Aclara Resources (TSX:ARA), a heavy rare earth element (HREE) exploration and development company, is on a quest to reinvent rare earth mining as a climate-friendly industry, sustainably supplying these critical metals the world requires to achieve a low-carbon future.
Through its ionic clay asset in Chile, Aclara is testing its innovative, patented Circular Mineral Harvesting Process, a unique, sustainable extraction method developed in collaboration with the University of Toronto and the University of Concepción in Chile.
The mining industry has long-endured a negative public reputation. But recent efforts, such as the World Bank’s Climate-Smart Mining Initiative, are hoping to reshape the mining industry as a sustainable, vital partner in achieving the world’s net-zero emissions goals. The Climate-Smart Mining Initiative sets out guidelines to improve sustainability and minimize the environmental impact of mining operations.
Aclara Resources aims to be at the forefront of this movement.
Clean technologies, such as electric vehicles and wind turbines, require rare earth elements to manufacture the powerful magnets they need. However, while rare earths are technically abundant in the Earth’s crust, there are few economically viable deposits worldwide, outside of Southern China and Myanmar. Ionic clay deposits, known as ionic adsorption clay (IAC), have three special characteristics, (1) contain high value of scarce heavy rare earths (HREE), (2) generate no radioactivity, and (3) have simple metallurgy allowing for low costs and capital expenditures.
IAC are major contributors to the world’s total HREE output. For years, the only significant IAC deposits outside of China have been Ionic Rare Earth’s Makuutu project in Uganda, and Sierra Verde in Brazil. Fortunately, that’s about to change.
Aclara Resources’ Penco Module, the company’s flagship asset in Chile, contains ionic clays rich in both heavy rare earths and light rare earths. The project will be a testing ground for its Circular Mineral Harvesting Process for further optimization for future projects. This advanced extraction process does not use explosives, crushing or milling, nor produce liquid residues.
The extraction process advances Aclara’s mission of becoming a leader in climate-smart mining practices. The Circular Mineral Harvesting Process requires no tailings dam, prioritizes revegetation with native species, recirculates up to 95 percent of water used and 99 percent of the main reagent (a common fertilizer that recovers the rare earths from the clays). This transformative new process led to the company earning the 2022 Sustainability Initiative of the Year award and the 2023 Innovation Award from SEAL Awards.
Aclara ran a successful piloting operation for the Penco Module project from June to August 2023. The Company processed a total of 120 tonnes of ionic clays and produced approximately 107 kilograms of wet high purity Heavy Rare Earth Elements. The piloting operation was a pivotal element of Aclara’s commercial strategy, resulting in the production of representative product samples that have been sent to more than ten separation companies across the United States, Europe, and Asia.
On April 28, 2023, the Company announced the submission of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Penco Module project. Unfortunately, Aclara received notice from the Environmental Assessment Service in Chile of its decision to terminate the review of the Company’s application for an environmental impact assessment based on the findings of CONAF that there are six (6) “naranjillo” trees, located in the area of the Project. The Company, together with its technical consultants and other advisors, is working together with the relevant authorities to comprehensively address the initial observations at this early stage of the New EIA process.
In parallel to the Penco Module development, Aclara intends to identify further opportunities for increasing rare earth element production. This involves intensive greenfield exploration programs and the development of additional project ‘modules’. In March 2023, the company shared exploration updates from its operations in Brazil. Based on initial positive results obtained from the surface mapping campaign, the Company staked approximately 369,410 Ha of mining concessions and defined five high-priority targets for further exploration work. In addition, pursuant to the earn-in agreement described below, the Company has the right to acquire an additional 8,490 Ha of mining concessions, where two additional high-priority exploration targets were defined. The Company has designed drilling campaigns, which are underway, for two high-priority targets with respect to the concessions subject to the earn-in agreement. The Company will update the market accordingly once the drilling works have been completed.
Aclara Resources’ management team has diverse expertise throughout the natural resources sector. Experience includes project financing, rare earth project development, corporate management and international law. The range of experience builds confidence in the team’s ability to lead the company toward its goals.
Aclara Resources is a heavy rare earths company developing its ionic clay deposit in Chile.The company’s unique, patented process, known as Circular Mineral Harvesting is a closed-circuit that extracts heavy rare earth elements (HREE) in a clean way. 95 percent of the water used and 99 percent of the main reagent (a fertilizer) are recirculated, eliminating the need for a tailings dam and conditioning the spent clays for future revegetation with native trees.The company will only source water for its Penco Module operations from recycled water.In June 2023, the company announced the production of the first sample of high-purity HREE concentrate from its pilot plant.Aclara owns a large concessions land package of 451,985 hectares that allows organic growth (Penco Module is situated on only 600 hectares). Exploration plans to incorporate additional modules are already underway.With $67 million in cash, Aclara’s main shareholders are Pelham Investments and leading precious metal producer Hochschild Group, with a 36.7 and 20 percent stake in the company, respectively.Aclara was awarded the 2022 Sustainability Initiative of the Year Award and the 2023 Innovation Award for its Circular Mineral Harvesting process.
First 3D renders of Aclara’s Rare Earths Penco Module
Pilot Plant May 2023
Ramon Barua – CEO and Director
Ramon Barua has more than 10 years of experience as CFO of Hochschild Mining. He was previously CEO of Fosfatos del Pacifico SA, general manager of Hochschild’s Mexican operations, and deputy CEO and CFO of Cementos Pacasmayo.
Francois Motte Sauter – CFO
Francois Motte has more than 10 years of experience in various financial positions, including serving in corporate finance, financial planning, management and control, business development and investor relations at Hochschild Mining.
Barry Murphy – COO
Barry Murphy is an experienced mining industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. Prior senior positions included roles at Torex Gold Resources, Yamana Gold and Anglo-American. Additionally, he has led technical services and project development teams in Chile, Peru, Argentina, Mexico and South Africa.
Dr. Gisele Azimi- Technical Advisor
Dr. Gisele Azimi is an associate professor and Canada Research chair joint-appointed between the Departments of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Toronto. She is an expert in the fields of electrochemistry, thermodynamics, hydrometallurgy, supercritical fluids and materials design. She has published several journals and refereed conference publications and she continues to present her research at national and international conferences. She is also a co-inventor in a number of patent applications and one awarded patent.
Dr. Azimi received her PhD from the University of Toronto and she completed her first and second postdoctoral appointments at MIT.
Sebastian Rojas Tallarida – Sustainability Manager
Sebastian Rojas Tallarida has more than 10 years of experience in the mining sector, working on a wide range of sustainability matters, including environmental, safety and social areas. Prior to joining Aclara, Tallarida worked at Anglo-American and Arcadis Chile. He holds a degree in Environmental Engineering from the Universidad Andres Bello in Chile and an MBA from the Universidad de Chile.
Nelson Donoso, General Manager – Chile
Nelson Donoso is a board member and vice president of the ‘Cámara de la Producción y del Comercio Biobío’ (Biobio’s Chamber of Production and Commerce), the most important guild association in the Biobío Region, which brings together the main productive sectors, including more than 140 companies and trade associations. In this entity, he also serves as president of Clean Energy and Climate Change Committee. Additionally, he is a member of the advisory council of Biobio’s Regional Ministry of the Environment and of the Environmental advisory committee for the Regional Governor of Biobio.
Jose Augusto Palma García Zapatero – Director
Jose Augusto Palma Garcia Zapatero is a senior lawyer and executive, with more than 25 years of experience. He has successfully held key positions in demanding and high-profile roles across diverse sectors, including corporations, law firms, government, and multilateral institutions. Since 2006, Palma Garcia Zapatero has been serving as vice-president of legal and corporate affairs at Hochschild Mining. In this role, he leads and manages a multidisciplinary team of over 100 professionals in the legal, environmental, social relations, and institutional affairs departments of Hochschild Mining. Prior to this, he worked as senior counsel at the World Bank from 2004 to 2006. During his tenure, he provided advice on the registration of arbitration cases. From 2002 to 2003, he served as senior advisor to the Office of the Prime Minister and as an advisor to the Minister of Economy and Finance of Perú. Between 1992 and 2002, Palma Garcia Zapatero worked as an associate and partner at Swidler Berlin LLP, where he provided legal counsel to international energy and telecom companies.
Bonzi Yukomizo – General Manager Brazil
Bonzi Yokomizo brings extensive global mining leadership to Aclara, notably as chief projects officer at Serra Verde’s rare earths project in Brazil. He directed engineering, construction, and commissioning. With senior roles at major firms like Anglo Gold Ashanti and Vale, he excelled in managing complex projects, including the $12.5B Jack Pine expansion, $9.0B Rio Colorado potash project, $5.0B Coal project, and $1.5B Montes Claros de Goias Nickel project. Before Serra Verde, Bonzi held high-level roles at leading mining companies like Anglo Gold Ashanti, Yamana Gold, Vale, and Votorantim. He showcased his skill in managing intricate ventures, including the $12.5 billion Jack Pine oil sands expansion, $9.0 billion Rio Colorado potash project, $5.0 billion Coal project, and the $1.5 billion Montes Claros de Goias Nickel project, among others.