Latrobe Magnesium Limited (LMG) signed a term sheet with RWE Power AG for the development of a new magnesium plant in Germany, with up to 30,000 tpy of production. The magnesium will come from brown coal fly ash from coal mined at RWE’s Hanbach mine and processed through their supercritical brown coal power station near Cologne, Germany.
“LMG and RWE have been developing this project for some time and we welcome the opportunity to advance the project to the next level with a company of RWE’s standing and expertise,” said David Paterson, CEO of Latrobe. “LMG sees this project being developed in tandem with its Latrobe Valley plant.”
The project will use LMG’s patented hydromet extraction process and its newly developed, fast cycle vertical retort furnace (FCR) to produce magnesium from the ash — which have been used in the ongoing development of the company’s magnesium project in Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia. The process involves the treatment of the spent fly ash from brown coal-powered electricity generation using chemicals to reduce sulphur, iron, and silicon to acceptable levels so that the beneficiated material can be used as a feedstock in the thermal reduction process. To date, LMG has received patents for its hydromet extraction process in the European Union, Australia, the U.S., China, and Indonesia.
From June to October 2017, LMG conducted a number of successful small scale tests using its hydromet process on the RWE fly ash, producing magnesium and supplementary cementitious material (SCM). From this work, LMG was able to ascertain that the RWE fly ash delivered the best economic outcome of any of the fly ashes tested by LMG to date. According to the company, this result was achieved mainly due to the treatment of dry precipitator ash versus ash dam material thereby requiring less energy, the elimination of dolomite as a consumable thereby reducing process costs, and the lower cost of energy and labour in Germany as compared to the Latrobe Valley.
LMG has recently produced a large scale beneficiated sample of RWE fly ash to process through its FCR, currently being commissioned at CSIRO in Melbourne. From the FCR test work LMG will produce a SCM sample to send to Germany for testing. It will then collect the necessary German site specific information so that it can complete a feasibility study on this project. This is expected to take up to 12 months.
RWE and LMG have identified the brown coal fly ash from RWE’s Hambach mine as being the most suitable to commercially extract magnesium. RWE Power mines produce about 100 million wet tonnes of brown coal per annum (from which approximately 35 to 40 million tonnes per annum are produced from its Hambach mine). It operates about 10,000 MW of lignite capacity in the Rhenish lignite area with about 10,000 employees. In addition, RWE Power has nuclear and hydro generation.
Europe imports over 160,000 tonnes of magnesium per annum. There is currently no producer for magnesium in the EU and magnesium metal has recently been listed among the most critical raw materials in the EU’s list of 27 metals.