Ionic Rare Earths has started commissioning of its magnet recycling demonstration plant in Belfast, UK, and is on track for first production of separated and refined high purity magnet rare earth oxides in late June 2023.

Its subsidiary IonicTech has developed rare earth element separation and refining technology and applied this to the recycling of spent permanent Neodymium-Iron-Boron (NdFeB) magnets.

Highlighting the progress it has made in this sector, it was awarded in September last year a grant of £1.72 million (approximately 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.

“With equipment now delivered and installed, with commissioning now underway, we are confident that full commissioning will be completed on time, and I expect to see production of REOs this quarter,” Ionic Rare Earths (ASX:IXR) managing director Tim Harrison said.

It’s a significant step towards securing the UK supply of critical rare earth metals for EV manufacture, and the company says the demonstration plant will provide further data for the development of a commercial facility.


Catalyst to establish supply chain partnerships

The company has already sourced, globally, in excess of 40 tonnes of NdFeB permanent magnets from wind turbines, electric vehicle (EV) motors, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, and other applications, plus swarf from alloy and magnet manufacturing, to provide a diverse feedstock range for demonstration plant trials.

“The successful commissioning of the magnet recycling demonstration plant at our Belfast facility will be a key catalyst for the company in being able to establish meaningful supply chain partnerships in value addition for the magnet REOs we will produce in Belfast,” Harrison said.

“Our engagement with metal and alloy manufacturers is progressing, and we expect to be able to deliver inventory of separated magnet REOs for further value addition in the third quarter of this year.”

“With the momentum the company is seeing for alternative supply of magnet REOs and the recent European Critical Raw Material Act, and the intent to source 15% of these newly named strategic raw materials, we continue to field new enquiries on the technology.

“The potential to rapidly deploy the modular technology is appealing to western markets looking to develop domestic, secure, and sustainable supply chains from secondary sources through recycling.”


Individually separated and refined REOs for re-use

Impressively, IonicTech’s work to date has demonstrated capability for REEs to achieve near complete extraction of rare earths oxides (REO) from lower quality spent magnets and waste (swarf) to a remarkable recovery of high value magnet REO product quality exceeding 99.9% REO.

And the tech can produce individually separated and refined high purity REOs – which is providing significant interest to potential downstream users.

This presents an opportunity for IonicTech to have ‘first mover’ advantage in the industrial elemental extraction of REEs from spent magnets and waste, enabling near term magnet REO production capability to satisfy growing demand from lagging new supply chains.




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.