Cobra Resources (LSE:COBR) has taken a significant step forward in its pursuit of sustainable and cost-effective rare earth element (REE) extraction through a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Watercycle Technologies Ltd, a UK-based deep tech firm specialising in sustainable mineral extraction and water treatment systems, with the shared goal of revolutionising REE extraction through membrane desorption and filtration technologies.
High-Yield, Low-Cost, Sustainable Extraction
The collaboration aims to harness the potential of Cobra’s Boland ionic REE discovery, located within the Wudinna Project in South Australia.
Metallurgical testing conducted by the Australian Nuclear Scientific Technology Organisation has yielded promising results, with recoveries of valuable magnet REEs reaching up to 58% and 65% for heavy REEs at pH 3.
Importantly, this achievement was accompanied by low acid consumption, indicating the feasibility of low-cost, low-disturbance In Situ Recovery mining (ISR).
Cobra’s Boland Prospect boasts highly desirable and easily extractable ionic REE mineralisation, positioning it as a valuable resource in the global quest for sustainable REE production.
Exploring Innovative Approaches
Under this partnership, Cobra intends to explore alternative approaches to REE extraction tailored to the specific characteristics of their mineral deposit.
Watercycle, headquartered at the University of Manchester, brings a wealth of experience to the table, backed by access to world-class facilities and a proven track record in innovative ISR mineral extraction design.
Through early engagement and collaboration, Cobra seeks to expedite the testing process and progress to a pilot study while also exploring opportunities to enhance the overall value of their REE extraction efforts.
Commitment to Sustainability
Watercycle Technologies is renowned for its sustainable mineral extraction practices.
One of their notable achievements is the development of DLEC™ (Direct Lithium Extraction & Crystallisation) technologies for lithium extraction from groundwater.
This expertise can be directly applied to REE desorption extraction, purification, and product generation. By collaborating with Watercycle, Cobra seeks to optimise the REE extraction process for their unique mineral occurrence, ultimately shortening the timeline from discovery to mining.
The Path Forward
Outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), Cobra and Watercycle have crafted a comprehensive roadmap to achieve their shared objectives.
They plan to establish a collaborative agreement by October 2023, formalising their partnership and enabling the testing of Watercycle’s DLEC™ technologies for the recovery of REEs from Cobra’s claims.
This collaboration will also entail the evaluation of optimisation parameters for efficient REE extraction from core samples, purification through innovative membrane desorption and filtration techniques, and the concentration of REEs from pregnant solutions, demonstrating the creation of market-ready products through carbonate crystallisation.
Additionally, the partnership will explore solution conditioning for aquifer remediation, investigate various avenues for value addition at the mine gate, including targeted REE removal, extraction of valuable minerals like vanadium and uranium, sulphide extraction for lixiviant recycling and acid production, and water purification.
Furthermore, the milestones achieved will be applied to a pilot-scale extraction study, providing essential validation and mining parameter determination. Ultimately, the collaboration will contribute to the design and commercialisation of a flowsheet and mobile plant, key elements supporting the overall project design.
Rupert Verco, CEO of Cobra, expressed his enthusiasm for the partnership, stating, “Cobra’s immediate priority is building upon our recent metallurgical results to ensure the rapid advancement of the Boland ionic REE discovery, Australia’s only ionic REE deposit with in situ recovery potential,” he said.
“What we want to achieve through collaboration is an optimized approach to REE extraction that suits our unique REE mineral occurrence. This will ultimately condense the time between discovery and decision to mine.”
Sebastian Leaper, CEO of Watercycle, also conveyed his excitement about the project, emphasising the environmentally conscious aspect of their collaboration.
“The metallurgical results from Cobra’s Boland discovery demonstrate high recoveries using weak acids. Coupled with the preferred mining method of ISR, this project aligns with our ambition to enable the sourcing of critical minerals with the lowest possible environmental impact,” he said.
“On the back of our success in defining portable extraction plants for geothermal lithium extraction, we are excited to demonstrate the applicability of our DLEC™ technologies to other critical minerals such as rare earths.”
COBR’s London Stock Exchange-listed share price is currently trading at 1.16 pence (1:15pm UTC+ 8 hours).