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Winning iron and titanium while making vanadium electrolyte

By Paul Grad |

VanadiumCorp Resource Inc. (Vancouver, B.C., Canada; www.vanadiumcorp.com) has achieved direct and consistent recovery of vanadium electrolyte, vanadium oxides and titanium from vanadiferous titanomagnetite (VTM; vanadium-rich Fe3–xTixO4) using hydroelectricity, from the company’s Lac Dore Vanadium Project in Quebec. The company has partnered with Electrochem Technologies & Materials (Montreal, Que., Canada; www.electrochem-technologies.com) for the development of technologies to obtain high-performance vanadium electrolyte for energy storage applications.

VanadiumCorp has also successfully recovered high-purity electrolytic iron directly from VTM concentrate from drill core from its La Dore Vanadium Project using conventional milling and magnetic separation.

The company’s president and CEO, Adriaan Bakker, says the technology was developed keeping in mind that in addition to vanadium, both iron and titanium also have high value. Currently available technology was not able to recover all three metals while producing high-purity iron.

Conventional pyrometallurgical processes use either direct soda-ash roasting of the magnetite followed by water leaching, or arc smelting and slagging of the magnetite followed by soda ash roasting of the vanadium-rich slag. However, smelting and roasting are capital and energy intensive, and emit greenhouse gases.

Hydrometallurgical processes for extracting vanadium have been proposed, but have failed to be robust. Also, they do not produce iron and do not allow for acid recycling.

The VanadiumCorp-Electrochem technology addresses those issues — it is emissions-free and with low energy consumption — and allows full recovery of vanadium chemicals used for preparing VanadiumCorp electrolyte as well as the concurrent production of a high-quality iron coproduct.

The company initially grinds the feedstock to 40 µm. The material is then placed in a tank with sulfuric acid and dissolved by adding water. The VTM concentrate is converted into copperas crystal (FeSO4.6H2O). The vast majority of impurities drop to the bottom. High-purity iron is then recovered by electrowinning, while vanadium remains in solution and TiO2 is left as marketable residue. The company plans to expand its process with additional feedstocks to reach one metric ton per month nameplate capacity.

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