The original design called for building a demonstration plant with a throughput of 1 tonne per day using 2,000-litre batch reactors, with further investment required to scale the operation to 1.5t/d in the future. The process was designed for 24-hour operation.
Under the new design, the company plans to leverage economies of scale to process 1.5t/d using larger 5,000-litre reactors that will operate for a single eight-to-10-hour shift.
GeoMegA said the original 1t/d plant was estimated to cost US$2 million. The new estimate for 1.5t/d capacity was $2.6 million (-20%/+30%) including a contingency of 20%, it said.
The study confirmed GeoMegA's proprietary in-situ recovery process developed by its Innord subsidiary was technically feasible and used off-the-shelf equipment, therefore making it easier to scale up, it said.
The company has developed the ISR process as an environmentally friendly alternative to other technologies for recovering second-hand streams of REEs. It can be used on concentrates from a mine site, or more importantly, is a means of recycling rare earth permanent magnets into neodymium, praseodymium, terbium and dysprosium.
The increased throughput capacity also provides the company with an opportunity to process other feed materials besides REE magnets. To this end, the company is evaluating other feeds that can potentially complement the demonstration plant throughput and contribute to higher future cash flows.
GeoMegA said the next step was to finalise the ongoing engineering activities and begin the engineering, procurement, construction and management process to build the plant.
"These results have exceeded our expectations and we are looking forward to the next stage of the project. The modified design, with larger throughput capacity, provides not only an immediate reduction in the load of capital expenditures relative to annual production but also opens the door to expansion in the future without having to build a second plant in the coming years," said CEO Kiril Mugerman.
The company is positioning itself to take advantage of a rising tide for REEs. Increasingly, technology firms such as Apple are starting to use recycled REEs in their newest consumer electronics and the European Union is investing heavily in REE recycling through universities.
"We believe GeoMegA to be strategically positioned to be at the forefront of REE recycling with initial production from the demonstration plant targeted for 2020."
After a recent pull-back from fresh 12-month highs at C22.5c in May, the company's shares (TSXV:GMA) at 13.5c are still trading at a 60% premium to the year-earlier level. The company has a market capitalisation of $13.35 million.