On thursday 16th the Project Director of Minera BioLantánidos, Arturo Albornoz, participated in the IV Version of the Mining Seminar (Semin) organized by the Universidad de Concepción (UdeC).
On the occasion, through the exhibition “Innovation in the Value Chain and Suppliers in Mining in the Medium Term”, the Metallurgical Civil Engineer of the UdeC referred to the current status of the Rare Earth Elements project led by him in Penco and the advances of the industry.
In this context, the executive mentioned that in recent months the interest in these metals has increased considerably, mainly due to the increase in the use of permanent magnets made of Lanthanides which are used in booming industries, such as electric vehicles and robotics.
“BioLantánidos is the only project of its kind in the country, focused on resources that are not currently being exploited in Chile. Our country exports around 9, 10 elements, and with the opening of our project we will increase the matrix in 15 elements”, said Albornoz.
To this, he added that the initiative “has a high technological value, since everything we are doing and what we could do with the Rare Earths is focused 100% on Innovation and Development”.
“We are developing the industry from the base. This has meant having to reconvert geologists, metallurgists, chemists, analysts and commercial engineers, among others, to understand what geology, mining, metallurgy and commercial areas of this project are like. That is, everything from scratch”, the engineer added.
However, this work has had important results in terms of the evaluation and positioning of BioLantánidos. As the Project Director mentioned, “The other thing that has meant this, I can say with great joy, is that when we travel out of the country everyone recognizes us” as an attractive actor in the global Rare Earths industry, which is currently led by China, a nation that has been strongly questioned for its invasive extraction processes and being unfriendly to the environment.
In this environmental context, the Director was emphatic in stating that “If there is something that we do not comply with, we can not develop it, so we study and analyze in depth the processes to be able to comply with the legislation in Chile. That has been our development framework since the beginning”, he said, considering that all the company’s methodologies and processes comply with current regulations and are focused on developing the Lanthanides industry in a traceable and sustainable way with the environment.
Without going any further, as a result of the company’s determination to comply with environmental regulations, it conceived some of its most crucial developments, such as its patented metallurgical extraction method called Continuous Closed Leaching Process (CCLP). The CCLP respects the environment optimizing the extraction of Lanthanides through the recirculation of water and reagents (biodegradable), obtaining Rare Earths concentrate with purity superior to 92% through a low use of natural resources.
Along with the above, Albornoz emphasized that the initiative “depends 100% of our capacity for innovation and development. We have had great support from the Chilean Production Development Corporation (Corfo), universities, and we have had interest of young professionals who want to get involved in this area (…) BioLantánidos took the path of Innovation and Development in a real and concrete way at an early stage, we live thanks to the application of everything I + D in the Value Chain”, he added.
“Innovation has allowed us to position ourselves as one of the most competitive projects in the world, and we hope to continue on this path and continue to integrate into the Value Chain” of Lanthanides, the executive said. “We have to go step by step: we were able to produce the Rare Earths concentrate, next year we will see if we are able to produce the oxides -each of the elements separately- and I hope that by the end of next year, in 2019, we are able to produce Lanthanides metals in Chile”, he concluded.
It should be noted that the project is close to presenting its Environmental Impact Study, in order to develop its first commercial plant in the city of Penco in the period 2018-2019. This will have a processing capacity of up to 240 tons/hour of granitic maicillo with presence of Lanthanides, to produce between 1,000 and 1,700 tons per year of Rare Earth oxides.