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Ramon Barua, CEO, Aclara Resources discusses Becoming a Strategic Supplier of Critical Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREE), and Supporting the Widespread use of Renewable Energy Technologies and EVs

on 7/28/2022
Aclara Resources is a development-stage, rare earth, mineral resources Company, located in Chile, with an objective to become a strategic supplier of the critical Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREE), while also supplying key magnet, Light Rare Earth Elements (LREE), in order to support the widespread use of renewable energy technologies and the increased adoption of EVs, globally. Aclara is initiating the development of its resources, through a project called the Penco Module, which covers a surface area of approximately 600 hectares, and which has ionic clays that are rich in rare earth elements. Aclara is currently focused on the development and on the future construction and operation of the Penco Module, which will aim to produce a rare earth concentrate, through a processing plant that will be fed by clays from nearby deposits. Aclara’s unique extraction process offers several advantages such as: no blasting, crushing, or milling required; no tailings dam; minimal water consumption, due to a high level of water recirculation; amenable rare earths extraction, with a fertilizer; and no radioactivity.

Aclara Resources

Dr. Allen Alper: This is Dr. Allen Alper, Editor-in-Chief of Metals News talking with Ramon Barua, who is CEO and Director of Aclara. Ramon, could you give our readers/investors an overview of your Company and what differentiates it from others? And could you tell them about your extremely great rare earth project and ionic clays in Chile?

Ramon Barua: Aclara is a spinoff of Hochschild Mining, a Company that is 110 years old and that is listed on the London Stock Exchange. Motivated by our Chairman, Eduardo Hochschild, we wanted to resolve the most important needs that our planet has. We started analyzing the trends and we wanted to devote all of our energy and creativity to provide the metals and materials that will make the transition to an electric world possible.

The goal was to make sure that the planet has the supply of elements needed to make the technologies that can make decarbonization viable, successful and thriving in the future. As a matter of fact, rare earths were one of the first things that we discarded because rare earth elements are very complex to extract and many times you leave a radioactive waste behind. That's not what we wanted to do.

However, we discovered this ionic clay deposit in Chile, very similar to the deposits that exist in China, which have three very distinctive characteristics. The first one is that the metallurgy is extremely simple. The clays react to ammonium sulfate, which is a common fertilizer, making the extraction process quite straightforward and environmentally very clean. The second most important characteristic is that, given that all rare earths are not priced equally, some rare earths sell for $1 a kilo or less, while there are others that sell for $2,500 a kilo, these unique clays contain the rare earths that are the most valuable.

Thirdly, and probably most importantly is that these ionic clays produce a product that doesn't contain any radioactivity at all. Because of those three reasons, we decided to invest in this project in Chile. The opportunity of developing something that is environmentally clean from the start, from the source, and then having a soft process in order to produce the materials that will save our planet, really motivated us.

Dr. Allen Alper: That sounds excellent, terrific. Could you tell us a little bit more about the project and your goals?

Ramon Barua: We have a very large land package in Chile. We have 450,000 hectares of concessions and we are starting the project, in only the first 600 hectares. In that first land package, we already have determined around 22 million tons of measured and indicated resources. We have developed a process, together with the University of Concepcion, which was later optimized, with the help of the University of Toronto. The process is very simple. What is very interesting is that, as opposed to all other mining projects that try to solve for cost, we also designed our process to be the most environmentally sustainable. I think we have achieved that and let me explain why.

First, we are not going to use explosives. We have no crushing. We have no milling. Our main reagent is a fertilizer. We will have no tailings. The clays that we are going to extract and bring to the plant are going to be washed, from the fertilizer, and then brought back to the original location we took them from. The beauty is that we are going to grow back a native forest, in the intervened land, which we expect to return to the local community for their use. I think this will be a significant contribution for conservation of important ecosystems in the area. This is what we strive for; creative environmental wealth in everything we do.

Dr. Allen Alper: That sounds excellent. What will be the rare earth that you will finally produce and sell?

Ramon Barua: We intend to produce a rare earth concentrate. The most valuable rare earths, contained in our concentrate, will be heavy rare earths, specifically, dysprosium and terbium. Right now, China controls around 90% of this market, so we will present ourselves as a geopolitically independent alternative to that supply. Our concentrate contains all of the other rare earths, notably neodymium and praseodymium, which together with dysprosium and terbium, are the four main elements that are used in the magnets that electric vehicles and that the wind turbines are using.

Our production is directly associated with the electric revolution. We do expect that these technologies or these applications will experience exponential growth. While supply is rather limited, we believe that the market conditions and the market outlook for these four elements is really outstanding and should attract investor interest.

Dr. Allen Alper: That sounds excellent. Could you tell our readers/investors, a little bit about your background, your Management Team and your Board?

Ramon Barua: I have worked for the last 17 years, with the Hochschild Group. This Company continues to be a part of the Hochschild Group, given that they control 36% of the shares and Hochschild Mining still retains 20% of the shares. We are innovating in our geology, metallurgy, and product design, so we needed to attract a rather diverse Team. We have members from Peru, Chile, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and other nationalities, involved in the design of everything that we do.

We have a rather robust local Team that is complemented by the University of Toronto, who is doing a lot of the metallurgical testing for us. Ansto is quite a sophisticated lab in Australia, with a lot of experience in rare earths. Ausenco has produced our first technical document and PEA. We are also working with SGS Lakefield, an important and famous lab, here in Canada.

Dr. Allen Alper: That excellent! Could you tell our readers/investors a little bit more about your share and capital structure?

Ramon Barua: Our lead shareholder is Eduardo Hochschild. He is the owner of and Chairman of Hochschild Mining, which is a precious metals producer, listed in the London Stock Exchange. He's also the Chairman of Cementos Pacasmayo, which is Peru's second largest cement company and is listed in the New York Stock Exchange. Then we have Hochschild Mining, which is our parent company, and after the spinoff, they retained 20% of the shares. The rest of the investors participated in the IPO that we launched and completed in December of 2021.

Dr. Allen Alper: Well, it's good to see that you are so well financed, and you have such strong backing, and you have such a diverse Team, both technical and financial, and represented by so many different nationalities.

Ramon Barua: Thank you, Allen.

Dr. Allen Alper: Ramon, could you tell our readers/investors, the primary reasons they should consider investing in Aclara?

Ramon Barua: Aclara is directly addressing the need to supply the critical elements that our planet needs, in order to fight climate change. But we are not doing it at any cost, for us the “how” is very important, and we have developed a very clean and soft process to obtain elements, that otherwise require a much higher cost to our planet. We constantly argue that we are not a mining company because we don’t use explosives, crushing, milling and we do not have a tailings dam. We will not leave behind a hole in the ground, we will leave a conservation forest behind. I think investors in Aclara are going to feel very proud that we are not solving a problem by creating another one. We believe that is quite special.

Dr. Allen Alper: Those sound like extremely compelling reasons, for our readers/investors, to invest in Aclara. You are helping the environment, you have a critical project, you're well financed, you have a great Team. You're in a great area of northern Chile that is very pro-mining. So, I think all of those are excellent reasons for readers/investors to consider investing in Aclara.

Ramon Barua: It's important to note that we are not in the north part of Chile, but we are rather in the south. We are in the region of Biobίo, which is the eighth region, very near to the city of Concepcion, which is Chile's second largest city. That is important, because we're planning on extracting these minerals, in a region where there is no mining presence.

Dr. Allen Alper: Ah, thank you for clarifying that, that's very important. I'm sure that will help not only supply critical elements for the electrification of the world, but it will also support the local employment as you grow.

Ramon Barua: Exactly

Dr. Allen Alper: Is there anything else you'd like to add, Ramon?

Ramon Barua: Yes, please. The next step, in the development of this deposit, is to obtain our environmental permits. We believe that the plan that we have follows the vision that Chile is pushing now. First, emphasizing the importance of addressing climate change. Second, we believe that Chile wants to promote sustainable investments, and that's what we are also pursuing. Our project has a very modern, pro-environment approach and that is directly aligned with the plans that the Chilean government has.

Dr. Allen Alper: That's excellent! We’ll publish your press releases as they come out so our readers/investors can follow your progress.

Ramon Barua
Chief Executive Officer

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