Elysis to create research centre in Saguenay

Elysis, a joint venture of Rio Tinto Alcan and Alcoa – has chosen the site for its new research and development facility in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. It will be located at Rio Tinto’s Jonquiere complex, home of the Arvida smelter and R&D lab.

The new facility should be fully functional in the second half of 2019 and employ more than 25 experts. The lab has the financial backing of the governments of Quebec and Canada.

Elysis aims to commercialize technology that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases from the traditional aluminum smelting process by 2024. Using the technology would reduce the environmental footprint of the aluminum industry worldwide. The process was developed by Alcoa at its technical centre near Pittsburgh, Penn. It has been in use since 2009 in applications of various sizes.

The aluminum smelting process uses inert anodes, rather than carbon anodes. Anode life is increased 30 times, operating costs go down by 15% and production rises by 15%.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

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Elysis to create research centre in Saguenay

Elysis, a joint venture of Rio Tinto Alcan and Alcoa – has chosen the site for its new research and development facility in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. It will be located at Rio Tinto’s Jonquiere complex, home of the Arvida smelter and R&D lab.

The new facility should be fully functional in the second half of 2019 and employ more than 25 experts. The lab has the financial backing of the governments of Quebec and Canada.

Elysis aims to commercialize technology that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases from the traditional aluminum smelting process by 2024. Using the technology would reduce the environmental footprint of the aluminum industry worldwide. The process was developed by Alcoa at its technical centre near Pittsburgh, Penn. It has been in use since 2009 in applications of various sizes.

The aluminum smelting process uses inert anodes, rather than carbon anodes. Anode life is increased 30 times, operating costs go down by 15% and production rises by 15%.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)

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Malaysia puts bauxite mining ban on hold until impact studies completed

Malaysia is extending its ban on bauxite mining by at least another six months, which is how long companies wishing to resume operations may take to complete studies on the environmental impact of their mines.

The long-held moratorium on mining the ore, used to smelt aluminium, was due to end on March 31, but critics have pressed the government to step up conditions to obtain a licence. They claim pits across the country, particularly in the bauxite-rich state of Pahang, had caused serious environmental and public health issues in the past.

Bauxite mining was banned early in 2016 after unregulated extraction and waste run-offs polluted water sources, turning roads, rivers and coastal waters red.

“I would like to stress the orders to stop all mining operations would be retracted only after all relevant parties are prepared to carry out and enforce the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for mining and exporting Bauxite in Pahang,” Land and Natural Resources Minister, Xavier Jayakumar, told Malay Mail.

“Even if the moratorium on bauxite mining and exports expires at the end of this month, it does not mean mining activities can immediately begin on April 1,” the minister added.

Malaysia was once the top supplier of bauxite China, with exports peaking at nearly 3.5 million tonnes a month by the end of 2015. Mining the minerals-bearing rock was banned early in 2016 after unregulated extraction and run-offs from unsecured stockpiles polluted water sources, turning roads, rivers and coastal waters red. There was also an increase in respiratory problems and skin rashes.

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Luxfer’s acquisition of Neo Performance falls through

Producer of mineral-based highly engineered advanced materials Luxfer, and manufacturer of rare earth and rare metal-based functional materials Neo Performance, announced that they have mutually agreed to terminate a previously announced transaction under which Luxfer would have acquired Neo for $612 million in cash and stock.

The companies made the announcement by issuing a press release in which they did not explain the reasons behind the termination of the definitive agreement they signed back in December 2018 and that was approved by each company’s Board of Directors.

Luxfer was to buy Neo for $612 million in cash and stock.

In that agreement, a Plan of Arrangement was established and it was stated that shareholders of Neo Performance Materials were to receive $5.98 in cash and 0.395 Luxfer shares for each common share of Neo Performance Materials. Once the transaction was completed, Luxfer shareholders would have owned approximately 63% of the combined company on a pro forma basis.

According to that previous document, the transaction was aimed at accelerating Luxfer’s strategy to become a leading global manufacturer of highly-engineered advanced materials for high-end applications.

The English company also said back then that it wanted to complement its portfolio with high-value rare-earth and rare metal-based products and expand its access to high-growth Asian markets.

Luxfer leadership praised Neo’s Magnequench segment as an industry leader in rare-earth powders used to manufacture magnets for performance micro motors, while Neo Performance Materials’ CEO said its then partner-to-be creates materials that are critical to many of today’s macro global trends including those promoting energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

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American Manganese moves forward with plans to recycle lithium-ion battery materials

American Manganese (TSX.V: AMY; FRANK: 2AM) announced this week that its partner, Kemetco Research, started the processing of a select sample of cathode scrap material through Stages 1 and 2 of a Pilot Plant built to recycle cobalt, nickel, manganese, and aluminum.

In a press release, the Surrey-based company explained that the commencement of the pilot plant followed a hazard and operability study and preliminary testing of all the unit operations in the first two processing stages.

Scrap battery cathode material. Photo by American Manganese.

The exploration firm also provided details as to what are the different stages of its hydrometallurgical plant aimed at generating a continued recovery of cathode material.

Stage 1 – Pre-treatment of cathode material
Stage 2 – Leach of active material
Stage 3 – Purification
Stage 4 – Recovery of base metals
Stage 5 – Lithium recovery and water recycle

According to Norman Chow, President of Kemetco Research, having gone through the first couple of phases is a great accomplishment for American Manganese, as it moves forward in its quest to prove its patent-approved lithium-ion battery recycling technology.

"This is a great milestone for the company as we work towards a complete lithium-ion battery recycling process. The company is also anticipating an official U.S. Patent number for its recently approved patent application,” Reaugh said in the media statement.

In previous releases, American Manganese has cited industry sources as saying that up to 10% of manufactured lithium-ion battery cathodes are rejected for use. The rejected cathodes, termed ‘scrap,’ consist of the aluminum foil backing and the cathode metal powder which, in the firm’s view, can be recycled into usable cathode material.

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Rio’s BC Works smelter ASI certified

Rio Tinto’s BC Works aluminum smelter and Kemano power operations have been certified by the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI). This is the highest internationally recognized standard for environmental, social and governance practices.

All of Rio Tinto’s aluminum operations in Canada are now ASI certified. That makes the company the only one that sells ASI certified aluminum through a chain of custody from the Gove bauxite mine in Australia to its alumina refinery, aluminium smelters and casthouses in Quebec and British Columbia.

Nespresso announced recently that it will be the first company to use responsibly sourced ASI aluminum to produce its coffee capsules. Rio has plans to supply ASI certified aluminum to all its global customers.

Visit www.RioTinto.com/Canada for a comprehensive review of the company’s operations in this country. Or visit www.Aluminium-Stewardship.com to learn more about certification.

This story first appeared in Canadian Mining Journal.

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Rio Tinto to remain strong despite difficulties—report

The outlook for Rio Tinto, the world’s second largest miner by market capitalisation, is positive over the coming years, according to a new report by Fitch Solutions. Rio has the expertise and capital to develop the most lucrative and largest mines in the world, and the miner has achieved higher profits year-over-year in H118, despite cost inflation.

Rio Tinto's performance will continue improving over the coming quarters, despite downward-trending iron ore prices, as the miner continues to prioritise cost reduction, cash generation and investing in technology to improve efficiency, Fitch forecasts. Weak steel production in China from 2018 onwards will subdue the country's iron ore demand growth, which will affect Rio Tinto 

The miner is committed to reducing costs and bolstering margins by shedding non-core assets and focusing o n the development of its core revenue streams. Rio Tinto remains a low-cost leader in the iron ore industry, which will continue to generate healthy profit margins despite Fitch’s downbeat forecast for iron ore prices over the coming years.

A key asset is the Oyu Tolgoi copper project in Mongolia, which will partially diversify the miner's earnings away from iron ore.

Weak steel production in China from 2018 onwards will subdue the country's iron ore demand growth. This will affect Rio, as iron ore accounts for more than 42% of the firm's revenue remains too reliant and over-exposed to iron ore, Fitch forecasts.

Analysts predict further integration of mining infrastructure and networks, such as Rio's operations in Australia’s Pilbara region, can significantly reduce operating costs and enhance mining productivity over the medium term.

Fitch also forecasts some difficulties ahead for Rio Tinto. Resource nationalism in Mongolia and ongoing border disputes with China could flare up and threaten production at the firm's OT mine. Operational uncertainty for copper also exists, which may be worsened by labour disputes at the giant Escondida copper mine in Chile.

Read the full report here.

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