Inspenet, September 3, 2023.
This Chilean project is one of the most promising in sustainable mining
Copiapó hosted the seminar “Challenges of Mining 2030”, which focused on the perspectives of the circular economy, the future energy matrix and climate issues. One of the highlights of this event was the presentation of one of the most promising projects in the field of sustainable mining at a national and international level: the initiative for the ecological production and extraction of minerals from Rare Earths, led by the company Aclara.
Rare earths comprise a group of 17 metallic elements found on the periodic table and used in various technological applications, playing a fundamental role in the manufacture of high-performance permanent magnets for electric vehicles. It is for this reason that important companies in the automotive sector have shown great interest in the “Penco Module” project, located in the Biobío Region. Among these companies is Rolls-Royce, whose director, Paul Adams, is also on the board of directors of Aclara Resources and recently visited the company’s Rare Earth Demonstration Center.
The manufacture of these elements, together with lithium, copper and ecological hydrogen, places Chile in a strategic position for the advancement of sustainable technologies, making it a fundamental player in the global battle against climate change.
Nelson Donoso, Aclara’s General Manager, affirmed that the project, with an initial investment of US$130 million, “will produce a paradigm shift. Chile has a unique opportunity to provide the world with clean and traceable rare earths. Normally, the extraction of rare earths in other countries is usually complex and with a high environmental impact. In our case, we aspire to develop this project in Penco, where we have found ionic clays formed by the climatic and geological conditions of the area”.
According to Donoso, this type of deposit allows the production of these elements in a superficial manner and with minimal environmental impact.
In addition, he mentioned that they will be using an exclusive Aclara method known as Circular Mineral Harvesting, with which “we will not use explosives, nor will we grind. In addition, we will operate with recycled water from treated household sources and we will recirculate 95% of the water we use. This has been tremendously new for the expert public that has shared with us here”.
“In our project we will extract rare earths from ionic clays at a superficial level, up to the first 30-40 meters of depth. Then we will return the processed material to the land to later revegetate with native species. In addition, our closed loop process allows us to obtain a product that does not contain radioactive elements. Really, this is seen as something new, unique, in the context of how mining processes are developed in Chile”, added Donoso.
The General Manager of Aclara projects that “the rare earths that we hope to produce could neutralize the equivalent of five years of all the CO2 that Chile produces.” This is calculated considering that with the minerals extracted from the “Penco Module” project, a total of 18 million electric cars could be manufactured.