Australian-based Pure Alumina has announced that it is unable to complete its proposed acquisition of Polar Sapphire, the private Canadian producer of high purity alumina (HPA). The agreement to purchase expired on 30 September. Pure Alumina is now reviewing its options over its Yendon high purity alumina project, based on a kaolin resource in Australia.
Polar Sapphire is a producer of 3N to 6N high purity alumina, using an innovative patented manufacturing process that purifies the alumina at lower temperatures and consumes less power than conventional methods, using a combination of hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy. The company is based in Mississauga, Ontario and produces powder, beads and pucks that show improved sapphire boule yields with less colouration, microporosity and crystal defects.
Back in February, Polar increased capacity by 500tpy with the addition of a new automated press for producing high density alumina pellets and announced plans to build a new factory to further increase production capacity.
The HPA market is small but is generating a lot of interest. HPA has seen substantial growth in LED manufacture over the last 10–15 years, although this sector has become increasingly competitive as costs have been driven downwards with the volume production of LEDs worldwide.
HPA is also used in powder form as a coating on the ceramic separators that divide the cathode and anode electrodes within lithium-ion batteries. Interest in the battery sector is now driving further growth, particularly in new production methods, and there are several projects in progress to produce HPA from kaolin rather than traditional routes. One of the most advanced is that of Altech Chemicals, which intends to ship kaolin from Meckering, Australia for processing at a 4.5ktpy plant in Malaysia. Construction has begun on the plant, located in Johor, and the company has additionally reported a 10 year off-take agreement with Mitsubishi.
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