New Chinese JV for rare earth minerals from Greenland

23 January 2019

China's Shenghe Resources Holding Co Ltd - the largest shareholder in Greenland Minerals Ltd - has formed a joint venture company with subsidiaries of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) for the trading and processing of rare earth minerals. The creation of the joint venture supports the development of Greenland's Kvanefjeld Project.

The Kvanefjeld deposit in Greenland (Image: Greenland Minerals)

Greenland Minerals said the joint venture - named China Nuclear Hua Sheng Mining Ltd - will be the designated agent for Shenghe for the import, export and trading of rare earth minerals and products that carry radionuclides, common constituents of rare earth rich minerals and concentrates. Hua Sheng will be authorised by the relevant ministries and commissions in China to undertake these activities.

Shenghe is participating in a number of overseas rare earth projects, including the Mountain Pass rare earth mine in California, the Kvanefjeld polymetallic deposit in Greenland and a rare earth metallurgical and separating plant in Vietnam. 

Australia-based Greenland Minerals entered a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Shenghe last August that encompasses the offtake of total output of rare earth elements from Kvanefjeld in either chemical or mineral concentrate.

The company said: "Shenghe's involvement in Hua Sheng establishes a formal means for the import of rare earth concentrates containing uranium and thorium into China for further processing, subject to the conclusion of appropriate international safeguards arrangements by the responsible authorities covering the uranium (and thorium) component of the rare earth concentrate."

It added that CNNC's participation brings additional technical knowledge to the metallurgical separation of radionuclides from rare earth elements.

"The rare earth sector continues to evolve rapidly and Shenghe's participation in Hua Sheng Mining along with CNNC creates a company that is authorised to import and process rare earth minerals and products enriched in radioactive elements," said John Mair, managing director of Greenland Minerals. "Shenghe's association with CNNC provides further technical and regulatory support that will benefit the Kvanefjeld Project."

Greenland Minerals said the co-investment by Shenghe in Hua Sheng strengthens the opportunity for Greenland Minerals and Shenghe to pursue the finalisation of a strategic development plan for the Kvanefjeld Project, as outlined in the MoU announced in August 2018.

Greenland Minerals completed a feasibility study for its Kvanefjeld uranium and rare earth element project in southern Greenland in May 2015. In November of that year, the project received pre-hearing approvals from the government of Greenland and moved into the permitting phase. The government also approved the terms of reference setting the agreed initial development strategy for Kvanefjeld. In January 2016, the governments of Denmark and Greenland signed of a series of agreements setting the framework for future cooperation on foreign, defence and security policy issues related to the mining and commercial export of uranium.

In June 2015, Greenland Minerals formally announced JORC-compliant maiden ore reserves for the Kvanefjeld project. Total ore reserves of 108 million tonnes contain uranium at 362 ppm U3O8, comprising 43 million tonnes of proven reserves with 352 ppm U3O8 (12,834 tU) and 64 million tonnes of probable reserves with 368 ppm U3O8 (19,970 tU).

The Kvanefjeld Project will consist of a mine, a concentrator and refinery. The concentrator will produce a mineral concentrate containing 20-25% rare earth oxide, a zinc concentrate and fluorspar. The refinery circuit will produce high-purity intermediate rare earth products, and uranium as a by-product. Rare earth products are forecast to generate over 80% of the project's revenue, with uranium, zinc and fluorspar by-products contributing to the balance.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News