Ionic on track to produce first recycled rare earth oxide products out of Belfast by Q2 2023
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Ionic Rare Earths subsidiary IonicTech has been making solid steps with its separation and refining technology for the recycling and refining of individual magnet rare earths from spent permanent magnets at its Belfast facility in the UK.
The new facility has been equipped with analytical and hydrometallurgical laboratories, plus piloting and demonstration plant bays to progress the scale-up verification of the technology.
The company expects commissioning of the demonstration plant in late Q1 2023, which will separate individual high purity magnet REOs from recycling 30 tonnes per annum of waste magnets and swarf (waste material from alloy manufacturing) suitable for high specification permanent magnets in the EV and offshore wind sectors.
It is expected that more than 10 tonnes of separated magnet rare earth oxides (REOs) will be produced from June 2023, enabling greater supply chain collaboration with downstream metal, alloy and magnet manufacturers.
“To see the facility taking shape to now support the growing team, the laboratories and analytical equipment now installed and operational, and magnet REO products being produced, bodes well for further positive developments in 2023,” Ionic (ASX:IXR) MD Tim Harrison said.
“We see the successful demonstration plant at Belfast as a key catalyst for the company in being able to establish meaningful supply chain partnerships in value addition beyond the magnet REOs we will produce, and the ability to deploy the technology into several opportunities we have identified to date.”
In September, the company was awarded a grant of £1.72 million (around A$2.9 million) from the UK Government’s Innovate UK Automotive Transformation Fund Scale-up Readiness Validation (SuRV) program, to develop a demonstration scale magnet recycling plant, a significant step towards securing the UK supply of critical rare earth metals for EV manufacture.
IonicRE is evaluating several opportunities for commercialisation of the technology into modular magnet recycling initiatives and partnerships, with global governments looking to develop domestic magnet REO supply chains to empower localised manufacturing, including EV and renewable energy transitions.
Such partnerships will also provide more secure and traceable supply chains for critical raw material, the company said.
The latest completed campaign at the facility treated a Neodymium-Iron-Boron (NdFeB) swarf, treating a sample rich in both magnet REEs, Neodymium (Nd) and Dysprosium (Dy).
The pilot campaign successfully processed the swarf into several intermediary REE products, prior to the separation and production of around 5 kgs of separated high purity rare earth oxides (REO), Nd2O3 and Dy2O3 – with analysis pending.
Internal and external analysis of the products confirms they are consistent with separated REO products produced and sourced from existing Chinese producers.
Meanwhile, the company remains focused on the development of its Makuutu Rare Earths Project in Uganda with the finalisation of the Mining Licence Application expected early in 2023 – underpinned by a resource base upgrade to 532 million tonnes at 640 ppm TREO and approval of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).
Additional drilling is expected to commence in H1 2023, once exploration EIS documents have been approved, to further evaluate exploration targets and to increase resource estimate confidence towards the next mineral licence application (MLA).
Engagements continue with governments, government bodies, and potential strategic partners interested in the unique appeal of the Makuutu basket of magnet and heavy rare earths to feed new emerging supply chains.
For several reasons, including the availability of low-cost power, and strategic supply chain appeal, the US has been selected as the preferred location for a dedicated refinery – with the location expected to be finalised in Q1 2023.
This article was developed in collaboration with Ionic Rare Earths Limited, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.
This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.