According to Medallion Resources (TSXV:MDL) CEO Don Lay, rare earth concentrate extraction is a unique and relatively simple “mining” approach. As rare earths are extracted from monazite, a by-product material, the approach often involves acquiring the by-product from miners in production.
In the interview below, Lay discusses the company’s process flow and its role within the rare earths and magnet market. He also addresses key aspects of the industry, providing investors with an overview of the rare earths marketplace. To wrap up, he speaks about what is next for Medallion as it implements its tested process for rare earth concentrate extraction.
Below is the video of our interview with Medallion Resources CEO Don Lay. It is followed by a transcript that has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Investing News Network: Please give our investor audience an overview of Medallion Resources and its focus on rare earths and magnet metals.
Medallion Resources CEO Don Lay: Medallion is focused on extracting rare earths from monazite, a by-product material. This process is very different from hard-rock mining as it means going after an existing mineral already being produced. As part of the approach, we have to access and acquire the material, import it and process it so as to extract the rare earth concentrate. It is a unique and relatively simple business model, but, like everything, it also has its complications.
INN: What should investors know about the rare earths and magnet marketplace?
DL: The rare earths marketplace is an interesting one. They have been processed commercially for approximately 80 years, but their exposure has increased dramatically in the last few years. The market is quite volatile because increasing processing is very difficult due to the fact that they are a by-product material, and China also has a noticeable control on the supply.
The magnet market is particularly interesting because magnets make use of rare earths that encompass 70 to 80 percent of the value of the rare earths marketplace. It is growing dramatically and is quite important, particularly as it plays a role in vehicle electrification, but also because rare earth magnets have grown in number in the last few years and that is what is driving the rare earths market today.
INN: How does the rare earths market differ from other more traditional resource markets?
DL: As a by-product material, rare earths are particularly interesting. Even though they are plentiful on the Earth’s crust, they are not often found in economic deposits.
The other thing of note is that the extraction of rare earths from minerals is complicated since once they are extracted they are separated into individual rare oxide products that go on to be commercial. It is a relatively complicated value chain and a bit more opaque than others, both because it is largely controlled by China and because of the complexity of the marketplace.
INN: What is the significance of Medallion’s recently released news regarding the company’s process development work?
DL: Medallion recently finished processing test work at Saskatchewan Research Council. What we have done is add some process steps in order to extract a concentrate rich in magnet metals from monazite. Monazite is the rare earth phosphate metal that we acquire as a by-product. Now we are working on a process flowsheet to maximize the extraction of the magnet metals.
INN: What is next for Medallion and how does that fit into the company’s long-term plans?
DL: Moving forward, we see three areas of progress. One is on the process development side. We expect to make improvements and announce those. On the second hand, we also have upcoming commercial announcements; we have a partner in Rare Earth Salts in Nebraska to separate and mark the rare earths. Lastly, we are looking into acquiring monazite feedstock sources.
INN: What types of deals do you expect to see for the acquisition of Medallion’s product output?
DL: We currently have an agreement with Rare Earth Salts of Nebraska. They separate market rare earth oxides and are looking into expanding their processing as well. We would look for our first commercial plant to be delivering feed for their rare earth refinery in Nebraska. This is our current driving commercial endeavor.
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