Project of the Week: Medallion Resources

Today’s feature project breaks the mould slightly. Medallion Resources (TSX-V: MDL, OTCQB: MLLOF, Frankfurt: MRDN) is a Rare Earth Element (REE) technology company, focussed on developing a proprietary process to extract REEs from mineral sand monazite. Medallion aims to not only produce these all-important elements but also diversify REE supply chains away from China and India where processing is unsafe, unregulated and has an unnecessarily high environmental impact. Medallion will focus on magnet metals Neodymium (Nd) and Praseodymium (Pr) due to the demand growth as the switch to electric vehicles and wind energy accelerates.

So to begin, why mineral sand monazite as an REE feedstock? Mineral sand mining is undertaken in many parts of the globe, with Australia and Africa forming key supply hubs.  Monazite is a minor component of many mineral sand deposits, alongside the better-known target minerals that include zircon, rutile and ilmenite.  Although monazite is an attractive and high grade REE-bearing phosphate mineral containing up to 60% REEs, it is most often sent to waste streams to backfill a pit, or occasionally to Chinese customers.

It is common knowledge that a large part of the problem with REE supply is the individuality of hard-rock deposits, making each one a new riddle for our MinPro experts, and increasing discovery - production times.  In contrast, mineral sand monazite is widely available in a consistent, high quality and homogenous form, without the need for new mining. As the supply from mineral sand miners is very diverse, there is no risk of a future shortfall.

Medallion’s extraction process (Figure 1) will focus on extracting Nd and Pr which are used in, permanent magnets, electric vehicles, lighting, and everyday technology like your smartphone. As of yet, no equivalent replacement for NdPr for high strength magnet technology has been discovered. The process will also extract up to 8 other REEs for which demand is less consistent.

A key factor in successfully diverting REE business from China is working at a competitive operating cost. Medallion’s more closed-circuit process helps facilitate this as they are aiming to re-use some of their processing chemicals, although more testing needs to be done to establish this. As well as driving down operating costs, re-use is a more environmentally friendly approach which is something we can all get behind.

Figure 1. A diagrammatic explanation of Medallion’s monazite sand processing technique.

Mark states Medallion are entering the markets with a conservative approach. This lowers their entry risk to the NdPr and REE global markets, which are already tough places to negotiate. Even though demand for NdPr is there, the market is still relatively small and so a stepwise beginning will allow Medallion to grow in parallel with the market as the demand for battery and magnet metals increases. In fact, analysis of the market suggests the NdPr demand may well double over the next decade[1]. Medallion estimate ~85% of their revenue will come from NdPr.

Medallion are completing a Techo-Economic Assessment (TEA) to establish a financial and engineering model for the processing plant, which they believe will be sited in North America owing to the availability of the required chemicals.  While, the UK, Germany, Japan, and Korea represent a large portion of current demand as their technology industries are geared up for use of the REEs Medallion will produce, the US has the hallmarks of very strong future demand growth.

As monazite sands are geographically widely available, establishing multiple plants in multiple continents is not an unreasonable aim for the company, especially as their process is scalable and transferrable.

What Medallion is achieving is not just significant for the global supply of rare earths but important for the growth of downstream battery, transport and renewable power industries. It is no secret that China’s dominance in the supply of critical raw materials and technologies is a global point of concern, in our industry and beyond. Our high-risk dependence on Chinese centred supply chains has only been highlighted by the covid-19 pandemic and US-China trade tensions, and divestment from their monopoly is a keen interest for many. Medallion have found a solution to a problem, are executing it carefully, and setting an example.

As always I have made more information available and I would definitely recommend learning more about the potential of monazite sands and Medallion.

All information in the above article is sourced from the Medallion Resources website and materials contained within as well as personal communications with Mark Saxon (CEO), unless otherwise stated.

Further Information

Medallion Resources: https://medallionresources.com/

Business fact sheet: https://bit.ly/2H6yTTF

[1] - https://bit.ly/38T3mjD