PRISM is Committed to Continued Research and Development, a Crucial Component of Driving Innovation, and a Key Factor in Developing New Competitive Advantages


Research and development will enable PRISM to generate new market opportunities over time, to the benefit of its stakeholders, the province and Canada as a whole.

PRISM supports Alberta’s vision of building new innovation capacity in the province by conducting and supporting world-class research to develop new processes and products that will spin out new innovative companies that will attract creative and resourceful people to the Peace Country and the province. 

As markets continue to rapidly embrace green products, PRISM will continue to expand its research and development capacity in partnership with individuals, colleges, universities and government, to make eco-friendly products out of natural ingredients, recycled materials or biodegradable substances.

Innovation is an important factor in PRISM's growth strategy and will help sustain our competitive advantage.

Cabonylation of Iron Oxide into High-purity Iron Powders

Microscopically enlarged carbonyl iron powder

PRISM has identified a low-risk and proven iron carbonylation process, developed by an established Canadian company, as a cost-effective and turn-key technology capable of directly refining its Clear Hills iron-vanadium resource into high-purity, high-value metallurgical powders with broad commercial application. A secondary carbo-chlorination process will extract the vanadium (and possibly cobalt) for sale in electric-metal applications, including electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy storage systems.

After achieving positive reported results in a preliminary baseline test at the pilot plant, with 84% of the iron and 65% of the cobalt extracted, an intermediate stage of pilot testing is planned to further optimize the efficacy of the process and technologies to produce high-demand powder products.

extraction of Lithium from Formation Brines

Illustration of PRISM's lithium production concept  

Over the past two decades, cheaper prices and abundant supply has led to a shift away from rock based ore minerals to brines as the major source of lithium. Currently, production from brine deposits supplies 60-80% of the world’s lithium market. Production of lithium from brines requires less energy and is more environmentally- friendly than lithium production from hardrock. It is likely that lithium demand will continue to expand with the increasing use of Li-ion batteries and especially with the advent of Li-ion battery powered electric vehicles, leading to a rush to find new sources of brine-derived lithium for the global market.

With the potential to produce significant volumes of lithium-bearing formation brine from the underlying Devonian reservoirs across the company's 1.88 million of acres of mineral permits, PRISM is executing a multi-phase development work plan to advance its lithium development through a feasibility study and final investment decision.

The first phase of development work will involve geological, geophysical and reservoir engineering evaluations to ultimately determine an inferred (or possibly indicated) NI 43-101 compliant resource estimate for lithium and associated performance elements on PRISM's extensive metallic and industrial mineral permits. Multi-element geochemical laboratory analysis of collected formation water samples will determine the average grades of the main economic elements in the brine. After applying the grades to calculated reservoir volumes, an inferred resource estimate will then be determined.

A preliminary economic assessment and pre-feasibility level test work will also be conducted in the first development phase by PRISM's strategic technology partner with a focus on adapting and optimizing their commercial processing platform for the extraction and concentration of the lithium and other elements of interest from formation brines. Preliminary tests on a formation brine sample suggests the technology will meet PRISM's performance objectives. Having exclusive access to this technology, dubbed "LiREC®", provides PRISM a significant advantage in the industry, as sourcing lithium-brine extractive technology is critical to achieving commercial success.

After confirming the efficacy of the lithium brine extractive and concentration process, further development work will involve conducting a demonstration pilot test program in the Clear Hills in conjunction with the company’s key technology partners. A successful pilot test program will contribute additional important technical data, and in conjunction with an estimate of collective production rates obtained through reservoir analysis, a detailed technical resource report, feasibility study and production plan will be prepared.

Refining of Formation-brine extracted Lithium into Battery-grade Lithium Carbonate

Lithium carbonate

Lithium carbonate

In conjunction with the electro-extraction development work, PRISM will collaborate with a company with expertise in commercial lithium refining to refine its pre-concentrated lithium sample into high-purity battery-grade lithium carbonate.

After successful pilot testing, a preliminary economic assessment and a pre-feasibility study will be commissioned leading to a decision to conduct a feasibility study leading to a final investment decision.


Rotary kiln at pilot plant

In conjunction with HATCH, PRISM is developing a multi-stage direct reduction/iron segregation process designed to produce alternative iron units ("AIU") in HBI form (hot briquetted iron). The HICS technology is designed to beneficiate high phosphorous iron ores, including oolitic ores, into merchantable iron suitable for use in an electric arc furnace ("EAF") as a feedstock supplement for scrap metal.

The partners incorporated the most technologically advanced equipment and processes developed by industry leaders under the supervision of Hatch Associates, a globally recognized engineering consulting firm, based in Mississauga, Ontario. Hatch's integrated and multi-disciplinary team included expertise in process metallurgy, reactor design, computational fluid dynamics, computational thermodynamics, mineral processing, innovation technologies, process engineering and management consulting.

Plexiglass prototype of PRISM's rotary kiln design

The process being developed builds on the traditional direct reduced iron (“DRI”) process and is named the Hatch-Ironstone Chloride Segregation (“HICS”) process. The HICS process is designed to produce metallic iron from the Clear Hills oolitic iron ore that can be concentrated into a high grade DRI feedstock for the steel industry. The associated vanadium pentoxide deports to the tails after magnetic separation of the metallic iron, where it can be extracted and then used in the steelmaking stage, or further refined into an electrolyte for use in renewable energy storage flow batteries.

The HICS/DRI process has been in development since 2010 and has involved a growing world-class team including Hazen Research (“Hazen”), SGS Lakefield, Kingston Process Metallurgy, FLSmidth, Ortech Research, and NELS Consulting Services. The nature of process development requires careful experimental work and pilot testing to achieve commercial scale. Ironstone and Hatch have conducted the testing sequentially in several stages of scale-ups after successfully proving the process flow sheet at each previous stage.

The basic understanding of all the chemical reactions and influence of the operating parameters were obtained through batch reactor testing completed between 2011 – 2012. Two continuous reactor tests were then performed during 2012 with the objective of demonstrating that the process could reach a stable and continuous operation while achieving iron metallization above 90%. The next step for Ironstone and Hatch will involve testing the HICS/DRI process at a commercial scale by performing integrated pilot plant tests at a suitable pilot facility.

The HICS/DRI process contains six main modules: (1) ore preparation, (2) calcination, (3) primary reduction, (4) chloride segregation, (5) mineral processing, and (6) agglomeration. Continuous process pilot tests through the chloride segregation stage have been successfully conducted.

PRISM has demonstrated that the HICS/DRI process is capable of producing commercial quality AIU containing 90% iron, 0.12% phosphorous and 0.3% carbon. Further development will be conducted after carbonyl iron powder operations commence, anticipated in 2020.


Benchtop test of microalgae growth fed by carbon dioxide 

PRISM and Grande Prairie Regional College have developed an alliance to collaborate on skills development, cooperative research and the development of new innovative processes and products derived from PRISM's Clear Hills mineral deposit and manufacturing operations.

From supporting and implementing GPRC's carbon capture innovations, exploring novel carbonation techniques to sequester greenhouse gasses in building products, or exploring new applications in energy metals – PRISM is excited to partner with the Peace Country's premier college. 

Grande Prairie Regional College is developing a transformative solar-based solution to reducing and eliminating industry-emitted greenhouse gasses through the use of its innovative "Pollutants to Products" (P2P) microalgae-based technology. This novel technology combines the capture and the use of carbon in a single step – directly at source – with co-production of merchantable bio-products.

The P2P technology has made major world-class breakthroughs through 11 years of ongoing R&D by enhancing productivity and reducing costs. GPRC's system has achieved a performance level up to three times better than any other reported systems, through the invention of a patented sunlight dilution method and the use of a pH-balanced medium. The production costs have been significantly reduced by using free sunlight, proprietary low-energy harvesting, and a simple, reliable and durable system design.

With the sales of the resulting bio-products, it is expected that the P2P technology would be cost-effective at startup. This microalgae technology could thus prove to be promising part of the next generation, lower cost carbon capture technologies, and of great benefit to PRISM in its endeavour to implement fully environmentally sustainable manufacturing operations.

"Green" Lightweight Clay Aggregates & Building Materials

A view of the overlying surface deposit of bentonitic expandable clays on the Rambling Creek block at Clear Hills

PRISM, in alliance with a US expert, is investigating a novel iron carbonation process ("ICP") for potential large-scale use to convert CO2 and iron and clay minerals into lightweight high-strength materials suitable for construction use. 

The research and development will focus on blending PRISM's unprocessed iron and process tailings with its overlying expandable clays and CO2 to produce "green" decorative stone and building products.