November 28, 2012 – HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA- Ucore Rare Metals Inc. (TSX VENTURE:UCU)(OTCQX:UURAF) (“Ucore” or “the Company”) is pleased to report very strong results of the Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) completed by Tetra Tech of Vancouver, BC, regarding the Dotson Ridge Zone of the Company’s Bokan Mountain heavy rare earth property in Southeast Alaska.
Highlights of the PEA Include:
* Net Present Value (NPV): $577M at a 10% discount rate, pre-tax.
* Internal Rate of Return (IRR): 43%.
* Payback Period: 2.3 years.
* Capital Cost: $221M, including a complete on-site rare earth oxide (REO) separation plant, and a contingency provision in the amount of $25M. Among the lowest capital outlays in the rare earth mining sector.
* Mining Rate: 1,500 tonnes per day (TPD), 75% of mill feed is eliminated via the use of Dual Energy X-Ray Transmission (DEXRT) sorting and magnetic separation, netting approximately 375 TPD to feed the leach circuit.
* Average Total Rare Earth Recoveries: 81.6%
* Production of REOs at site: Deployment of Solid Phase Extraction (SPE) technology to generate high purity individual rare earth oxides at the site.
* REO Production: Averaging 2,250 tonnes per year (TPY) during the first five years at full production, including 95 tonnes of dysprosium oxide, 14 tonnes of terbium oxide, and 515 tonnes of yttrium oxide.
* Mine Life: 11 years, based on existing Inferred Mineral Resource Estimate (April 21, 2011), excluding highly prospective expansion at depth, along strike, and other exploration targets at the I&L Zone and beyond.
* Direct Employment: 170 employees.
* Ease of Shipping Access: Only rare earth project with immediate deep water shipping facilities, resulting in prospective mine-mouth shipping rates among the lowest in the industry.
* Elimination of Tailings on Surface at Closure: Only known mine to eliminate tailings on surface at closure. All tailings will be placed underground via cemented paste backfill. The processing plant will generate approximately 735 TPD of tailings, significantly less than the mine requirement of approximately 1,030 TPD backfill.
* Recycling of Nitric Acid: Nitric acid that is not consumed in the leach circuit will be recycled through the use of diffusion dialysis, greatly reducing acid consumption by more than 75%, resulting in significant financial and environmental benefits.
* Near Term, High Value Production: Relative high percentage of rare earth metals strategically critical to the US defence, clean energy, aerospace, supercomputing and transportation sectors: including Tb, Dy and Y.
* Excellent Geopolitical Support: Offset of completion risk through strong legislative and financial support at state and federal levels.
“The completion of this PEA is a key milestone in Ucore’s march to near term HREE production,” said Jim McKenzie, President & CEO of Ucore. “Bokan’s unique features have generated a CAPEX that is among the absolute lowest in the industry, remarkably including full downstream separation facilities that promise to render high purity oxides both economically and on-site. In turn, the Bokan PEA has delivered highly robust IRR and NPV calculations. Beyond all of this, the Bokan facility will have little in the way of direct domestic competition. The facility will generate critical technology metals that are indispensable and increasingly difficult to obtain for applications that are the lifeblood of US competitiveness, including defense sector, clean technology, supercomputing, transportation and advanced aerospace. Our thanks to the many researchers, scientists, engineering specialists and contractors who made this document possible.”
Overview of Bokan Project and PEA
Ucore’s Bokan Mountain project is located on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, approximately 60 km southwest of Ketchikan, Alaska and 140 km northwest of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, with direct ocean access to the western seaboard and the Pacific Rim. The project is situated in the Tongass National Forest, within an area set aside for natural resource development.
The PEA has been completed based on the Inferred Resource Estimate Technical Report filed on April 21st, 2011 by Ucore, with the exclusion of the I&L Zone. The resource was estimated by R. J. Robinson of Aurora Geosciences. The resource incorporated into the current mine plan totals 5.3 million tonnes, with an average grade of 0.65% total rare earth oxides (TREO), at a cut-off grade of 0.4% TREO. Of the TREO, approximately 40% are comprised of heavy rare earth oxides. A summary of the operating assumptions and financial model for the project is as follows:
Mined Grade TREO
Initial Capital Expenditure
Total Before-Tax Cash Flow (undiscounted)
Before-tax NPV @ 8%
Before-tax NPV @ 10%
Before-tax NPV @ 12%
Before tax IRR (%)
The Dotson Ridge deposit is a well delineated rare earth element (REE) mineralized vein-dike system related to the Mesozoic Bokan peralkaline granitic complex. The mineralized system is a tabular body exposed at the surface for a strike length of 3.5 km. The deposit was drilled to a depth of 450 m, and remains open both along strike and at depth. The system outcrops along the ridge so that it is readily accessible for drilling and bulk sampling. The REE-bearing veins can be visually identified from the surrounding host rock and the material is amenable to DEXRT sorting, as noted below. An existing road network provides access to all main target areas. There are a number of other occurrences of REE mineralization located within, or at the margins of the Bokan complex which remain highly prospective exploration targets.
Proposed Mining Plan
The underground mine design was completed by Stantec of Tempe, AZ. The design contemplates trackless mining with adit access and blasthole stoping with paste backfill as the preferred mining method for the project. This mining approach will result in a production rate of 1,500 tonnes per day, at a 0.4% TREO cut-off grade.
The mine plan proposes the use of mill tailings as cemented paste backfill to fill the mined out areas of the underground workings. At full production, the mill will produce approximately 735 TPD of tailings and the mine will require 1,030 TPD of backfill. This will result in all tailings being placed underground as backfill, thereby eliminating the need for a tailings facility at surface upon mine closure. Waste rock will be utilized for the remainder of the backfill.
Proposed Beneficiation and Processing Plan
The proposed processing flow sheet consists of three areas: physical beneficiation, leaching and downstream REO separation.
i) Physical Beneficiation
The mine will produce 1,500 TPD of mineralized material which will be crushed and split into four size ranges. The fines will by-pass the sorters and each of the other size ranges will feed one of three sorters utilizing dual energy x-ray transmission. This circuit will reject approximately 50% of the feed as waste. The concentrated mineralized material will then be further crushed and ground in a rod mill. The resultant material will be processed by magnetic separators, which will reject a further 50% of their feed as waste.
In total, approximately 75% of non-REE bearing material will be discarded through the physical beneficiation process. The remaining 375 TPD of concentrated mineralized material is further ground to -40 um and then fed to the leaching circuit.
The physical beneficiation circuit results in significant savings in terms of initial capital expenditure and ongoing operating costs, due to reduced power and acid consumption during the leaching and separation process.
ii) Leaching Circuit
The leaching circuit consists of a nitric acid leach process. The concentrated mineralized material is leached utilizing nitric acid heated to a temperature of 90° C. The resultant slurry is filtered, with solids then submitted to the backfill plant to be placed underground as cemented paste backfill. Prior to the pregnant solution continuing on to the separation circuit it is treated by diffusion dialysis in order to recover the unconsumed nitric acid. The recovered acid is then recycled into the leach circuit, resulting in significant operating cost savings.
iii) REO Separation Circuit
The separation of individual rare earth oxides is achieved through the use of Solid Phase Extraction (SPE), a technology developed by IntelliMet LLC of Montana, in conjunction with Ucore. The pregnant leach solution generated by the nitric acid leach is introduced into a series of purpose-built SPE columns. The first stage of this process removes nuisance materials such as thorium, uranium, and iron from the solution. A subsequent series of columns then separates the rare earths into the following lanthanide sub-classes, Ce-La; Pr-Nd; Y; Sm-Eu-Gd; Tb-Dy; and Ho-Er-Tm-Yb-Lu. The final circuit of columns then separates the subclasses into individual rare earth chlorides, which can then be precipitated to generate individual purified rare earth oxides.
The SPE process produces chemical transfers of selective elements from the pregnant solution to a solid phase within a matter of seconds, giving the columns the capacity to process a large volume of solution in relatively small flow-through extraction units. The result is a relatively low initial capital cost for the SPE circuits. Waste products from the separation process will be returned underground as part of the cemented backfill.
Capital Cost Estimate
Initial capital cost estimates for the project are as follows:
Item Total Cost
Direct Capital Cost
Site development 6.1
Mine underground 18.9
Mine surface facilities 23.8
Tailings and waste rock management 10.1
Temporary facilities 5.2
Plant mobile equipment & misc. 1.4
Indirect Capital Cost
Indirect construction costs 51.1
Owner’s costs 10.9
Total Capital Cost 221.3
Initial capital costs include all costs required to bring the facility to production. The ongoing sustaining capital costs are estimated to be $145M over the 11 year mine life.
Operating Cost Estimate
Total Operating Cost
REE Pricing Considerations
In developing rare earth pricing assumptions, a number of sources were considered by both Ucore and Tetra Tech. Price forecasts generated by analysts and Ucore’s rare earth peer group vary widely. In selecting pricing assumptions, efforts were made to incorporate assumptions that were independent, supportable, and conservative. As a result, Tetra Tech has used a three-year trailing average of China FOB prices from October, 2009 to October, 2012 to establish prices for the rare earth oxides, except Ho, Lu, Yb & Er oxides, where two-year trailing averages were used due to limited Chinese market data. These prices are displayed in “Scenario 1” below. The Company also considered the impact of pricing REO’s based on a 6-month trailing average and a 3-month trailing average. These results are displayed in “Scenario 2” and “Scenario 3” below, respectively.
Pricing Scenario 1
Pricing Scenario 2
Pricing Scenario 3
NPV @ 10%
Economic Analysis and Sensitivity Analysis
The economic analysis was based on the mineral resource estimate filed by Ucore in April of 2011, totalling 5.3 million tonnes at an average grade of 0.65% TREO in the Inferred category. This resource is adequate to allow for an 11 year mine life, based on current mining assumptions including a mining rate of 1,500 TPD. TREO recoveries are expected to average 81.6%.
These assumptions, together with capital cost and operating cost estimates noted above, result in a before tax NPV, at a 10% discount rate, of $577 million. The payback period for the project is 2.3 years from the start of production. The project generates a pre-tax IRR of 43%.
A sensitivity analysis was performed, to test the impact of changes to several key assumptions included in the economic model, with the following results:
Changes to selling price of REOs NPV at 10%,
$US million IRR, %
Increase of 20% 802 52%
Increase of 10% 690 47%
Base Case 577 43%
Decrease of 10% 464 38%
Decrease of 20% 352 33%
Changes in operating costs NPV at 10%,
$ US million IRR, %
Increase of 20% 519 40%
Increase of 10% 548 42%
Base Case 577 43%
Decrease of 10% 606 44%
Decrease of 20% 635 45%
Change in initial capital expenditure NPV at 10%,
$ US million IRR, %
Increase of 20% 526 37%
Increase of 10% 552 40%
Base Case 577 43%
Decrease of 10% 602 46%
Decrease of 20% 627 51%
Ucore is currently conducting environmental baseline studies to prepare for the forthcoming permitting process at the Dotson Ridge Project. The project plan is being developed in consultation with local stakeholders as well as state and federal regulators. A Plan of Operations, which will be based upon engineered facility designs advanced from the concepts presented in the PEA, will be submitted to the US Forest Service (USFS) to initiate a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review. Permitting advantages for the project include the elimination of a permanent surface tailings storage facility, due to the use of x-ray sorting technology, which will allow for 100% of the mill tailings to be placed in mined out areas underground as cemented paste backfill. The study includes cost estimates for site water management and treatment.
The technical disclosures in this press release have been reviewed and approved by Kenneth W. Collison, P. Eng. a consultant to and COO of Ucore together with the following independent qualified persons;
* R. J. Robinson, consultant, Aurora Geosciences Inc. for geology and mineral resource
* S. Annavarapu, consultant, AMEC (formerly Stantec) for mine planning.
* E. Bentzen, consultant, Lyntek for physical benefication processes.
* R. Hammen, consultant, IntelliMet for leaching and SPE processes.
* H. Ghaffari, consultant, Tetra Tech for cost estimating.
* S. Hafez, consultant, Tetra Tech for economic analysis.
Please note that the PEA is preliminary in nature, that it includes inferred mineral resources that are considered too speculative geologically to have the economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves, and there is no certainty that the PEA will be realized. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.