Lynas moves forward on Texas REE plant
Pentagon funding allows Aussie miner to begin phase-1 work Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – July 29, 2020
Last updated 8/5/2020 at 5:09am
Australia-based rare earths producer Lynas Corporation Ltd. is moving ahead with a U.S.-based heavy rare earth separation facility in Texas.
In April, the U.S. Department of Defense indicated that it would award Lynas a contract for a facility that could produce heavy rare earths, which tend to be the least abundant but most highly prized of the 17 elements that fall into the REE category.
According to Mining News sources, the Pentagon plans to fund up to two-thirds of the costs required to establish at least one domestic facility that can separate these heavy rare earths into the individual metals needed for military hardware.
The Pentagon, however, delayed funding the contract. This postponement revolved around concerns about minor Chinese ownership of MP Materials, another company with a rare earth mine in California that was also slated to be awarded a contract.
After a legal review, Pentagon recently announced that it would be awarding both contracts, which made available funding for Lynas' plans in the U.S.
The initial phase of funding provided by the Pentagon allows Lynas and its partner Blue Line Corp., a privately held chemical company based in Texas, to complete a detailed market and strategy study, plus detailed planning and design work, for the construction of a heavy rare earth separation facility.
The primary focus of Lynas-Blue Line partnership is the same subset of rare earths that the Army is interested in investing in.
"The group of materials we're looking at doing are the heavier rare earth materials and there's no commercial plant in the world that is actually separating these materials other than inside China," Blue Line CEO Jon Blumenthal told Fox Business' Lauren Simonetti earlier this year. "And these are very strategic materials that are used for a number of high-tech and defense applications."
Part of the Australian company's 2025 growth plan, the Texas facility would expand upon the light rare earth suite the company produced at a separation plant in Malaysia and would be the only source of separated heavy rare earths outside China.
Lynas said it will use its rare earths separation expertise to design and operate the Texas plant, which will separate heavy rare earths from material sourced from the company's Mt. Weld mine in Western Australia.
"Heavy rare earths are essential for the high performance magnets used in electric motors, and Lynas has the feedstock, intellectual property, and track record to deliver a heavy rare earths facility in a timely and low risk manner," said Lynas CEO and Managing Director Amanda Lacaze. "We look forward to working with the DoD to progress this project."
Lynas and Blueline anticipate completing the phase-1 work under the DoD contract by mid-2021.