Ionic Rare Earths is on track to start producing separated and refined high-purity magnet rare earth oxides from its magnet recycling demonstration plant in Belfast, UK this month.

Process commissioning of its wholly-owned subsidiary Ionic Technologies International’s plant is now 66% complete with an inventory of intermediate products prepared.

Additionally, wet commissioning of the Solvent Extraction circuit has begun with operations moving to a round the clock (24/7) tempo from this week while pilot plant activities are continuing in parallel to help confirm operational parameters for the separation circuit.

Ionic Rare Earths (ASX:IXR) also continues to build up its magnet inventory with more than 50t of neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) permanent magnets on hand to provide feedstock for the demonstration plant.

“The progress at IonicTech continues to plan with process commissioning on track to achieve the production of first separated oxides by the end of this month in Belfast,” managing director Tim Harrison said.

“The successful commissioning and production of recycled high purity individual magnet REOs from our Magnet Recycling Demonstration Plant in Belfast facility will be a key catalyst for the Company in being able to establish further collaboration platforms and supply chain partnerships with magnet manufactures and end user customers.

“Additionally, the successful commissioning and production of magnet REOs will be an important milestone for several discussions progressing to deploy the modular technology across western markets looking to develop domestic, secure, and sustainable supply chains from secondary sources through recycling.”


The road to recycling magnets

Ionic’s imminent start of MREO production follows the sequential dry commissioning of the demonstration plant over the past six weeks with safety systems installed prior to process commissioning activities.

It has also continued to implement safety systems and protections ahead of commissioning and operation activities.

Being able to produce MREOs from the demonstration plant with be a clear validation of IonicTech’s goal of closing the circle for permanent REE magnets that started since its founding in 2015 as a spinout from Queens University Belfast with a bevy of proprietary processes for the separation and recovery of REEs from mining ore concentrates and waste permanent magnets.

The tech has thus far demonstrated the capability for near complete extraction of REO’s from lower quality spent magnets and waste (swarf) into a high value MREO product with a quality exceeding 99.9% REOs.

It also differentiates itself from competing processes such as hydrogen decrepitation, which simply breaks down spent magnets and swarf to be recast as magnets of lesser quality, by offering efficient, non-hazardous, and economically viable processing with minimal environmental footprint.

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.

Highlighting the potential value of this, the company was awarded in September 2022 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.



This article was developed in collaboration with Ionic Rare Earths, 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.