Perth-based vanadium resource and battery development company Protean Energy (ASX: POW), through its 50%-owned subsidiary Stonehenge Korea, has reached an agreement with Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) to maximise vanadium recoveries from its flagship Daejon project in the country’s south.
The agreement aims to optimise the processing flowsheet for the extraction of vanadium from black shale at Daejon and its purification into battery-grade vanadium pentoxide.
Under the terms of the agreement, Stonehenge will also acquire rights to KIGAM’s proprietary black shale processing intellectual property, including the results of numerous studies on processing of the Daejon-style vanadium-bearing black shale mineralisation within Korea’s Ockcheon belt.
The studies were conducted by KIGAM at bench and pilot plant scale on mineralisation from tenements immediately to the south along strike from Daejon.
The 1.2 tonnes per day pilot plant comprises crushing, leaching and solvent extraction circuits to create vanadium pentoxide and uranium concentrate (yellowcake) products from black shale mineralisation.
Protean said an update of the pilot plant design to optimise vanadium extraction could potentially transform it into a significant asset for the Daejon project.
Black shale research
Industry research in China has focused on the beneficiation of black shale hosted vanadium to grades of 2% and has seen this style of mineralisation emerge as a substantial source of vanadium supply.
KIGAM has used its existing intellectual property, including diverse research experience and a suite of wet-smelting optimisation technologies, to enable a systematic study on the recovery of vanadium from Ockcheon black shale minerals.
Between 2012 and 2015, the research body used its pilot plant to register three patents for the extraction and production of vanadium pentoxide and uranium concentrate.
Testing focused on the optimisation of yellowcake production, achieved through a leaching and solvent extraction processing route.
The optimisation project agreement signed with Stonehenge will utilise KIGAM’s patents, advanced laboratory equipment and knowledge of vanadium, rare earths and uranium smelting and leaching to advance the Daejon project.
KIGAM also holds an inventory of Daejon-style Ockcheon belt black shale mineral samples to supplement material sourced from the Daejon area during the optimisation.
The Daejon project is one of only a few vanadium projects worldwide to comprise a sediment-hosted deposit (as opposed to magnetite-based), making it well-suited to the production of high-purity vanadium pentoxide.
Vanadium pentoxide is a key precursor material required to produce the liquid electrolyte which powers vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB) – currently recognised as one of the world’s leading, large-scale energy storage systems for the harnessing of base-load energy.
VRFB technology has been predicted by industry analysts to experience increased future demand growth.
Deajon project facts
Protean’s acreage at Daejon includes an approximate strike length of 8.3km of variably-mineralised shale and slate beds hosting the known vanadium and uranium mineralisation.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, exploration efforts by the Korean government focused on the uranium mineralisation, drilling a total of 36,000m, which was not systematically assayed for vanadium.
Vanadium has been recognised as critical to the South Korean economy; however, domestic production is limited, and annual Korean demand of 17 million pounds is currently 100% imported.
At midday, shares in Protean Energy were up 6.45% to A$0.033.