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Geomega and Rio Tinto extend collaboration on bauxite residues

Geomega Resources Inc., a developer of clean technologies for the mining, refining, and recycling of rare earths and other critical materials, announced that Innord Inc., its wholly owned subsidiary, has signed a term sheet with Rio Tinto to enter into a development agreement for Bauxite Residues Iron Phase Product. As part of the agreement, Rio Tinto will provide $1M in funding for Innord to complete the required proof-of-concept work and the subsequent small scale locked cycle pilot plant at its Boucherville facilities.

Following the announcement of the funding for a $4-million pilot plant and feasibility study of a sustainable and complete valorization of bauxite residues, Rio Tinto and Innord have agreed to begin evaluating in parallel various opportunities to monetize the iron compounds produced by Innord’s Bauxite Residues Technology (IBRT). As part of the project, over the next 12 months, Innord has committed to develop and test an extension technology to IBRT to produce the desired product that will then be evaluated by Rio Tinto.

Bauxite residues is the largest waste by-product generated in the Bayer bauxite refining alumina production process. Large quantities of this caustic red mud are generated worldwide every year, posing environmental and safety challenges. Storage of bauxite residues is a challenge for alumina refineries with more than 80 plants across the world currently producing alumina from bauxite ore. It is estimated that more than 1.4 tonnes of bauxite residues is generated per tonne of alumina produced; as the demand for aluminum metal increases so does the production of bauxite residues.

Bauxite residues pose significant environmental risks due to its large volumes, high alkalinity and storage complications with risk of groundwater and nearby ecosystems contamination. Globally, the CAPEX and OPEX costs of bauxite residues disposal are estimated at between $4 and $8/tonne. On the other hand, based on its global average composition, the lost metal value is estimated between $80 and $120/tonne.

Currently, less than 5% of bauxite residues are being reused; due to past environmental incidents, the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) set a goal to reuse 25% of bauxite residues by 2025. The technology developed by Geomega’s R&D subsidiary Innord is targeting approximately 80% reuse, significantly higher than the IAI target.

Innord’s bauxite residues processing flowsheet is based on a combination of several metallurgical routes and proprietary techniques already designed and optimized by Geomega in other projects such as iron recovery, reagents recovery and REE extraction and purification. The technology offers high reduction of waste volume, the recovery of valuable metal concentrates (Fe, Al, REE, Sc, Ti) and effluents minimization by recycling main reagents.

The Intellectual property developed from this project extension will be owned by Rio Tinto, which is fully funding the project. Innord will receive a royalty payment for the underlying base technology (IBRT) upon commercialization of the technology and any production of commercial products. Details of the agreement between Geomega and Rio Tinto, including the royalty level, will remain confidential.

We are excited to further extend our cooperation with Rio Tinto on bauxite residues. Iron is the largest component of bauxite residues, and we believe that this stream holds the keys to a successful implementation of Innord’s complete and sustainable valorization of said residues. This project will evaluate the added value transformation of the iron compound produced using IBRT, creating potentially new and more profitable markets for this product. A successful project has the potential to increase the commercial viability of IBRT and contribute to its expedited commercialization.

—Kiril Mugerman, President & CEO of Geomega and Innord

The announced $1M of additional funding from Rio Tinto is non-dilutive to both Geomega and Innord. The project will be starting immediately, and the definitive development agreement is expected to be finalized later in 2022.

Comments

Engineer-Poet
Bauxite residues pose significant environmental risks due to its large volumes, high alkalinity and storage complications
The oceans are threatened by high acidity and low productivity due to lack of iron.  I see a "two birds, one stone" fix here.

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