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Globe moves to patent niobium recovery technology

ASX-listed Globe Metals & Mining has applied for a novel patent covering its metallurgical technology that could slash operational and capital costs and improve recovery of niobium at its exciting Kanyika niobium project in Malawi. The company recently released jaw-dropping results from a feasibility study on the project where a total EBITDA figure of US$3.74 billion across an initial 23 year mine life was envisaged.

The ‘Patent Cooperation Treaty’ application considers the company’s metallurgical recovery of pyrochlore – a complex oxide mineral composed of niobium, sodium, and calcium.

The now submitted application can protect intellectual property in 150 or more countries and could also be of importance to other niobium projects around the world, according to Globe.

The company says its novel technological process comes on the back of metallurgical and beneficiation optimisation works at Kanyika.

Globe believes its innovative use of existing metallurgical technology, in conjunction with added testwork, has led to the development of the new technology that could lower operational and capital costs at the project, improve metallurgical recovery and reduce the environmental impact of the operation.

Notably, Globe says the new process has allowed for a reduction of chemical agents used in the processing flotation schedule at Kanyika from 32 to just six. Recovery rates going more than 75 per cent could also be possible under the new method.

The company intends to integrate the new process into future engineering works at Kanyika.

Globe says the technology could also provide benefit to metallurgical processes across the broader mineral commodity sector. If successful, application of the technology could result in a seismic shift in metallurgical processes across the industry.

Globe sees the patent and the technology’s potential applications as key to its corporate strategy and future commercialisation.

We are focused on delivering the Kanyika project and transitioning to project execution phase. Incorporating this technology, which uses an industry-wide established processing technique in a novel configuration, will be simple to integrate into the existing flowsheet.

We are quietly confident that the technology will present benefit to existing and potential niobium producers whether a main product or a by-product. We continue to undertake laboratory work to quantify the benefit of the technology.

What makes this so profoundly enticing is that this technology marries perfectly with other regenerative power and site sustainability programmes that lower the environmental footprint making Globe potentially project leaders in our environmental footprint.

Kanyika takes in a 68 million tonne resource going 2,830 parts per million niobium pentoxide.

Globe is looking to bring the project to life and the recent feasibility study evaluating potential production at Kanyika delivered some stellar numbers for the proposed long-life mining and processing operation.

According to the study, Kanyika is panned to churn out some 11,300 tonnes of niobium and tantalum concentrate each year on the back of proved and probable ore reserves of 33.8 million tonnes at 3,048ppm niobium pentoxide and 141ppm tantalum pentoxide.

A net present value before tax of US$1 billion and an internal rate of return before tax of about 50 per cent were estimated in the study.

A mammoth US$5.6 billion in revenue from refinery sales over the 23-year mine life was also projected.

Capital costs clocked in at about US$250 million, with a predicted payback period of only one-and-a-half years from start of production. Life-of-mine operating costs came in at an average of $US70 million a year.

Kanyika already boasts some cracking numbers foreseen in the feasibility study. The potential to further reduce capital and operating costs via a patent protected technology will likely bode well for Globe in its efforts to bring the long-life niobium project to production.

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@wanews.com.au

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