Ramaco Resources announces substantial expansion of Brook Mine rare earth elements exploration target
Ramaco Resources, Inc. announced in May that its Brook Mine property in Sheridan, WY contains perhaps the largest unconventional deposit of rare earth elements (REE) discovered in the United States, in association with researchers from the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and analysts at mining consultancy Weir International (Weir). In particular, the Brook Mine is rich in magnetic REEs, which are used in applications that include advanced military technology, electric vehicles, and more.
In August, the company announced that Weir has determined based upon chemical analysis from additional drilling the level of unconventional REE deposits has increased by almost 50 percent compared to its initial target disclosed in May. The company also announced that its board of directors has approved the commencement of initial mine development to begin this Fall. This would make the Brook Mine the first new rare earth mine in the United States since the Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine in California in 1952, currently the United States' only operating mine for these critical elements and minerals.
Finally, the company announced that working with the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, it has jointly developed and patented technologies to commercialize two potentially disruptive high-value carbon products using use coal as their primary feedstock. These technologies were developed as part of a multi-year research partnership, and are subject to issued and pending patents. One involves the use of coal (also called carbon ore) to develop a form of activated carbon fiber as a solid adsorbent to be used in large-scale direct air capture of CO2, methane or other noxious gases. The second involves the use of coal to make a form of low-cost synthetic graphite, a major component in electric vehicle batteries and other energy-storage products.
Ramaco anticipates spending roughly $2.5 million over two quarters for initial development for both rare earth and carbon ore/coal mining.
Based on additional coring and chemical analysis, Weir International has also determined that the size of the company's REE exploration target has increased almost 50 percent to 0.9 - 1.2 million tons of total rare earth oxides (TREOs) from its initial target in May of 0.6 - 0.8 million tons. As perspective, the United States has an average domestic consumption of roughly 10,000 tons per year of REEs over the last 10 years.
The deposit is estimated to contain approximately 29 percent of primary magnetic rare earth oxides (REOs) neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium as well as secondary magnetic REOs. As previously reported, this current assessment has only been conducted on one third of the area of the Brook Mine.
“As with all our development projects, we will take a thorough and disciplined approach to assessing the feasibility of the Brook Mine. We are however, very encouraged by the board's decision to greenlight the initial mine development of the country's first carbon ore and rare earth mine,” said Randall Atkins, Chairman and CEO of Ramaco. “Based on our recent findings, we are more optimistic today than in May when we first announced this unconventional rare earth deposit. We have now increased the exploration target by 50 percent relative to our initial findings, enlisted a group of world-class third-party experts to assist in our overall evaluation and will soon actually start mining for rare earths. We will continue to pursue our measured approach, as we embark on this potentially transformational opportunity.”
Ramaco's Board has also authorized the Company's continued development with ORNL of two ground-breaking technology innovations. These both offer the potential to use coal in both an improved economic and environmental manner under the company thesis that "coal is too valuable to burn".
The first innovation is a newly patented technique for converting coal to a form of synthetic graphite, which can be used in the production of electric vehicle (EV) batteries and long-term grid storage battery anodes. The technique is both lower cost and uses less energy than other conventional methods. Currently, synthetic graphite is produced using an energy intensive and CO2-producing technique. Ramaco’s new low-severity synthetic graphite (LSSG) production technique, developed with ORNL, uses comparatively low-cost coal/carbon ore and a much less energy intensive and environmentally friendly molten salt process to produce synthetic graphite.
The second potential breakthrough product is activated carbon fiber monoliths (ACFMs) to be used for large scale direct air capture of CO2, methane, or other noxious gases, a key priority in combatting the environmental impact of emissions. Using new patented technology, these ACFMs can also be made with comparatively low-cost coal/carbon ore as a precursor material. They offer dramatic energy savings in both the adsorption and desorption of these gases. This technology is aimed at lowering the cost to capture CO2 at large scale for either downhole sequestration, for production of non-contaminating permanent and recyclable carbon materials for building materials and for other purposes.
Photo credit: Ramaco Resources