The RapidSX™ platform is an accelerated solvent-extraction (SX) based separation technology, developed by Innovation Metals Corp. (IMC) 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).

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES OF RAPIDSX vs. CONVENTIONAL SX

Based on previous pilot-scale test work done by IMC and current expectations:

CAPEX

Based on previous piloting work undertaken by IMC, IMC estimates a considerably reduced number of separation stages per SX circuit and the resultant smaller physical plant footprint with RapidSX compared to conventional SX facilities, which could potentially result in start-up capital cost savings. These expectations are contingent on the specific feedstock utilized and resulting REE products and purities desired.

RAPID PROCESS COMPLETION

As a result of the significantly increased kinetics of the RapidSX technology, the time to achieve separation process completion is dramatically accelerated – from weeks (as is typical in the case with conventional SX) to hours/days with RapidSX™.

OPEX

Based on previously undertaken piloting work, IMC estimates that the significantly reduced RapidSX separation times, reduced reagent and power consumption, reduced manpower requirements, and reduced in-process metal inventories, compared to utilization of conventional SX, could potentially result in reduced operating costs, depending on the feedstock and resulting REE products.

FEEDSTOCK AGNOSTIC

Due to its modular configuration and reduced number of stages, RapidSX is capable of readily reconfiguring for separating LREE-rich, HREE-rich and/or even blends of mixed REE feedstocks.

TURNKEY SOLUTION

The IMC team has vetted out best practices for lean manufacturing supporting “quick-to-market” strategies, providing RapidSX end users a turnkey commercial solution for onsite REE separation.

SCALABLE & MODULAR

The RapidSX technology’s process lines are modular and scalable, providing future expected licensees with the opportunity to scale commercial production capacity.

Demonstration at the Commercialization & Development Facility in Kingston, Ontario, Canada

RAPIDSX™ APPLICATIONS

The RapidSX™ technology is being developed for the cost-effective, bulk/commercial separation and purification of Rare-Earth Elements (REEs) — including both heavy REE (HREEs) and light REEs (LREEs) — for the production of REE Oxides (REOs), in addition to other critical metals, such as Lithium (Li), Nickel (Ni), and Cobalt (Co) for Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery materials.

LITHIUM

Battery makers are facing a shortage of lithium, and ongoing financial problems in markets suppressed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortages of lithium specialty chemicals are expected by the mid-2020’s, “given the current pace of supply development,” stated Vivas Kumar (June 24, 2020), a principal consultant with Benchmark Mineral Intelligence and former senior manager for Tesla’s battery supply chain.

“What matters is the production of a high-purity, high-quality chemical that can be used in battery manufacturing. The number of companies that can produce a large volume of these high-purity chemicals is very small.”

The build-out of supply chains is critical all while the energy storage industry is grappling with the adverse impacts resulting the from COVID-19 pandemic.

COBALT

Benchmark Minerals Intelligence expects cobalt demand to increase four-fold, rising to 219,679 metric tons by 2023 and 276,401 metric tons by 2028. Most of the world’s cobalt produced today is currently sourced as a by-product of copper or nickel mining, and the primary metal determines production criteria. Unfortunately, much of that cobalt comes from the conflict-ridden DRC.

Cobalt’s strategic importance to the EV and battery industries is undeniable. Facing growing demand and a looming supply deficit, the EV battery market could require new sources of cobalt that meet ethical standards. However, equally as important is cost-effective, commercial-scale battery-grade cobalt downstream processing capacity.

NICKEL

Battery-grade class-1 nickel is desperately needed for a North American electric-vehicle supply chain

Approximately 60% of the world’s known nickel resources are laterites. The technology for producing battery-grade nickel from nickel laterite ores is — despite being available since the late 1950s — unreliable.  There is no simple separation technique for nickel laterites. The rock must be completely molten or dissolved to enable nickel extraction. As a result, laterite projects require large economies of scale at higher capital cost per unit of capacity to be viable. They are also generally much higher cash-cost producers than sulphide operations. Separating and purifying the nickel/cobalt solution is done by solvent extraction and electrowinning.