King River to focus on high-value HPA from Speewah
King River Resources’ plans to push its giant Speewah vanadium-titanium-iron deposit in Western Australia towards a definitive feasibility study have taken a strategic change of direction. The company is now firmly focusing on the opportunity around the aluminium oxide that is also contained within the deposit. Test work is pointing towards a small-scale start-up operation with a view to creating early cash flows from converting the aluminium oxide to high purity alumina, or “HPA”.
The aspiring specialty metals producer is now looking at its vanadium and titanium oxides that will be produced from Speewah as valuable by-products with HPA now taking centre stage.
HPA is a product for our times with many and varied currents uses including in the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries and also in the making of LED lights – two burgeoning markets.
HPA sells for around US$40 per kilogram and demand is forecast to grow courtesy of the battery boom.
It is chemically stable, has a high melting point, high electrical insulation properties and conducts thermal heat well.
King River stumbled across the magic formula to produce aluminium oxide and then HPA at the heart of its metallurgical flowsheet for separating the many potentially valuable products at Speewah.
The breakthrough was made as the specialty metals developer continually sought to improve upon its engineering and processing options during 2019 in support of its impending definitive feasibility study.
Further testwork will now focus on simplifying the process to improve recoveries and remove as many contaminants as possible for the production of the highest purity, “4N” HPA.
The pioneering company recently said it intended to commence tests using its unique HPA hydrometallurgical process to extract alumina directly from the waste fraction that will constitute about 70% of the mined volume of material.
According to the company, the grade of the aluminium oxide in the “run of mine” material – ore actually mined from the operation – is 12.7% and the waste fraction grade is 15-16%.
The waste fraction is expected by King River to be mostly free of the iron, titanium and vanadium, elements that scavenge a lot of acid during the leaching process.
King River recently identified a quicker route to get 95% of the aluminium out of the same leach solution at the start of the vanadium, titanium, iron and magnesium extraction process, which eliminates any further processing to recover the metal.
This new flow sheet also has the potential to significantly lower operating costs as it uses more commonly sourced and therefore less expensive chemicals in the extraction process in addition to not requiring excessively high operating temperatures which reduce the drain on energy supplies.
The innovative process modifications appear to provide continuing advantages for King River especially if it can get its hands on some early cash flows as part of a start-up operation.
The high cost of producing HPA has hindered many aspiring developers’ efforts to commercialise their technology or aluminium oxide products but with the increasing adoption of batteries, EV’s and LED’s worldwide, the market is there for the taking for King River.
Commodity analysts Allied Market Research valued the HPA market at $1.1 billion in 2018 with a massive projected CAGR of 21.7% between 2019 and 2016, reaching $5.1 billion by 2026.
Speewah currently holds a mammoth global resource of 4.7 billion tonnes grading 0.3% vanadium pentoxide, 3.3% titanium dioxide and 14.7% iron.
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