Teresa Matich • September 27, 2015

Falling rare earths prices have meant times tough for a number of rare earths companies. Molycorp (OTCMKTS:MCPIQ) and Lynas (ASX:LYC) have seen their share of troubles, and weak market conditions have made it even harder for rare earths juniors outside of China to crack into the business.

However, many juniors in the space are still persevering, and some are coming up with interesting approaches. Analysts have said that those willing to think outside of the box could have a fighting chance.

“I think there is an opportunity, if these players can come up with a story that is different from what Molycorp has presented,” said Luisa Moreno of Tahuti Global in a recent interview. She pointed to Medallion Resources (TSXV:MDL,OTCQX:MLLOF), Ucore Rare Metals (TSXV:UCU) and GeoMegA Resources (TSXV:GMA) as examples.

Ryan Castilloux, founding director of Adamas Intelligence, has also discussed innovative rare earths juniors, speaking about Texas Rare Earth Resources (OTCMKTS:TRER), Tasman Metals (TSXV:TSM) and Alkane Resources (ASX:ALK) in an interview this past June.

Of course, it’s impossible to know which are the best rare earth stocks out there. And, as mentioned above, many rare earths juniors have seen their share prices pressured in recent years. Still, it’s worth getting educated on junior rare earths companies with innovative technologies or approaches to the industry. Here’s a brief overview of a few.

Ucore Rare Metals Last trading at: $0.26 Market cap: $51.37 million 52-­week high/low: $0.44/$0.19 Ucore has partnered with IBC Advanced Technologies for the use of the latter’s Molecular Recognition Technology for the separation of rare earths from Ucore’s flagship Bokan Mountain project in Alaska.

The company made headlines when it announced that it had separated the entire suite of individual rare earths at high purity; it subsequently secured rights to the technology. Some have been positive on the technology, while others have been more hesitant.

In July, the company announced it had commissioned the design and construction of a pilot plant based on the technology.

Texas Rare Earth Resources Last trading at: $0.205 Market cap: $8.48 million 52­-week high/low: $0.44/$0.16 Texas Rare Earth Resources is developing its Round Top rare earths and uranium project in Texas. The company has signed on with K­-Technologies for a joint venture to develop, refine and market K-­Tech’s Continuous Ion Exchange and Continuous Ion Chromatography technology for the extraction of rare earths.

K-­Tech has produced a commercially marketable mid/heavy mixed rare earths concentrate using ore from the Round Top deposit, and is working towards creating high­purity, fully separated rare earth oxides. On September 25, Texas Rare Earth Resources and K­-Tech secured a research contract with the US Defense Logistics Agency.

Rare Element Resources (TSX:RES,NYSEMKT:REE) Last trading at: $0.40 Market cap: $21.18 million 52-­week high/low: $1.31/$0.30 Moving ahead with its Bear Lodge project in Wyoming, Rare Element Resources is developing a proprietary rare earths separation technology that uses fewer steps than conventional methods, while also having lower acid and energy requirements.

COO Jaye Pickarts told the Investing News Network in June that the process builds upon traditional technologies that can use hundreds of mixer/settler steps to separate and refine rare earths products. The company has produced a number of mixed rare earths end products so far, but will rely on specifications from end users to determine what end products to produce.

GeoMegA Resources Last trading at: $0.08 Market cap: $4.98 million 52-­week high/low: $0.29/$0.07 GeoMegA is another company developing its own rare earths separation process. The company created Innord, a wholly owned subsidiary, in March 2015. Innord is focused on scaling up GeoMegA’s physical separation process.

For its part, GeoMegA is focused on advancing its Montviel rare earths­-niobium project in Quebec. In August 2015, GeoMegA reported that Innord would receive up to $200,000 from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program in order to develop a process to separate mixed rare earths concentrates into individual rare earth oxides.

Alkane Resources (ASX:ALK) Last trading at: AU$0.24 Market cap: AU$99.41 million 52-­week high/low: AU$0.41/A$0.17 Alkane is currently advancing both the Tomingley gold project and the Dubbo zirconia project in Australia. According to Castilloux, Alkane is taking a proactive approach to optimizing its flow sheet in order to keep expected production costs down. The company is targeting production of hafnium, which could significantly bolster the project’s economics.

Alkane received consent to develop the project in early June and received federal environmental approval for the project near the end of August. The company is now looking to fund development for the mine.

Tasman Metals (TSXV:TSM) Last trading at: $0.395 Market cap: $26.13 million 52-­week high/low: $0.99/$0.35 Castilloux stated that Tasman, too, is looking at hafnium production to help boost its project economics. The company recently filed an amended and restated prefeasibility study for its Norra Karr rare earths deposit in July.

“The Amended PFS removes all references made in the PFS to the Norra Karr project having a unconstrained mine life in excess of 60 years and corresponding production of tonnage that exceeds the resources contained in the PFS,” said Tasman Metals in a statement.

Quest Rare Minerals (TSX:QRM) Last trading at: $0.08 Market cap: $6.67 million 52­-week high/low: $0.28/$0.08 Quest is advancing the Strange Lake project in Quebec, for which it released a preliminary economic assessment in April 2014. Most recently, Quest secured the remaining 50-­percent ownership of the Alterra-­Strange Lake property.

In July, the company received a $5-­million grant from Sustainable Development Technology Canada to aid in the development of its Selective Thermal Sulfation process to produce high-purity mixed rare earth oxides from mined ore from Strange Lake. The process is also effective using phosphor powder recovered from fluorescent light bulbs.

Orbite Technologies (TSX:ORT) Last trading at: $0.24 Market cap: $89.06 million 52-­week high/low: $0.28/$0.19 While not exclusively focused on rare earths, Orbite has developed a proprietary process aimed at producing a number of different critical metals, including alumina, titanium and rare earths. Orbite owns the intellectual property rights to 18 patents and 107 pending patent applications in 11 countries.

The company is currently constructing its High Purity Alumina plant in Cap­-Chat, Quebec.

Medallion Resources Last trading at: $0.03 Market cap: $1.99 million 52­-week high/low: $0.12/$0.01 Medallion Resources has come up with what several analysts admit is a fairly unique approach to the rare earths market.

The company is looking to produce rare earths from monazite, a by-­product of heavy mineral sands production. Rather than building its own mine, Medallion is looking to secure monazite from mineral sands producers. It will build a plant to process the monazite to create a rare earth chemical concentrate, which it will then sell on to rare earths separators.

Medallion has not yet determined where its plant will be built, but in August, it reported that bench­scale testing of its metallurgical process had yielded strong rare earths recoveries.

Rare Earth Salts Rare Earth Salts is a private company, but it is still one for investors to watch. Company CEO Allen Kruse said in May that its process will allow “current rare earth concentrate producers and prospective producers to directly compete with, and be profitable at, Chinese domestic pricing.”

Jon Hykawy of Stormcrow Capital believes that the technology is worth looking into. “[T]he Rare Earth Salts process seems to work, and it is very likely much less expensive than conventional separation using solvent extraction,” he said at the time.

Examples of other juniors in the rare earths space include:

  • Commerce Resources (TSXV:CCE), which is advancing its Ashram rare earths deposit in Northern Quebec. Read our interview with CEO Chris Grove here.

  • Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU), which signed a memorandum of understanding for an offtake agreement for material from its Browns Range project with China’s Jien Mining.

  • Arafura (ASX:ARU), which holds the Nolans rare earths project in Australia.

  • Avalon Rare Metals (TSX:AVL), which holds a number of rare earths and critical metals projects, including the Nechalacho project in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

  • Hastings Rare Metals (ASX:HAS), which is advancing the Yangibana and Brockman rare earths projects in Australia.

  • Search Minerals (TSXV:SMY), which continues to explore for rare earths in what it calls the Port Hope Simpson REE District in Labrador. The company is working to advance its Foxtrot project, and in February 2015 reported a successful scale­up test for its proprietary metallurgical process for the project.

  • Pele Mountain Resources (TSXV:GEM), which holds the Eco Ridge Mine rare earths and uranium project in Ontario, and is also looking to process rare earths from monazite. The company has received a letter of support from the nearby city of Elliot Lake, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with a Chinese rare earths producer to look at developing rare earths processing facilities at the Eco Ridge Mine project.

And the list goes on. There are plenty of rare earths juniors not mentioned here, so there’s definitely a lot to consider for investors looking for the best rare earth stocks. Remember to always do your own due diligence, and to keep broader market trends in mind.

Securities Disclosure: I, Teresa Matich, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article. Editorial Disclosure: Medallion Resources is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-­for content.

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