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American Critical-Metals Independence Starts Here.
Resource Nationalism dictates that, ‘naturally’, China will endeavor to benefit from the ownership and control of rare earth supply within its own jurisdiction. The Chinese government determines the amount of rare earth materials it allows to be produced and exported – China’s 14th ‘5 year’ economic plan continues this policy, ensuring that Chinese demands are satisfied.
This is of grave concern to the United States and its Western allies as this imminent supply shock caused by international shortages of critical rare earth materials could suddenly disrupt all economies outside China.
Ucore Rare Metals has long recognized and prepared for this eventuality via their resource and technology development plans, culminating in the ALASKA 2023 business model. A plan to build a near-term, secure, domestic rare earth metal oxide supply chain within the United States from US-allied resources, founded on a transformative processing technology – RapidSX; bolstered by downstream relationships with like-minded Western partners.
ALASKA 2023 will give Ucore ‘first to market advantage’ as a domestic critical metals supplier to the North American military and commercial industrial base.
Demand for Neodymium alloys and powders will be 250,000 tonnes higher than in 2020, requiring an unprecedented 300% increase in global production of neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium over the next ten years.
However, when peering into the outlook for the next decade to come, it becomes quickly apparent that the rapid demand growth of the 2020s will soon be dwarfed by the astronomical demand growth of the 2030’s – and therein lies the real defining challenge and opportunity facing the global rare earth industry today.
Voracious demand driven by the advent of electrical vehicles underpins the Ucore business model to develop critical metals processing technology for the Western World. And propels Ucore towards developing US rare earth oxide production facilities to begin the establishment of an independent US supply chain for these critical rare earth elements.
In the early-1990s, China began to strategically exploit its large supplies of rare earth elements, and without the strict labor laws and environmental regulations found in the United States, quickly began to satisfy the world demand at a fraction of the cost of US production.
By the early 2000s China produced 97% of the world’s rare earth elements, and in September 2010, a maritime dispute between Japan and China quickly alerted the Western world on just how dependent it had become on China for these critical metals.
Since 2009, Ucore has been focused on re-building a modern US rare earth element supply chain. Investing over $50 million to establish an advanced heavy rare earth element mineral resource at Bokan Mountain, Alaska and on internal research, development and acquisition of best-in-class technology for critical metals separation towards the development of the first modern rare earth oxide production facility in the United States.
Our vision at Ucore has always been to develop an independent and profitable, critical mineral (rare earth) supply chain, in the shortest time possible.
First guiding principle:
Secure and sustainable supply of all rare earth metals. The primary source for our supply will be from any and all allied country’s outside of Chinese control. Currently the only heavy rare earths, including the magnet metals, dysprosium and terbium, separated and purified on the globe today, are in China. Most of those metals are imported to China as concentrates and separated at Chinese processors.
Second guiding principle:
Discreet and scalable separation technology, means a process that’s green, that’s efficient, and can compete with Chinese products on quality, consistency and price.
Third Guiding Principal:
Stem-to-stern, the complete supply chain, upstream and downstream must be independent to make our business plan work for the North American industrial and military complex.
The RapidSX™ platform is an accelerated solvent-extraction (SX) based separation technology for the separation of critical and other metal feedstocks. With the early stage support from the United States Department of Defense’s (US DoD) US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) program, RapidSX™ was successfully demonstrated using a pilot-scale SX circuit for the separation of rare-earth elements (REEs) derived from both light REE (LREE) and heavy REE (HREE) feedstocks.
The RapidSX™ technology combines the time-proven chemistry of SX — the international REE industry’s standard commercial separation technology, currently used by 100% of all REE producers worldwide for bulk commercial REE separation — with a proprietary column-based platform, which significantly reduces time to process completion and plant footprint, through a significant reduction in the numbers of processing steps required.
The work to date indicates the potential for significant technical and economic efficiencies for producing commercial-grade REE oxides (REOs).
A Planned 2,000 TPA HREE & LREE Separation & Purification Facility for the Production of REO