The numbers are eye-catching. In a scoping study put together by Genivar, an engineering firm, Orbite outlined a mining project that would cost C$499 million to build but deliver a whopping C$7.7 billion net present value, before tax and discounted at five percent.
From 1 billion tonnes in resources @ 23.3 percent Al2O3 plus silica and other metals, Orbite estimates it will produce an extensive list of products including: "539,700 tonnes per year of alumina, 189,000 tonnes of pure hematite, 1.2 million tonnes of high purity silica, 28,000 tonnes of magnesium oxides, 104,000 tonnes of other value-added oxides, and 820 tonnes of rare metal and rare earth oxides, including, among others, dysprosium, erbium, europium, yttrium, cerium, neodymium, praseodymium, and terbium, and rare metals such as gallium and scandium."
As for its "disruptive technology" Boudreault described how Orbite would remove multiple products from its aluminous clay in a way that is not only cheap - at about C$44 per tonne in production costs - but that also "doesn't create the infamous red mud," as Boudreault put it. Red mud is waste created through the Bayer process, which is the typical method used to extract alumina at processing facilities. Heavy in iron and silica, it needs to be impounded. But in Orbite's extraction process silica and iron are removed as saleable products - hence no red mud.
To do that, Orbite's patented technique depends on light crushing, separation using hydrochloric acid, which is recycled, and then extraction and crystallization of materials. Some products come out through acid recycling, Boudreault explained, including silica, iron and rare earths.
The potential of the production facility is only half the story, however. Clearly if the process works as effectively as Orbite hopes then many a company will be interested in licensing it - for a fee. Answering questions from analysts after his presentation, Boudreault said that Orbite had signed numerous non-disclosure agreements with "the largest groups in the world" from which there was interest in both Orbite's products and process.
He said the process has also been tested on typical bauxite, as opposed to the aluminous clays Orbite proposes to mine. Though Boudreault did not go into details, he hinted the process performed well. "We are under strict non-disclosure agreements," Boudreault said. "But the bauxite is giving us good results."
Also worth note, Orbite could become an important new source of rare earths production of which, as Boudreault noted, the Chinese have "a quasi monopoly."
The last question from an analyst was about whether the Chinese - as a major producer of aluminum and rare earths - had approached Orbite about its project and process.
The answer: "We'll beg the fifth," Boudreault said, undoubtedly referring to the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment which guarantees an individual's right not to have to make disclosures under certain circumstances. Though it was a joke, Boudreault was nonetheless mum on whether the Chinese had come knocking.
Boudreault also said he expected the first of three processing plants comprising the alumina facility to be up and running in 2013. To that end Orbite has made headway in raising money; it completed a $58-million bought-deal financing in September.