Success for Kvanefjeld refinery pilot plant

25 September 2015

The first phase of a refinery pilot plant to extract uranium and rare earth metals from the Kvanefjeld deposit in Greenland has met or exceeded its targets during a 250-hour test run.

The Kvanefjeld refinery pilot plant at Outotec's research laboratories in Pori, Finland (Image: GMEL)

Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd (GMEL) is working to develop the process route for the Kvanefjeld project in southern Greenland, which comprises several large multi-element deposits. Resource estimates announced in February include 593 million pounds U3O8 (228,100 tU) and 11.13 million tonnes TREO (total rare earth oxide).

The plant, at the research laboratories of minerals processing specialist Outotec in Finland, piloted the first phase of the refinery process: the production of a high-purity rare earth concentrate free of uranium and thorium. The plant operated continuously for around 250 hours, using mineral concentrate produced from Kvanefjeld ore at a concentrator pilot plant in Finland earlier this year. Overall, about 250 kg of rare earth and uranium mineral concentrate was treated.

Uranium extraction of about 85% was broadly in line with those expected in feasibility study design assumptions, while rare earth extractions, at about 95%, exceeded the 77% extraction assumed in the feasibility study.

Subsequent phases of the refinery pilot program, culminating in the production of a product containing a mixture of rare earths for further processing, are scheduled to continue into October.

The refinery pilot plant work, and subsequent work to demonstrate rare earth separation processes, is partially financed by the European Commission-funded EURARE project set up to encourage development of a sustainable rare earth element industry in Europe.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News