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New process for safer and continuous magnesium production to be piloted

By Scott Jenkins |

Because of its abundance, light weight and easy alloying, magnesium metal has great potential for components in the automotive, aerospace and military industries. However, the two existing magnesium production processes — the Pidgeon process from ore and electrolytic process from MgCl — both have major drawbacks with safety and environmental impact. Now, a pilot plant currently in the design phase will demonstrate a new Mg production process that is continuous, rather than batch, and that dramatically reduces the safety and environmental problems compared to existing processes. The process developer, Western Magnesium Corp. (Vancouver, B.C.; www.westmagcorp.com), says the safety, environmental and economic profile of the new process could make Mg production viable in North America. Currently, 85% of Mg comes from China. The Western Magnesium process begins with mined dolomite (calcium-magnesium carbonate), which is crushed and calcined (thermal decomposition) to make MgO. The MgO is combined with ferrosilicon, a reductant that is also used in the Pidgeon process, and a catalyst, and formed into briquettes. The briquettes are fed into the top of a newly designed continuous reactor, where they are heated, allowing the silicon to…
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