ISR TECHNOLOGY, PDAC 2019
“Over the last six years, we’ve been slowly developing a clean technology for our separation. It’s organic-solvent-free, which is the main thing that we want to avoid. We don’t want to be dealing with solvent extraction. It’s a sustainable and competitive alternative to solvent extraction.”
Kiril Mugerman at PDAC 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUHTeT6eMoI&feature=emb_title
“How did that shape up over the last five years? Our cost per one unit of one liter was five million dollars, which is not economic. Over the last five years, we brought it down towards $500 per liter. With this $500 per liter, it’s now starting to look like you can really do significant development. At the bottom, I’m showing a few curves but basically saying the purity has been increasing, recovery has been increasing, residence time has been decreasing — those are all important parameters if you want to demonstrate that you can actually put a plant into production and be economical. At the same time, we’ve been increasing the separation factor, which is our main comparison to a solvent extraction. We want to be more efficient than solvent extraction.
Now, the feed material. What is it that we’re going to be putting into this recycling plant? We are focusing on the magnet-based feed, which is the main product of rare-earth magnets. The grade is more than 30% for those four elements. Nobody puts lanthanum or cerium or low-grade rare earths into a magnet. You have two sources: one is primary magnet and alloy manufacturers who produce residues; another is the end of life market, like windmills that are being disassembled and electric cars. Every single electric motor will have those magnets. We’ve already secured an LOI with Rocklink out of Germany for anywhere between 100 and 200 tons per year. They are a German-based specialists in production of waste and end-of-life recycling. Also, a US-based manufacturer with same thing — we’ve got some material coming out of there. We are partners now in a collaboration with Comet Traitements out of University of Liege in Europe to be part of a pilot to recycle electric vehicles. Right now, it’s a million cars — next year it’s more — and the next year is more and more. Every year, we have more electric vehicles sold and after eight years, we’ll start seeing those vehicles reaching the scrapyards. That’s where we’ll see even more magnets available.
Is there more feed? Absolutely. Every year, we make 160 thousand tons of new magnets. It’s an $11 billion dollar industry. There is 24 to 48 thousand tonnes of waste every year, most of it is in China but some outside. For wind power, 3 megawatts takes 2 tonnes of magnet on average. If you look at the annual production capacity of wind, we produce 50,000 megawatts. That’s up to 33,000 tonnes of neodymium-iron-boron magnets. In 2017, we’ve been de-commissioning facilities that were built 15-20 years ago. Last year, we decommissioned more than 400 tonnes of magnets. That’s a 25% increase over the year before that. Every year, we are building more wind turbines. At the same time, we now have the backlog coming from the decommissioned items that are being recycled. The electric vehicles, as an example, have 3 kilograms of magnet in the main motors. With 2018 sales of 2 million EV, that’s 6,000 tonnes of magnet. The average lifetime is 8-10 years. Let’s just start counting to see when the two million cars that went on the road last year will start getting recycled and recovered?
Primarily, today, it’s all done in China. We are the first ones — the first company in North America to efficiently recycle rare earth metals.”