A 50/50 joint venture (JV) between Focus Graphite (TSXV:FMS) and Ressources Québec subsidiary SOQUEM, with SOQUEM being the operator, Kwyjibo has the potential to trigger the growth of a domestic REE industry to feed into the fast-growing electric vehicle supply chain - especially since the project's products entail heavy REEs, including valuable and sought-after neodymium.
The first-ever resource statement for the Josette Northeast and Josette Southwest zones calculated 6.92 million tonnes grading 2.72% total rare earths oxides (TREO) in the measured and indicated categories, and 1.33Mt grading 3.64% TREO in the inferred category.
Consulting engineering firm Met-Chem of Montreal focused only on the Josette Northeast zone to calculate the initial project economics, which showed an after-tax net present value of C$380.7 million and an internal rate of return of 18%, when using an assumed basket price of C$42.81 per kilogram of TREO. Pre-production capital came to $723.6 million, which could be paid back over 3.4 years.
The underground operation will target apatite, britholite and allanite mineralisation, which will be processed through an on-site concentrator, before the concentrate would be sent for further off-site hydrometallurgical processing. The magnetic separation at the concentrator is designed to produce a 7% TREO concentrate, with a recovery of 96%. The recovery of TREO from concentrate processed at the hydrometallurgical plant is 78%, taking the overall TREO recovery to about 75%.
The hydrometallurgical plant is designed to transform REE concentrate into three separate refined rare earth oxide (REO) products at an annual production rate of 9,500t of TREO. The hydrometallurgical process leaches the concentrate in three steps using solid conversion and is completed by a multi-stage solvent extraction process to produce three REO products, namely neodymium-praseodymium oxides, dysprosium oxide and a mix of the remaining REO and yttrium oxide.
The project has a 10-year mine life, with average annual mining rate of 387,000t at 3.29% TREO. Total LOM output is slated to reach 3.55 million tonnes grading 3.29% TREO.
"The PEA … suggests that the Kwyjibo REE project is unique in Quebec in terms of geological setting, style of mineralisation and economic potential," Focus president and CEO Gary Economo says.
"The results not only demonstrate that significant progress has been made in moving the project from the exploration phase to the mineral deposit appraisal phase, but also that the potential to expand REE resources at depth, together with refinements in the hydrometallurgical recovery process and other technical improvements, could result in significant benefits for the project's economics. Clearly, additional work is warranted at Kwyjibo."