Defense Metals (DEFN) has collaborated with China’s Sinosteel to study the establishment of a large-scale pilot plant at the Wicheeda Rare Earth Property in British Columbia, Canada.

The aim is to assess the economic and technical feasibility of full-scale development of the Wicheeda mine.

Pursuant to the non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU), Defense Metals will share the Wicheeda project’s data with Sinosteel Equipment & Engineering (Sinosteel MECC), a subsidiary of Sinosteel.

This information includes mine development, permitting and licences, transport logistics, project financing, cash cost analysis, and situational updates.

Moreover, Sinosteel MECC will share its experience in the rare earths industry relating to beneficiation, engineering procurement construction (EPC) and EPC financing, among others, with DEFN.

DEFN will also provide a representative mineralisation sample to Sinosteel MECC to undertake beneficiation testwork.

The results from the testwork, together with the ongoing preliminary economic assessment, will be used to optimise designs for the future project.

The two parties will also discuss ways to design a concentrator for the Wicheeda feed material.

Defense Metals said that the proposed pilot plant will comprise both beneficiation and hydrometallurgical processes.

These processes will help in producing bulk samples of rare earth concentrate, mixed rare earth carbonate, and high-purity rare earth oxides.

The scope of the MOU also includes potential concentrator design research cooperation.

As general contractor, Sinosteel MECC will design, procure equipment, build, install, commission, train and undertake other works of the pilot plant.

The pilot plant is planned to be fully constructed in modules in China. It will be subsequently transported and installed at the Wicheeda site.

Located approximately 80km north-east of Prince George, the 1,708ha Wicheeda REE Property is situated in the Foreland Belt that contains part of a large alkaline igneous province.

As per estimates, the Wicheeda project has indicated mineral resources of 4.89Mt averaging 3.02% Light Rare Earth Elements (LREO). It has inferred mineral resources of 12.1Mt averaging 2.90% LREO.