Special Report: Arafura continues to plough through its flowsheet piloting program for its Nolans neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) project.

The company’s (ASX:ARU) pilot ran continuously over five days taking Nolans NdPr-rich rare earth sulphate through purification and precipitation processes to ultimately produce rare earth hydroxide.

NdPr rare earths are used in high-strength neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnets which are an important part of hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) traction motors, portable electronics, clean energy, aerospace and healthcare sectors.

This phase follows the recent success of the critical fourth phase of its large-scale pilot program.

Phase six is scheduled to commence within a week processing the rare earth hydroxide precipitate produced from phase five.

Hot commodity

With consumption of rare earths in the EV sector forecast to grow by 4 to 5 per cent a year over the next decade, questions remain over the ability to meet the industry’s rapidly increasing demands.

In addition to 1.7 kilograms of NdPr each EV also contains about 100 grams of dysprosium (Dy).

Refined NdPr-rich rare earth hydroxide precipitate being removed from filter unit

Magnet producers could start to replace the rare earths used in EVs altogether unless new supply comes online soon.

Roskill analysts say rare earth magnets are not expected to be designed out of the vast majority of hybrid/EV motors because of their superior performance and efficiency — but there are alternatives.

“Although NdFeB magnets offer the highest efficiency and best performance for their size and weight, alternatives — specifically induction motors — offer the potential for better long-term price stability,” they say.

Arafura’s Nolans project is 100% domiciled in the Northern Territory and will produce 3600 tonnes each year of NdPr, which is enough material for the rare earth magnets in 2 million electric vehicles for over 30 years.

Phase 5 rare earth purification and precipitation pilot plant (Supplied)

 

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