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Mining & Resources

How Medallion Resources is improving the mineral sands’ carbon footprint  

19 Oct 2021, by Amy Sarcevic

Electrified mining fleets, energy efficient crushing and grinding, and renewable power, have all been positively impacting the mining industry’s carbon footprint for a number of years.

More recently, increased recovery of value from each tonne mined, reduced transport of bulky materials, and design that incorporates process intensification principles have been looked at for the next phase of CO2 mitigation.

To this end, Medallion Resources Ltd has developed a proprietary method for extracting and separating rare earth elements (REE) from mineral sand monazite.

The efficient and zero liquid waste method can occur close to the mine site, or at a dedicated local hub, eliminating the need for international transit or on-site disposal.

The ‘Medallion Monazite Process’ is tipped to replace the current method of shipping rare earths in low grade form for extraction in overseas facilities; over time allowing local value add supply chains to emerge.

Medallion Chief Executive Mark Saxon believes this niche way of reducing emissions can become a substantial piece of Australia’s net zero jigsaw.

“The mining industry has been making solid efforts in the sustainability space over the last few years, however we still have a long way to go before reaching carbon neutrality,” said Mark ahead of the Mineral Sands Conference.

“As long as the industry is relying on international transit to derive value from its materials, it will be challenged to reach the standards expected by stakeholders and customers.

“By prioritising local value add, our method will reduce the need for international transport, one of the key contributors of carbon emissions”.

Extracting and separating REEs from monazite will also add value to mineral sand projects, providing a broader product spectrum and greater commercial security.

“Mineral sand monazite is an abundant and geographically diverse feedstock rich in rare earth elements. Extracting rare earth elements will offset the need for new mining, and the environmental disturbance that comes with it,” said Mark.

With Life Cycle Assessments for sustainable mining tipped to become mainstream in the battery and EV raw material industries, Mark believes this method will become an essential tool for raw material producers over the coming decade.

“Minimising the environmental footprint of REE extraction and separation isn’t just about earning brownie points,” he said.

“Companies that use Life Cycle Assessments can prove their production process has low energy requirements and develop a major advantage over companies with a higher processing impact. By having more products from the same tonnes mined, a mineral sand miner will always achieve improved LCA metrics.

“Based on the trends in Europe with the battery passport approach, I predict that low impact projects will be able to sell their products at a higher value or at least become a preferred supplier. We may also see large institutional investors favouring companies that demonstrate lower impact production process.”

Alongside sustainability metrics, the Medallion technology will boost domestic supply security and increase the bottom line for mining companies.

“The Medallion technology will help companies capture every bit of value of the materials they dig out of the ground, as we go through to separated REE-oxides. More broadly it will make Australia less vulnerable to the oligopoly of overseas markets,” said Mark.

The Medallion Monazite Process also has a wealth of knock-on sustainability benefits, with REEs widely used in the manufacturing of wind turbines and electric vehicles.

Additionally, Mark says mining waste will be significantly minimised with this method.

Medallion recently published the positive findings of a Techno-Economic Assessment (“TEA”). This provides the engineering and economic foundation for commercializing the Medallion Monazite Process. As part of this, Medallion will seek operational and licencing opportunities with qualified partners in mineral sand monazite rich jurisdictions.

Giving details of this project, Mark Saxon is due to present at the 22nd Annual Mineral Sands Investment Conference, due to take place 16-17 November at the Crown, Perth.

Register your place now.

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