Interview from Medallion Resources
6th August 2021
Mark Saxon was most recently President & CEO at Leading Edge Materials (TSX.V: LEM; OTCQB: LEMIF), focused on the development of the Norra Kärr heavy rare-earth and other European mineral properties. He has more than 25 years of experience in the resources industry, representing junior and senior companies with a particular focus on critical raw materials. An Honours BSc graduate in Geology from the University of Melbourne, a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Australian Institute of Geoscientists, Mark Saxon has also received a Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance and Investment through the Financial Services Institute of Australasia.
Thanks for the opportunity to discuss the work you have been doing in Medallion Resources Ltd Mark. At Spotlight, we are big fans of rare earth elements, and I know you have been in the business for a long time. Medallion has taken a different path to many companies in the sector, can you summarise?
Medallion (TSX.v: MDL) has long been focused on the path of least resistance in the REE business while seeking an approach with the lowest environmental impact. REEs are complex, and the last industry boom showed how hard it is to execute challenging projects in challenging locations. So rather than trying to unravel and advance a single resource project like most peers in the sector, Medallion elected around 10 years ago to focus on mineral sand monazite, an abundant and REE rich by-product. Medallion is now the industry leader in technology to process this monazite, which is available as a by-product from heavy mineral sand mines that were built to supply zircon and titanium.
Mineral sand monazite is a very attractive feedstock for REE production, as it is relatively abundant, it is rich in the critical magnet metals Nd and Pr, and importantly it is homogeneous regardless of where around the globe it comes from. This has allowed Medallion to develop a robust, efficient and transferable process that can be executed in a broad range of situations. Using mineral sand monazite feedstock in combination with the Medallion Monazite Process, REEs can be produced without the need for additional mining.
I noticed the recent publication of a Techno-Economic Study – what did that teach you and what comes next
The TEA is not unlike a Pre-Feasibility Study, which pulled together the process research that has been completed by Medallion over the past 5 years. The TEA is an engineering model, built from our process flowsheet and defines all of the equipment and inputs including energy, reagents and labour that are needed to produce REEs. Using that engineering model, we have developed a financial model, so we can understand capital and operating costs. We can now take these models and envisage a monazite process plant in any setting, and work out the cost of REE production. It gives us full flexibility to find partnerships and business opportunities in many regions.
We are close to completing a life cycle assessment (LCA) model for the monazite process which will sit alongside the financial model. The LCA will help us to make the lowest CO2 decisions to ensure our process is as low impact and sustainable as possible. We are very pleased to be working with Minviro on the LCA, who have been doing groundbreaking work for a wide range of clients. In the past we have looked at establishing an operating base in the US, however, Australia, Africa and South East Asia are the mineral sand powerhouses. There is very little in North America. The idea of transporting monazite from Australia to the US for processing does not make economic or environmental sense, so we are getting closer to suppliers.
As you may have seen in our press releases, we have recently signed an LOI with Australian mineral sand company ACDC Metals Pty Ltd. This well-named heavy minerals company owns monazite-bearing mineral sands in the Murray Basin of eastern Australia. The partnership delivers ACDC with a more valuable product and delivers Medallion with the potential to establish a long term operating base in Australia. Australia is very well endowed with mineral sand monazite and is a logical focus for Medallion’s ongoing investment. We see this as a good example of how to quickly maximise value from Medallion’s IP.
We have noticed that Medallion has been discussing REE separation technology and has recently invested in a chromatography method from Purdue University. Can you fill us in on your thinking?
REE separation is the downstream step from Medallion’s past research on monazite extraction. It is where a mixed REE product is separated into the individual REEs that are market-ready. When we made our investment decision with Purdue, we first took a deep look at the alternatives for REE separation, some 25 providers in all. We quickly recognised that solvent extraction technologies are a thing of the past due to the high environmental impact of organic chemicals – customers are expecting more sustainable production methods. That thinking leads us to Purdue University and the exceptional work of Linda Wang who is a global leader in chromatography. Linda and her team have developed Ligand Assisted Displacement Chromatography, a highly accelerated and efficient method to directly extract the most valuable magnet metals Nd Pr Dy Tb directly from the solution.
Medallion has exclusively licenced the LAD Chromatography process for all raw material applications apart from coal products. It presents a very strong opportunity for the REE industry to lower the environmental impact and the cost of REE separation and is a genuine breakthrough technology vs anything else in the market.