have a reservoir of these features, first, because of its particularity: we are the only viable site out of which exist today in China, putting Penco within a map of a product reservoir as necessary, especially in modern and contemporary times, such as the lanthanides. That makes us feel extremely fortunate”.
“Fortunately, here what has been proposed by the company is to make a project with full support, first, to the legislation, and secondly, friendly to the environment. And that for us is of tremendous importance, because one of the questions that always generates such projects is how bad it will be with their environment (…) I said to the executives of the Project that it would be ideal to dream and not just get the ore and export, but maybe a treatment to these raw materials, and for this exists the University of Concepcion, for this exists Innova Bio Bio, that’s what Corfo does. “
“Today, after the tour through the Pilot Plant, it was clear to me that the environmental damage is minimal, almost zero, and the benefits are endless (…) I applaud this initiative, I congratulate this project, I have great faith that it will be a success”, concluded the communal authority.