ASM Produces Rare Earth Permanent Magnets at Korean Institute of Rare Metals Facility

Highlights

  • Two kilograms of pre-sintered permanent magnets successfully produced from ASM’s high-purity neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) powder
  • Magnetic properties and quality confirmed by the Korean Institute of Rare Metals (KIRAM)

ASM reports that the Korean Institute of Rare Metals (KIRAM) has successfully produced and tested two kilograms of pre-sintered permanent magnets from ASM’s high-purity neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) powder from its pilot plant in Korea.

KIRAM’s testing provides a strong indication that ASM’s NdFeB alloy is suitable to produce rare earth permanent magnets that are commercially in demand. This certification is further validation of ASM’s strategy to become an independent, fully integrated “mine to manufacturer” producer of critical metals.

ASM managing director, David Woodall said, “The excellent support and collaborative work between the Ziron Tech and KIRAM teams delivered a truly significant result. It provides ASM with confidence that our integrated business model – from the Dubbo Project to metals production – can play an important part in the Korean Government’s ‘New Green Deal’.

“We now have confirmation of the quality and high purity of the permanent magnet alloy and titanium powders ASM can deliver to the Korean industry and eventually the global markets. ASM is now planning to advance in the next few months with the detailed engineering, incorporating both the recently produced titanium and now the permanent magnet powders as part of an initial 5,200 tonnes per year plant in Korea, projected to be fully operational by mid-2022. This is a very significant transition for the company as we continue to progress the development of the Dubbo Project in the central western, NSW.”

Methodology

KIRAM scientists made a strip-cast sample using five kilograms of the NdFeB powder produced by ASM’s Ziron Tech team. The strip was then examined using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (EDS) to confirm the microstructure (Figure 1) and magnetic orientation.

NdFeB strip alloy produced from Ziron Tech power (SEM/EDS result)

Some of the Ziron Tech NdFeB alloy was pressed into a two-kilogram block to measure the magnetic characteristics using VSM (Vibrating Sample Magnetometry) and compared with a similar sample made from a commercially available alloy. These tests (Figure 2) indicated that ASM’s pre-sintered magnet exhibited superior magnetic properties than the commercial sample.

Results of Vibrating Sample Magnetometer (VSM) tests comparing the Ziron Tech pre-sintered alloy with a commercially available powder.

Download the ASX Announcement

ASM produces 6kg of neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) alloy

Highlights

  • ASM produced 6kg of a neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) alloy at the Korean Institute of Rare Metals (KIRAM) facility.
  • KIRAM has certified the metallic structure and ratio of key metals (Nd: Fe: B = 32%: 67%: 1%) of the key NdFeB permanent magnet alloy.
  • ASM continues to work on the potential for establishing a full scale metal processing facility that would include production of the NdFeB alloy.

ASM has produced 6kg of a neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) alloy at the Korean Institute of Rare Metals (KIRAM) facility in Korea. The NdFeB alloy was manufactured from the FeNd alloy produced by ASM’s metallisation pilot plant.

NdFeB is a key rare earth permanent magnet alloy. KIRAM has certified the metallic structure and ratio of key metals (Nd: Fe: B = 32%: 67%: 1%) of the alloy, confirming its suitability for rare earth permanent magnet production. KIRAM is a division of KITECH, the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, which is a South Korean government research institute.

With the successful production of 6kg of the NdFeB alloy, ASM and KIRAM will continue the production of an additional approximately 7kg of NdFeB alloy for conversion into an initial permanent magnet samples for evaluation by Korean industry.

ASM continues to assess the potential of developing a higher-volume continuous metal production facility in 2021. The successful production of the NdFeB alloy gives ASM further confidence in its capability to produce this permanent magnet alloy at the metal facility, which would be situated in Korea (ASX 2 November 2020).

ASM Managing Director, David Woodall said: “The successful production of this NdFeB alloy is an important milestone for ASM, and paves the way for integrating production of key rare earth permanent magnet alloys into our developing metals business. Our team is working closely with KIRAM, a key research group in Korea, to gain certification of the alloy. In the coming months, we’ll produce further sample permanent magnets for the Korean market
review.

“ASM is now focused on assessing the potential for development of a metals processing plant in Korea. In addition to laying the foundation for a potential metals business, which would include metals from our Dubbo Project, we continue to progress offtake and strategic partner agreements.”

 

Download the ASX Announcement

ASM produces permanent magnet metal alloy

Highlights

  • ASM has produced 200kg of ferro-neodymium (FeNd – Nd 80.3%, Fe 19.9%), a key constituent of strip cast permanent magnet alloys.
  • ASM is working with the Korea Institute for Rare Metals (KIRAM) to produce a strip cast permanent magnet alloy which will be formed and sintered into permanent magnets.
  • Samples of permanent magnets will be distributed to Korean industry for evaluation.

ASM’s Ziron Tech team in Korea has successfully produced 200kg of FeNd, a key rare earth alloy used to produce sintered permanent magnets (via powder metallurgy). Sintered rare earth permanent magnets have high magnetic strength and heat resistance and are essential for advanced and clean technologies including electric vehicles. The FeNd alloy was produced using ASM’s low energy metallisation process and has significant environmental advantages over the industry standard process.

The 200kg of FeNd alloy will be used in the production of rare earth permanent magnets in partnership with the Korea Institute for Rare Metals (KIRAM), a division of KITECH (the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology).

The FeNd alloy will go into a strip casting process at KIRAM to be converted into NdFeB (iron-neodymium-boron) magnet alloy powder. This powder will then be subjected to assay and magnetic strength testing to determine product acceptability.

ASM Managing Director, David Woodall said, “The successful production of the key FeNd alloy, which is essential in the production of permanent magnets, is another significant milestone in ASM’s “mine to manufacturing” strategy. We are looking forward to seeing the progress of KITECH’s permanent magnet production run, as Korea continues to secure its supply chain to provide stability, security, and sustainability for its vital new technology manufacting sector. This is strongly aligned with ASM’s strategy.

“With partners, Dongkuk R&S, we are progressing the design and construction of our 250kg per day continuous metal plant in Korea (as announced on 2 November 2020). We expect to see the first phase of commercial operation within four months. This will represent the start of ASM’s metal business, which should prove very exciting for our shareholders.”

 

Download the ASX Announcement

ASM produces 7.5kg of heavy rare earth metal dysprosium in Korea

Highlights:
  • ASM produces 7.5kg of heavy rare earth dysprosium metal
  • Dysprosium metal assay – 99.53%
  • Metallisation of ferro-dysprosium and zirconium progressing

ASM, through its partner Ziron Technology Corporation (Ziron Tech), has successfully produced 7.5 kg of a high purity dysprosium metal at its commercial pilot plant in South Korea.

After producing 0.76 kg of the heavy rare earth metal last month, this second run confirms that it can be done at scale, marking the completion of the final key permanent magnet metals to be produced at the Ziron Tech facility. ASM has now produced neodymium, praseodymium, neodymium praseodymium alloy and dysprosium, all key for permanent magnets, through the commercial pilot plant using its innovative metallisation process.

Work has commenced on the production of ferro-dysprosium and zirconium metals. These are anticipated to be the final products metallised from material sourced from the Dubbo Project in central west NSW.

ASM Managing Director, David Woodall said: “ASM is progressing further in its development to become an integrated mine to metal business, with the successful production of the heavy rare earth metal, dysprosium. With the production of these key permanent magnets metals and metal alloys, and the development of zirconium metal production, ASM is one step closer to converting all products from the Dubbo Project into value-adding metals.”

“Our focus is now on commencing the design and construction of a 250 kg per day continuous metal plant in Korea. This is the first phase of our strategy to develop a 3,000-5,000 tonne per year plant designed to meet some of the demand for critical materials in the Korean manufacturing sector. ASM continues to advance discussions for a potential partner in the metal business,” Mr Woodall said.

Download the ASX announcement

ASM produces key heavy rare earth dysprosium metal in Korea

Highlights:
  • ASM produces 0.76kg of heavy rare earth metal dysprosium (Dy)
  • Dysprosium assay – 99.6%
  • Metallisation process proven for the Dubbo Project’s key permanent magnet rare earth products (dysprosium, praseodymium and neodymium)

ASM, through its partner Ziron Technology Corporation (Ziron Tech), has successfully produced high purity dysprosium (Dy) metal in its laboratory at the Ziron Tech facility.

This work using the ASM metallisation process has confirmed ASM’s ability to produce the key permanent magnet metals (dysprosium, praseodymium and neodymium) and alloys that will be sourced from its Dubbo Project in central west NSW.

ASM Managing Director, David Woodall said: “This is a significant result given the temperatures required for the production of dysprosium metal. Our team has now successfully produced the key permanent magnet rare earth products (dysprosium, praseodymium and neodymium metals and alloys) which will be supplied from our Dubbo Project.”

“Now that the protocol for the production of dysprosium metal has been completed, our team led by Professor Lee, will focus on the production the ferro-dysprosium alloy, which is key in the production of high-temperature NdFeB magnets. Our focus now is to produce zirconium metal by the end of September, Mr Woodall said.

The ASM metallisation process uses significantly less energy and has less impact on the environment than existing industry-standard metallisation processes. This innovative process has been used to produce metals of the planned products from ASM’s Dubbo Project including zirconium, hafnium, and rare earths for permanent magnet alloys in the laboratory. Titanium and the key rare earth permanent magnet metals neodymium and praseodymium have been produced in the commercial pilot plant with dysprosium and zirconium scheduled for later this month. ASM and Ziron Tech continue to finalise the detailed documentation in relation to the acquisition of Ziron Tech with the transaction expected to be completed by the end of October 2020.

Download the ASX announcement

Neodymium Praseodymium production and permanent magnet samples

Highlights:
  • ASM has produced 9kg of Neodymium Praseodymium (NdPr) alloy at commercial pilot plant in Korea
  • The NdPr assayed 99.65%
  • ASM progressing the production of 200kg of NdPr metal as part of an initiative between Ziron Tech and the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) to produce a 600kg sample of permanent magnets for Korean industry
  • ASM continues discussions with Korean government and industry to support supply chain self-sufficiency

Australian Strategic Materials (ASX: ASM) (ASM) has successfully produced 9kg of the key permanent magnet alloy Neodymium Praseodymium (NdPr) at its commercial pilot plant in South Korea. Following this success ASM, through Ziron Tech, is progressing an agreement with the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) (a South Korean government research institute) to produce a sample 600kg of permanent magnets for Korean industry over the coming months.

ASM’s success with the production of titanium and key permanent magnet metals (neodymium and praseodymium) at its commercial pilot plant, using its patented high purity metallisation process, has resulted in continued interest from leading Korean companies and government organisations.

This success in the metal production led to ASM agreeing to acquire its joint venture partner, Ziron Tech, on 3 September to continue the development of their clean metallisation process and production of sample permanent magnets for the Korean industry.

ASM Managing Director, David Woodall said: “Over the past few weeks whilst I have been in South Korea, we have had some important discussions with Korean companies and government around ASM’s metallisation technology and the Dubbo Project. Working with KITECH, a respected and leading innovation group in Korea to produce samples of permanent magnets is an important step in ASM’s commercialisation strategy.”

“Korea imports rare earths magnets and has a strong desire to ensure security of supply of these critical materials to their domestic manufacturing sector. This sample production run is set to provide a framework for increased domestic production to help support their local industry. To progress this, ASM will produce the 200kg of NdPr required for the production of the 600kg sample permanent magnets.”

Director Dr. Lim, Kyung Mook of the Korea Institute for Rare Metals (KIRAM) a KITECH division said: “We welcome ASM as a member of the Korean Rare Earth Institute and we are pleased to work with Ziron Tech under the joint research and development for rare earth alloy production. With our close collaboration with Ziron Tech we are enthusiastic to proceed with rare earth magnet production testing using the metal availability from Ziron Tech.”

Download the ASX announcement

ASM JV produces second key permanent magnet metal – praseodymium

Highlights:
  • Praseodymium metal successfully produced at Korean pilot plant
  • Commercial pilot plant produces 5.3 kg Pr metal assaying 99.3 %
  • Confirmation of patented metal production method for permanent magnet metals
  • Forward plan for Commercial Pilot Plant production of Neodymium / Praseodymium and Dysprosium metal in August

ASM’s joint venture has produced high purity praseodymium metal (99.3 %) at its commercial pilot plant in South Korea, marking the final testing stage of the patented metallisation process for permanent magnet metals. ASM will now progress to the production of dysprosium metal and to alloying the key permanent magnet metal neodymium / praseodymium (NdPr).

To date, ASM’s Korean joint venture with Ziron Tech has seen successful production of titanium metal and the key permanent magnet metals of neodymium and praseodymium through its commercial pilot plant. Of great importance, the patented process does not have negative environmental impacts that exist in the current supply chain of these critical materials.

ASM Managing Director, David Woodall said: “It has been a real privilege to be in Korea at this time and see the commercial pilot plant and team in action. These metals are essential for advanced technologies, including electric vehicles and clean energy. The production of these key permanent magnet metals brings ASM a step closer to being an integrated “mine to metals” producer.

“ASM has an exclusive worldwide licence to commercialise this clean and environmentally responsible metal-refining technology. We embrace and look to engage with countries, like Korea, that have a vision to move away from the less sustainable traditional production methods.

“This significant result provides a strong base for ASM to progress opportunities with various government and business groups to supply critical materials to Korean industry efficiently and with responsibility to the environment.

“The same could apply to Australia, with ASM currently the only potential integrated supplier of these critical metals, that could support the development of a new technologies’ manufacturing sector in Australia, creating employment and providing a supply base to Australia.”

ASM continues to progress on its 2020 objective to deliver an integrated metals business inclusive of the metallisation and an optimised Dubbo Project in central west, NSW. ASM is advancing the development of its integrated metals plan within Korea and globally. ASM’s Dubbo Project remains ready for construction with all major approvals and licences in place, an established extraction process flow sheet and a solid business case.

The JV with Ziron Tech connects ASM directly with leading South Korean companies, building customer relationships for off-take contracts under the South Korea-Australia free trade agreement, and strengthening the economics of the Dubbo Project.

Read the full ASX announcement

High-quality neodymium metal produced

Highlights:

  • Successful production of 7.6 kg of neodymium metal
  • Assay confirms neodymium produced is at 99.8% purity
  • Metal purity is higher than typically traded neodymium metal
  • Validation of the patented carbon-free metallisation technology for rare earth metals

ASM’s Korean JV partner, Ziron Tech, has successfully completed the first production run of neodymium (Nd) metal in its commercial pilot plant. The production of 7.6 kg of neodymium metal assaying 99.8 per cent Nd from its patented reduction process in South Korea. The metal has been produced at a higher purity than typically traded neodymium metal.

ASM continues to progress a metalisation program using its innovative low emission, high purity metal refining technology to produce metals of zirconium, titanium, rare earths and other critical materials used for the renewable energy, speciality alloys and permanent magnet markets.

ASM’s JV is advancing the final commissioning of the electro-refining plant and is currently progressing the production of other key metals including zirconium, praseodymium, and dysprosium; which are all essential for the new technologies and advanced manufacturing markets in Australia and globally.

As previously advised, the commissioning of the electrorefining section of the pilot plant is progressing well. This process is expected to produce high purity (99.9%) titanium metal with results expected in August 2020. Further pilot plant runs are planned to produce additional neodymium, dysprosium, praseodymium, as well as other Dubbo products, in metallic form.

Australian Strategic Materials Managing Director, David Woodall said:

“This is a significant result for ASM, as this process has resulted in the production of neodymium metal at a higher purity than typically traded. My team and I have travelled to South Korea to discuss the significant potential of ASM’s integrated strategy with various Korean government and business groups. This also allows me to see the progress made by the great Ziron Tech team and to celebrate this major milestone with them.

Our strategy of integrating the products from our Dubbo Project into metals that can deliver to end use customers continues as we progress clean metal production and secure the financing needed for project development.

It is possible that a standalone clean metal plant could be built in Korea to feed critical metals to Korean industry, but also possible that another clean metal plant could be located within Australia to feed critical metals for advanced Australian manufacturing.”

Today marks the first day as a standalone ASX listed entity for ASM, trading as ASX:ASM.

View the ASX Release

JV produces high quality neodymium metal alloy

Australian Strategic Materials’ (ASM) Korean research and development partner, Ziron Tech has completed its preliminary work on the metallisation of neodymium oxide feed producing approximately 1kg of neodymium metal alloy in the laboratory from its patented reduction process in South Korea. The JV is targeting 45% less energy use in its rare earth metallisation process than the current industrial process.

NeodymiumHighlights:

  • Successful laboratory production of ~ 1kg of neodymium metal alloy.
  • Assaying confirms an intermediate neodymium (87%) alloy ingot.
  • Electrorefining to produce a 99.9% Nd metal is anticipated by the end of July.
  • Commercial Pilot Plant production of larger quantities of neodymium and praseodymium metal alloys expected to be complete at the end of July 2020.
  • Metallisation process targets 45% less energy for rare earth metal production than the current industrial process.

This is the first stage of the production of critical metals used in a range of sustainable technologies and new manufacturing industries such as renewable energy and electric vehicle production.

ASM, with its Korean JV partner, will continue to progress the innovative low emission, high purity metal refining technology to produce metals of zirconium, titanium, rare earths and other critical materials for the renewable energy, speciality alloys and permanent magnet markets.

As noted previously, the commissioning of the electrorefining section of the pilot plant, which will produce high purity metal, is planned in July 2020. Further pilot plant runs are planned to produce neodymium, praseodymium, and other rare earths in metallic form.

Australian Strategic Materials Managing Director, David Woodall said: “This is a major milestone in ASM’s integrated strategy that includes clean metal production for all products from the development of the Dubbo Project in Central West NSW. This integration of metal production into ASM’s business is consistent with the Australian Government’s objective of adding value within Australia, while ensuring supply security and stability of these critical materials to global and domestic Australian manufacturing sectors.”

ASM and its JV partner continue to progress the second phase of its metallisation strategy focussing on the production of zirconium metal in July 2020, focused on delivering significantly improved economics of its Dubbo project as well as giving it an involvement in the wider commercialisation of a breakthrough technology.

Read the ASX Release

The media frenzy being played out under the guise of the US-China trade tariff dispute is misplaced.

Like a slow-boiling frog, consumers have either ignored or merely croaked about China’s increasing dominance of the rare earths market, when they should have been hopping to develop alternative supplies. The media frenzy being played out under the guise of the US-China trade tariff dispute is misplaced. As China advances its economic and environmental agendas, its technological and trade advantages grow, threatening the security of other nations. China is often portrayed as the villain in this story, but the rest of the world must accept responsibility for helping to create this situation and move fast to change it.

Rare earths: why should we care?

Rare earths are 17 elements referred to as the ‘vitamins of industry’, due to the minute amounts required for a range of advanced technologies on which developed nations depend.

China first realised the importance of rare earths some 40 years ago when Deng Xiaoping said ‘The Middle East has oil, but China has rare earths’. China proceeded to quietly invest hundreds of billions of dollars in domestic rare earth resources, research and industry – a strategy spelt out in the Made in China 2025 policy – creating a value-added supply chain for rare earth products comprising 90% of global output. The rest of the world largely stood by and watched.

Call it foresight or luck but rare earths are critical to today’s clean and green economy, where zero carbon emissions targets are the new normal. The clean energy and clean transport megatrends are major drivers of the US$3-5 billion rare earths market. China turns rare earths into finished products in high demand, including smart devices, wind turbines, electric motors, vehicles and hybrids, reaping massive returns.

China’s cleaning up. What’s wrong with that?

China’s objective is to become a sustainable, developed country of equal standing to other G20 nations. China’s transformation is the sum of many moving parts, not least of which is the race for 400 million Chinese baby boomers to become rich before they grow old, while another is the imperative to create an environmentally sustainable, circular economy.

Waging ‘war on pollution’, China is committed to reducing its reliance on coal, the source of 70% of China’s energy and much of its air pollution. The crackdown on water and soil polluters will be even more severe, with thousands of chemical factories facing the risk of closure at a moment’s notice, plus massive remediation costs.

Water scarcity in northern China has reached crisis as people, agriculture, energy and industry compete for this precious resource. Cheap Chinese exports consume vast quantities of water, but this is changing fast. China’s Three Red Lines policies balance economic growth against limited water resources and environmental sustainability. China is especially targeting polluting industries with low GDP contributions and high water and energy consumption. The textile industry and paper industries have already been hit, and the chemicals industry is next.

As China tightens environmental standards, supply chains for thousands of products are now vulnerable to long-term supply disruptions.

Stand by for rare earth supply disruptions. Whose fault are they?

Decades of unrestrained growth created unsustainable Chinese supply chains for millions of products as rest-of-world companies closed down and we bought from China. Short-sighted companies and purchasing managers, motivated by short-term objectives and personal incentives, talked about supply security and sustainability but continued to buy the lowest priced commodities from polluting Chinese companies. They demanded that new, non-Chinese projects matched, or even undercut, Chinese prices, and were not prepared to invest in new projects themselves, for their own long-term supply security. Unfortunately, it will probably take supply disruptions to change this behaviour, and that means there will be a long lag before new projects replace Chinese supply.

(Securing lithium supply for batteries is a recent exception to this behaviour pattern, but devices and vehicles requiring lithium batteries also need rare earths.)

A Chinese ban on rare earth exports happened briefly in 2010, resulting in rare earth prices jumping 300-1,600%. Japan’s response to the crisis was to create a US$1billion fund to finance non-Chinese rare earths projects to support Japanese industry. In the rush for development, most of this fund was wasted on bad projects, but Lynas emerged as a beacon of hope, and prospers today thanks to ongoing support from its Japanese partners.

In the next decade, at least three more projects of equivalent size to Lynas are needed to meet continued exponential demand growth for electric vehicles, with China leading demand. China could become a net importer of rare earths. What will other nations do then?

Australia has a new rare earths project. Who’s smart enough to hop on board?

Typically, the Chinese aren’t waiting for a crisis to occur. Private and state-owned Chinese companies are moving to control rare earth resources in Australia, Africa and elsewhere, before the rest of the world realises that we’re in hot water. The Chinese will buy cheap raw materials abroad and capture most of the value at home.

Cash-strapped small mining companies ultimately turn to China for financing and offtake agreements, and their countries consequently lose sovereignty over their resources as well as losing the greater processed value of their minerals.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In central-west NSW, Alkane Resources’ Dubbo Project can supply 6,500 tonnes of rare earth oxides annually (including approx. 1,400 tonnes of the key rare earths used in permanent magnets), for 75+ years. The most advanced project of its kind outside China, its strategic value is clearly high and increasing. To progress the Dubbo Project to construction, Alkane Resources seeks a blend of financing from export credit agencies, strategic partners and equity and debt markets. Information for investors is available here.

ASM