USA Rare Earth strategy gets $50M boost
Texas REEs to begin feeding into mine-to-magnet supply chain Metal Tech News – May 20, 2021
Last updated 6/2/2021 at 3:25pm
With the recent completion of a $50 million financing, USA Rare Earth LLC has the funds to take major strides toward executing its rare earths mine-to-magnet strategy in the United States.
At the front end of this strategy lies the Round Top heavy rare earths and critical minerals project in Texas, which USA Rare Earth recently exercised its option to acquire an 80% joint venture interest in from Texas Mineral Resources Corp.
Situated in the Texas desert about 85 miles southeast of El Paso, Round Top is a massive rare earths project that also happens to be enriched in lithium and 10 other minerals considered critical to the United States.
A preliminary economic assessment completed in 2019 outlines plans for a mine at Round Top would produce 2,212 metric tons of rare earths per year, including healthy supplies of all six permanent magnet rare earth oxides. This includes more than 200 metric tons of dysprosium, 180 tons of neodymium, 67 tons of praseodymium, 65 tons of gadolinium, 65 tons of samarium and 23 tons of terbium once the mine reaches full production.
In addition, the mine summarized in the PEA would produce about 10,000 metric tons of lithium per year, which would help fill the expanding electric vehicle battery market.
According to current calculations, the Round Top deposit is large enough to supply REEs, lithium and other critical minerals at this rate for more than a century.
With the recent financing, USA Rare Earth now has the financial wherewithal to complete a prefeasibility study that will further refine the economic and design parameters outlined in the PEA, finish testing at the company's pilot rare earths separation plant in Colorado and build a demonstration scale plant at Round Top later this year.
The demonstration plant, which will include test heap leach pads and continuous ion exchange processing being piloted in Colorado, is expected to support a definitive feasibility study and permitting, as well as produce representative materials for evaluation by prospective customers.
Further details on the Colorado pilot plant can be read at USA rare earth separation pilot underway in the June 17, 2020 edition of Metal Tech News.
"Being funded for completion of the Round Top DFS is an important milestone for USA Rare Earth, the project and the United States," said USA Rare Earth CEO Pini Althaus. "The demonstration plant will inform our detailed engineering plans and provide representative product samples to support offtake agreements with customers. This will enable us to expedite bringing Round Top into production and provide the necessary materials for EV's and advanced manufacturing, including the essential materials for chipsets, semiconductors and 5G, all of which are hosted at Round Top and are the focus of President Biden's recent executive order."
The Round Top joint venture has already received construction stormwater permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and has begun the mining of a 20,000-metric-ton bulk sample that will provide material for the feasibility studies and demonstration plant.
While the separation of rare earths in Texas will be a major step for an all-American REE supply chain, USA Rare Earth is already working on adding another link to connect Round Top to the electric vehicle and other high-technology manufacturers that utilize the powerful magnets made from rare earths.
USA Rare Earth Magnets, a wholly owned subsidiary of the New York-based company, is now fully funded to recommission a sintered rare earth permanent magnet manufacturing system that was formerly owned and operated by Hitachi Metals America, Ltd in North Carolina.
USA Rare Earth says the neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnet manufacturing equipment it acquired last year has the capacity to supply roughly 17% of the U.S. rare earth permanent magnet market and generate nearly $145 million in annual sales at 2019 prices.
This magnet making equipment is in storage and USA Rare Earth is narrowing down locations to set it back up. Althaus expects to make a final decision on the magnet plant's locale soon and the first REE magnets to be manufactured there before the end of next year.
Coupled with the prospect of Round Top lithium going into batteries, the Texas project is rapidly establishing itself as a key first link in two supply chains vital to the envisioned transition to renewable energy and electric mobility in the U.S.
"We are well positioned to reestablish a fully-integrated, environmentally-friendly and US-based mine-to-magnet and mine-to-battery supply chain," said the USA Rare Earth CEO.