ASM is to invest in a new clean metal and high purity processing technology being developed in South Korea.
The technology converts metal oxides into metals through a carbon-free electrolytic process, with oxygen as a by-product, making it a cost-effective and environmentally superior alternative.
It has been proven to be applicable to zirconium, hafnium, and permanent magnet rare earths metals (neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium).
These elements together represent over 80% of forecast revenue streams from ASM’s development-ready zirconium and rare earths project at Dubbo in central west New South Wales.
ASM is investing US$1.2 million towards a pilot plant facility to complete late-stage piloting and a feasibility study for larger-scale development and commercialisation of the process
In return ASM will have a 10 per cent interest in the developing company as well as exclusive rights to use the technology at commercial scale in relation to zirconium and hafnium.
ASM’s agreement is with a South Korean company, Zirconium Technology Corporation, with the research having been developed by scientists at Chungnam National University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering in Daejeon.
The technology has the potential to replace the Kroll process, a highly energy-intensive process that has been used broadly in the industry since its development in the 1940s, with a more environmentally sustainable process which, when commercialised, is estimated to reduce metallisation costs by in excess of 50%.
ASM considers this investment in downstream processing will improve the economics of its Dubbo project as well as giving it involvement in the wider commercialisation of a breakthrough technology.
The pilot plant is expected to run throughout 2019 and 2020, putting ASM in a position in 2020 to make a final investment decision about wider investment in commercialisation.