Bulk sampling of oxide mineralization from large diameter drill core and from surface trenches took place in during the 2010, 2011 and 2012 exploration drilling programs on the Bear Lodge property.
Oxalate purification process
The Company is further progressing the lab scale testwork on our proprietary process technology that is designed to enhance the efficiency of rare earth recovery in concentrates. As previously announced, the new metallurgical process produces a high purity REO concentrate and is designed to increase recoveries, reduce raw material requirements, and enhance the Company's ability to upgrade final rare earth products. Following the completion of the testwork, the proprietary process technology will be in incorporated into our planned pilot plant testwork, leading to the formal start of our FS.
Tests on the high-grade oxide mineralization indicate a total recovery of 81% of REO is expected using a two-stage process. The first stage is mineral concentration, also known as physical upgrading ("PUG").
The rare earth ore from the Bull Hill mine will be upgraded physically on site to produce the REE-rich pre-concentrate solids for treatment at the hydrometallurgical facility in Upton, Wyoming. The hydrometallurgical process will employ a hot chloride solution to extract over 90% of the REEs into a pregnant leach solution (PLS). Using closed reactor vessels, the PLS will react with oxalic acid powder under optimized conditions to facilitate selective precipitation of REEs.
The REE-rich oxalate precipitates are converted to their oxide form in a calcination process. The mass of REE-oxalates is reduced by as much as 50% and the calcine powder contains 90+% pure mixed REO. This is a significant improvement from the 45% concentrate which was used as the basis for the economic calculation in the Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) completed in 2012. The REO powder can be re-dissolved selectively in an appropriate acid to isolate traces of residual impurities.
With the updated resources announcement, continued drilling program, advanced metallurgical testwork, ongoing strategic partner and off-take discussions, environmental and social impact studies well underway, we are poised to further advance the project in 2013 as planned, including the commencement of the FS in mid-2013.
Quarter Ended December 31, 2012 Financial Highlights:
Please note that financial results published by the Company are all stated in U.S. Dollars.
As an exploration company, we do not have revenues at this time. The net loss for the quarter ended December 31, 2012 totaled $9.6 million or $0.21 per share as compared to a net loss of $10.1 million or $0.23 per share for the same period in 2011. The $0.5 million positive variance in net loss between the periods was due to the following:
-- Increased exploration spending of $1.0 million at the Bear Lodge property;-- Positive variance in stock-based compensation of $2.1 million due primarily to a lower share price and smaller number of options granted;-- Positive variance of $0.9 million in write-downs of exploration properties;-- Negative variance of $1.2 million in foreign exchange due to the impacts on the Company's Canadian dollar cash balances related to exchange rate fluctuations in the US dollar on the balance sheet date; and-- Negative variances of $0.2 million in other non-operating income and expenses.