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By Shane Lasley
Metal Tech News 

GM secures American rare earth magnets

Signs deal to buy critical EV motor parts from MP Materials Metal Tech News - December 9, 2021

 

Last updated 4/22/2022 at 10:03am

MP Materials' future rare earths magnet facility in Texas.

MP Materials Corp.

MP Materials' Texas facility, slated to begin ramping up production in 2023, will supply the rare earth magnets for the electric motors in more than a dozen GM EV models.

To secure a long-term domestic supply of the rare earths needed to build electric vehicles in North America, General Motors has entered into a binding agreement to buy REE materials and magnets to be produced at a new facility MP Materials Corp. is building in Fort Worth, Texas.

"We are building a resilient and sustainable EV manufacturing value chain in North America, from raw materials to cell manufacturing to electric drive motors and beyond, further accelerating GM's vision to support a mass market for EVs," said Shilpan Amin, vice president of global purchasing and supply chain at GM. "Our work with MP Materials is another bold step forward that will help ensure that we meet our goal to lead the EV industry in North America in more than just sales."

Owner and operator of the Mountain Pass Mine in California's Mojave Desert, MP is the only rare earths producer in the United States.

While Mountain Pass accounted for 15% of global rare earths production during 2020, the mixed rare earths produced at the mine were shipped to China to be separated into the individual elements critical to a broad array of modern technologies. American manufacturers then buy rare earth metals, magnets, and upgraded products imbued with the special properties offered by rare earths from the Middle Kingdom and other overseas suppliers.

More information on the suite of 17 rare earths, their uses, and North American sources can be read at Made in North America rare earths return in Critical Minerals Alliances, a Data Mine North magazine.

With a 200,000-square-foot facility to be developed in Texas, however, MP plans to establish a complete rare earths mines-to-magnets supply chain in the U.S.

The rare earth metal and magnet manufacturing plant expected to begin ramping up production in 2023 will initially have the capacity to produce roughly 1,000 metric tons of finished neodymium-iron-boron magnets per year, enough for approximately 500,000 EV motors.

"This is a momentous occasion for the reshoring of the American supply chain, and we are grateful for GM's confidence, commitment and leadership," said MP Materials Chairman and CEO James Litinsky.

The Texas facility will also serve as the business and engineering headquarters for MP Magnetics, the company's growing magnetic division.

"MP Materials has built an exceptional magnetics team and important commercial relationships that will accelerate our mission to restore the full rare earth supply chain to the United States," said Litinsky.

This restoration of an American rare earth mines-to-magnets supply chain comes at a time when the demand for magnet rare earths such as neodymium and praseodymium is skyrocketing.

This massive new demand is due to the unmatched strength and durability of neodymium and other permanent rare earth magnets.

MP says neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnets such as the ones it will be producing in Texas are critical to the electric motors and generators that enable EVs, robots, wind turbines, drones, defense systems, and other technologies that transform electricity into motion and motion into electricity.

Aggressive targets set by GM and most other global automakers to completely transition to zero-carbon vehicle sales over the next 15 to 20 years is applying enormous demand pressure for permanent magnet rare earths.

As a result, the price of neodymium has climbed more than 370% over the past year, from US$56 per kilogram in December 2020 to US$209/kg today.

Likewise, praseodymium has shot up roughly 320% from US$65.50/kg to US$210/kg over the same span.

MP's Texas plant is expected to help begin filling this demand, and the rare earths company said the facility will also supply neodymium-iron-boron alloy to other magnet producers to help develop a diverse and resilient rare earth magnet supply chain in the U.S.

Litinsky said the involvement of automakers and other manufacturers driving rare earths demand is vital.

"Restoring the full rare earth supply chain to the United States at scale would not be possible without U.S. manufacturers like GM recognizing the strategic consequence and acting with conviction," said the MP Materials Chairman.

Considering that the Texas rare earth alloy and magnet plant will only consume about 10% of the 6,075 metric tons of neodymium-praseodymium oxide produced at Mountain Pass each year, MP says it has plenty of capacity to keep pace with the growing demand for rare earths and the powerful permanent magnets made from them.

The company also said the vertically integrated nature of its operation also provides flexibility to optimize recycling pathways.

GMC's electric Hummer at General Motor's Factory Zero plant.

General Motors

These 2022 GMC Hummer EVs rolling off the assembly line at GM's Factory ZERO in Michigan are driving enormous new demand for the rare earths mined at MP's Mountain Pass operation in California and magnets to be produced in Texas.

Waste generated during the alloy and magnet production process will be recycled. End-of-life magnets can also be reprocessed into high purity separated rare earth oxides at Mountain Pass. The recycled oxides can then be refined into metal and, once again, produced into high-performance magnets.

MP says the capabilities at its California mine and Texas magnet plant also allow for the development of more novel recycling pathways that shortcut these traditional approaches and is currently developing end-of-life, circular recycling concepts with major commercial entities.

GM, which said it will work with MP to "explore the potential to further optimize production efficiency and conserve natural resources through novel recycling approaches," is one of these entities.

"We are proud to welcome GM as the foundational automotive customer for our new magnetics facility and join forces with a company fully aligned with our vision to reinvigorate the American manufacturing spirit," said Litinsky.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

With more than 14 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 907-726-1095
https://www.facebook.com/metaltechnews/

 

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