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High-purity alumina production a step closer for ChemX

ChemX Materials operations manager Russell Vallis in front of the company’s commissioned leach circuit. Credit: File

ChemX Materials (ASX: CMX) has taken a crucial step towards high-purity alumina production after cranking up the early-stage commissioning of a leach circuit at its innovative “HiPurA” pilot plant in Western Australia.

The leach circuit is a critical initial part of ChemX’s purification process in its aim to produce 99.99 per cent, “or four nines (4N)” purity HPA from its planned 24-tonne per annum plant. By pushing the aluminous chemical feedstock through the circuit, the purity of the intermediate product is upgraded to a “rich” alumina stock by removing as much deleterious material as possible before moving onto the solvent extraction (SX) stage.

The company says structural, mechanical and piping activities are progressing well, while electrical and control elements are moving ahead swiftly ahead of further commissioning updates expected in the coming months.

Bulls N’ Bears understands that once completed and operational, the HiPurA pilot plant will form the basis of a prefeasibility study early next year, which will investigate large-scale production within WA’s Kwinana belt and close to a plentiful supply of its primary aluminous chemical feedstock from South 32’s refining operations at Worsley.

Our 24tpa HiPurA® HPA Pilot Plant is starting to rapidly take shape and we are pleased to have commissioned the leach circuit. Achieving this milestone delivers on our commitment to commence early-stage commissioning in Q2 of the 2024 calendar year.
ChemX Materials CEO Peter Lee

Spurred on by receiving an Australian patent for its technology in January, with other global jurisdictions pending, management successfully rattled the tin in March for $1.5 million in new funds, much of which is being applied to the commissioning of the pilot plant.

With HPA attracting a price of US$20,000 (AU$30,160) a tonne, the race is well and truly on for ChemX to become fully operational and to provide samples of the finished product to potential customers in its main target markets of the United States, Korea and Japan. Recent presentations at the Interbattery Conference in Korea and a Resource Connect conference in Singapore triggered significant interest in the company’s product as the search for offtake partners gathers pace and demand for clean energy technologies grows.

HPA has become an increasingly critical material as the world moves towards decarbonisation. It was added to the Australian Federal Government’s priority list of critical metals in March 2022.

A primary market for HPA is in the lithium-ion battery industry as a component in the coating of the separator between the anode and the cathode, significantly improving thermal stability and reducing the risk of batteries fires.

Other applications include its use in the polishing of semi-conductors – which promises to become a burgeoning market as the demand for AI semiconductors booms – and in the manufacture of screens for light-emitting diodes (LED) devices as it makes them heat resistant and highly-transparent.

ChemX appears to have a robust few months ahead as it moves from construction and into production to generate early cashflow. With the demand for critical metals such as HPA likely to grow significantly in the next decade, the company appears well-placed to benefit from the expected oncoming boom.

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