- Ucore is a company engaged in the exploration for and separation and scalable production of REEs in Canada and the US
- The company is focusing on a section of the REE supply chain where China has taken control of rare earth oxide production: the midstream
- Ucore is focused on finding US-allied friendly feedstocks upstream, processing them, and then feeding them to customers downstream that want to find an ex-China solution to be able to make things work for them
- The company’s RapidSX is a more competitive REE processing technology that improves the efficiency of the conventional solvent extraction process, resulting in better throughput and other allied benefits
Scientists have continuously explored the potential of rare earth elements in various fields, and have long established them as nation-critical. Just recently, a team led by Professor Ranga Dias discovered a new superconducting material that “works at both a temperature and a pressure low enough to actually use it in practical situations,” according to an article in the Independent (https://ibn.fm/SRCOv). The material is made by mixing a rare earth metal called lutetium with hydrogen and a small part of nitrogen and leaving these elements to react for two or three days at high temperatures.
To acquire its superconducting properties, the material, nicknamed ‘reddmatter,’ must be compressed to about 145,000 psi and heated to 20.5°C. But according to the article, these conditions are vastly less intense than other similar materials, which is why Andrew Griffin, the author, believes the material has reached “a breakthrough that scientists have been chasing for more than a century, in making a material that is able to transmit electricity without resistance and pass magnetic fields around the materials.”
‘Reddmatter’ is just the latest example of the potential of rare earth elements (“REEs”), which are currently 17 in total in Mendeleev’s periodic table. REEs are considered strategic resources because they are rare (in that they require significant processing), valuable, non-substitutable, and difficult to imitate. As raw materials, they are indispensable in a wide range of sectors, including energy, agriculture, and national defense, among others (https://ibn.fm/be8xp).
With each passing day, the demand for REEs continues to rise, yet the natural reserves remain limited and largely concentrated in China. In fact, as of December 2022, China accounted for 63% of the world’s REE mining, 85% of REE processing, and 92% of rare earth magnet production, according to Politico magazine (https://ibn.fm/Tfp0q).
However, Ucore Rare Metals (TSX.V: UCU) (OTCQX: UURAF), a company engaged in the exploration for and separation and scalable production of REEs in Canada and the US, is out to ensure that China’s dominance does not leave vulnerable those North American companies that are particularly reliant on these critical rare earth elements. This comes at a timely juncture, especially considering the degrading China-US relationship.
To achieve this, Ucore is looking at the means of REE processing used in China and trying to find better ways to do that in North America, thereby taking back control of the supply chain. According to the company’s November 2022 investor presentation, the REE supply chain comprises three main segments – the upstream, midstream, and downstream – with each made up of two supply nodes. The upstream consists of REE ore and REE mineral concentrate production, the midstream features the production of REE chemical concentrate and REE oxides, and the downstream is made up of the manufacture/production of REE metals and alloys and REE-based magnets and components (https://ibn.fm/ECbL3).
“Where Ucore is very focused on is in the middle of this supply chain market. It’s the midstream. It’s the part where China has taken control of rare earth oxide production, which then gets turned into metals and alloys and eventually permanent magnets. And once you have permanent magnets, you’re controlling the entire industry,” said Ucore Chairman and CEO Pat Ryan in a presentation published on the company’s website (https://ibn.fm/ONpB5).
“So, Ucore is focused on finding US-allied friendly feedstocks to the left – upstream – [processing the feedstocks], and then feeding them into customers downstream that want to find an ex-China solution to be able to make things work for them. That mid-market is where China has taken control. That’s where Ucore will make a difference. No one’s doing what you’re doing. We are taking advantage of recreating the mid-market in North America, which is crucial to recreating the supply chain,” Ryan continued.
Ryan further stated that North American OEMs are looking for ex-China solutions, which has brought them to its doorstep; as a result, Ucore is engaged in ongoing discussions with them. UURAF, therefore, plans to leverage strategic partnerships with these North American companies, both on the upstream and downstream ends of the supply chain spectrum, to disrupt China’s dominance.
Meanwhile, the company has “westernized” REE processing, making it more competitive. In May 2020, Ucore acquired Innovation Metals Corp., which has innovated the RapidSX(TM) process, a derivation of the conventional solvent extraction (“SX”) separation and recovery process. RapidSX improves the efficiency of SX through physical means, resulting in better throughput and, consequently, a smaller plant footprint, lesser reagent use, lower capital expenditure, and lower energy consumption.
For more information, visit the company’s website at www.Ucore.com.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to UURAF are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/UURAF
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