Development of a metallurgical process for Eramet's Mabounié Nb-REE project
ERAMET, through its subsidiary COMILOG, have rights to a rich niobium and rare earth deposit in Gabon. The Mabounié deposit, is located 50 kilometers from the town of Lambaréné, in a fairly remote location. ERAMET has been developing a process to recover value metals for several years, and approached Hatch Ltd. to design a sizeable Demonstration Plant to help them further optimize the process, and prove the flowsheet is technically viable. The process employs concentration techniques to recover an upgraded Nb/REE feed material for processing in the subsequent leach step. Rare earths and niobium are selectively leached, and subsequently precipitated. Following precipitation, rare earths undergo bulk separation and are purified to produce LRE and mixed MRE/HRE products, which will be further processed by Third Parties. This paper provides a high-level overview of the process, summarizes the motivation for a Demonstration Plant in the vicinity of the deposit, and discusses technical challenges faced during the flowsheet definition and design phase. Key challenges are focused on and summaries of the methodologies used to address each challenge, as well as the solutions to overcome the challenges, are discussed. The paper provides motivation for further process simplification and concludes with a project update.