Perth-based ASX-listed exploration company, King River Resources Limited (ASX: KRR) seems to be steering along the progressive track unperturbed in the face of the Covid-19 impacts. The Company is actively engaged in enhancing the recovery efficiency of high purity alumina (HPA), which is critical to the ongoing Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) on its flagship asset Speewah Specialty Metals Project with focus on delivering positive economic impacts.
Notably, the project portfolio of King River Resources includes Speewah Specialty Metals Project, Mt Remarkable Gold Project and Treasure Creek Gold-Copper Project.
Advancing with its HPA ambition, KRR is reportedly undertaking significant activities centric to PFS at the Speewah Project. Following social distancing and working remotely with its consultants, advisors and laboratories, the Company is proceeding well with its operations during the current time.
Despite uncertainties brought by the current economic slowdown due to COVID-19, the Company expects a bright future ahead for the HPA business.
Markets giving boost to HPA Demand
HPA’s unique chemical and physical properties make it ideal for use in varying growing high technology industries. A detailed market study conducted by CRU International highlighted that over the coming years, the market price and demand of the 4N HPA (99.99% Al2O3) is expected to improve. Currently, a price of approximately US$24,000/tonne is attracted by 4N HPA.
Two crucial high technology industries are increasing the demand for HPA, where it is used as the precursor material for manufacturing.
Synthetic sapphire glass- In light?emitting diode (LED) lights, laser markets and semiconductors, synthetic sapphire glass is used as a substrate.
The quality of the synthetic sapphire directly depends on the purity of the HPA. A higher quality and performance produced by LED or laser is realised through high-quality synthetic sapphire glass. Moreover, the need for effective performance is becoming more important due to the increasing range of uses for lasers and LEDs, especially in the scientific and medical applications.
HPA coated separators- It is the fastest-growing market for high purity alumina. For the production of lithium batteries, separators coated with HPA are utilised and they have been found to increase efficiency and safety by a significant level.
Lithium battery cells typically generate very high temperatures, which HPA coated battery separators can withstand, thereby lowering self-discharge, increasing the discharge rate of batteries and lengthening battery life cycle. It also provides batteries with higher thermal stability while lowering the risk of batteries catching fire.
Lens through the HPA Recovery Process
The pre-feasibility study at the Speewah Project has explored several process routes. And, following the aluminium (Al) extraction directly from the vanadium, titanium, iron, aluminium and magnesium-rich sulphuric acid leach solution during late-2019, the Company has directed its focus to a process having potential for low-cost and easy recovery. Currently, a smaller-scale sulphuric acid leaching precipitation process in the beneficiation-agitated tank is being investigated.
The process involves the magnetic separation of the mined materials into two components. While the non-magnetic fraction (70% by volume) would contain most of alumina, the non-magnetic component (30% by volume) will contain vanadium, iron and titanium minerals.
Post the magnetic separation; the non-magnetic fraction would be leached in sulphuric acid for recovering high purity alumina. Calcination and washing post the purification of the intermediate Al-rich product has produced (3N8) HPA (99.98% Al2O3). For improving the HPA purity to 4N and increasing overall efficiency, the optimisation testworks are underway.
What’s Next in HPA Development?
A Glimpse at Ongoing Activities
At Nagrom located in Perth, sulphuric acid leaching tests, as well as beneficiation magnetic separation testwork, are approaching completion.
In Perth, TSW Analytical focussed on producing a >4N HPA product along with enhancing final purification efficiencies is carrying out the hydrometallurgical refining testwork.
Pending the final flowsheet parameters, the process plant work advanced by Como Engineers remains on track. It would deliver CAPEX estimates for PFS.
CSA Global has completed pit designs and initial pit optimisations for the HPA scenario.
For a smaller-scale HPA operation, the social and environmental studies are being updated by Animal Plant Mineral.
Future Plans- Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS)
The project’s next progressive step would involve DFS incorporating flow sheet and technical optimisation, more extensive scale pilot studies and investigation of many other commercial variables. Review of the potential of processing the beneficiated products offshore would form as one of the integrated components of the study.
The stock last traded on 9 April 2020 at $0.031 per share, up by 29.167% intraday. KRR stock has given a positive return of 55% and 47.62% in the past three months and year-to-date period, respectively.
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