The diversified new energy technology company, Battery and Mobility Materials, Inc. (“BAMM”) has entered into an agreement to lease and operate a the Martinka coal based rare earth element mine in West Virginia.
According to Mike Luther, Chief Executive Officer of BAMM, “Over the past 24 months, we studied rare earth element bodies around the world. We decided that coal based rare earth is the best strategic option for our company. The Martinka mine has a massive resource body; it was originally a 5,957 acre underground coal mine. There is a tremendous amount of rare earth bearing waste material, including overburden. Martinka “produces” a continuous supply of rare earth elements in the acid laced water that flows through rich coal and waste material. There is also a substantial amount of rare earth material in the 12 sediment ponds on the property. In effect, the Martinka mine is like a “natural machine” that produces a steady flow of rare earth elements. The Martinka mine rare earth elements were first characterized as part of an early study undertake by the US Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory. As I recall, the Martinka mine was number 2 on the list in relation to rare earth elements.”
Luther added, “The Martinka mine is located in close proximity to West Virginia University. Neither BAMM nor Martinka has a relationship with West Virginia University. We believe that West Virginia University has the leading research and technology associated with the extraction of rare earth elements from coal. At present, the treatment and reclamation cost for Martinka runs about $1 million per year. The appeal of Martinka is the fact that the rare earth elements are hosted in water and sediment. There is no requirement for hard rock mining. BAMM is actively evaluating additional coal-based rare earth mines in West Virginia, other parts of Applachia and around the USA. The key to making the commercial economics work is scale. Uniquely, a good portion of the coal-based rare earth elements are low in uranium and thorium. Moreover, the “American” rare earths lack the complexity featured in the Australian rare earth feedstock that is giving Lynas Corporation so much trouble. Truly, American coal-based rare earth feedstock would solve the “Lynas problem” in Malaysia. Our group is in discussions with a number of parties about potential. In the near-to-intermediate-term, our goal is wok work with technical experts in the USA to establish an on-site concentrate concentration system at Martinka. From there, we will look to hand off the rare earth concentrate to a Chinese processor. We have discussed potential opportunities with Shenghe Resources and China Minmetals, among others. In the near-term, there is no reasonable separation option other than China. Based upon our discussions, there is a tenable and highly attractive global solution to the rare earth dilemma by working with China. We will provide more comments about this in the future. One last point, is worth noting involves the fact that coal-based rare earth elements are “clean” and serve to clean up mine sites. We are excited about how new technology demand for rare earth elements could help fund the cleanup and closure of existing coal mines in the USA. This is highly complimentary to the Bloomberg effort to address the coal mine problem in America.”
Benjamin Spiegel, notable merchant banker and investor from Redwood Capital is an early player in the coal-based rare earth elements sector. Spiegel has a distinguished track record as a investor in mining, industrials and real estate. We understand that Benjamin Spiegel is deeply interested in the coal-based rare earth sector.
The Martinka Coal Company’s Tygart River Mine was a subsidiary of Peabody Energy. The mine site is located six miles southeast of Fairmont, West Virginia in the community of Powell. The mine began operation in March 1974 and ran continuously until December 1995. The underground mine area encompassed 5957 acres and consisted of 10 continuous miner units and 2 longwall units.
Reject from mining the Lower Kittanning coal seam was disposed of in three coal refuse areas that were developed, which totaled 220 acres of combined refuse fill. All water generated from these refuse areas was collected and pumped to a central treatment plant where hydrated lime was added to adjust the pH and convert the iron. A flocculent was then added to increase the settling rate of the precipitated iron. The clarified water was sent to a final polishing pond before discharging into the Tygart River. The underground mine water was collected underground and then pumped to the surface via three vertical pumps to the Guyses Run Treatment facility. The underground mine water was of sufficient quality that it required no chemical treatment. This water was sent directly through two polishing ponds and then discharged into Guyses Run, which then flowed into the Tygart River. The pH of the mine water prior to its shut down was 7.8 and the iron at the discharge point was 0.23ppm.
This story is developing and more details will follow. Among other things, we are keen to see the rare earth composition based upon testing at the Martinka site. Mike Luther indicated that BAMM will be releasing information soon.