Brian Sylvester: "Let's talk about Orbite Aluminae Inc. It is building a solvent extraction and ion-exchange combination plant as part of a system to produce high-purity alumina to be used in electronics. The plant and process should be finished by the end of the year. Orbite says it's willing to let other companies process their ore there. What do you make of that move?"
Luisa Moreno: "Orbite has said that it has filed a patent for that process and could help other REE companies that might be facing issues with chemical cracking. It might be very successful in processing it, making a concentrate and then separating it using solvent extraction. My question concerns the economics. It is true that some elements carry higher prices than alumina, such as dysprosium, which is now selling for about $1,200/kg, which is $1.2 million (M)/t compared to alumina, which sells for $320/t. What I am not sure of is if it will be economic to use the Orbite rare earth process for chemical cracking of REE ore as a stand-alone REE plant. Given that most PEAs indicate capital costs of $200–900M, the Orbite process could well be a good alternative. I don't know yet, but it will be interesting to analyze."