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Texas rare earths magnet plant coming

MP begins building final link in US REE magnet supply chain Metal Tech News - April 22, 2022

By the end of next year, the powerful rare earth magnets vital to efficiently transform motion into electricity in wind turbines and electricity into motion in electric vehicles are expected to be rolling off the assembly line at a new 200,000-square-foot facility that MP Materials Corp. is building in Fort Worth, Texas.

During a ceremony that attracted Texas lawmakers, General Motors executives, and even a GMC Hummer EV that benefits from the type of rare earth magnets that will soon be produced in the Lone Star State, MP broke ground on its rare earth metal, alloy, and magnet facility, a first-of-its-kind in the United States.

"Rare earth magnets are critical to the energy transition and security of the United States," said Congressman Marc Veasey, D-Texas, during the April 21 groundbreaking. "It is essential we manufacture these components in the United States from domestic materials sourced in an environmentally responsible manner."

Repatriating the REE supply chain

MP Materials, which is already mining rare earths at its Mountain Pass Mine in California's Mojave Desert, said the REE magnet facility it is building in the AllianceTexas business park just outside of Fort Worth is part of its larger $700 million investment into reestablishing a complete rare earths mines-to-magnets supply chain in the U.S. over the next two years.

Accounting for roughly 15% of the rare earths mined globally in 2021, MP's Mountain Pass is the largest rare earths producer outside of China. With no processing facilities in the U.S., however, the 42,413 metric tons of mixed rare earth oxide concentrates produced at Mountain Pass last year had to be shipped to China, which hosts all but one of the facilities capable of separating rare earths 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.

"The United States needs to do everything we can to end our dangerous dependence on China for rare earth elements and critical minerals across the entire supply chain," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. "It is both significant and important that MP Materials is going beyond mining and into alloying and manufacturing, and I'm deeply proud of the role Texas is playing in these projects."

Many of the rare earths we import primarily from China, especially neodymium, are used to make powerful permanent magnets used in EVs, robots, wind turbines, drones, defense systems, high fidelity speakers, and other technologies.

In February, the Pentagon awarded MP $35 million to refine and separate heavy rare earths at the company's production facility at Mountain Pass.

MP's Texas magnetics factory will source refined feedstock from Mountain Pass and transform it into finished products.

By the end of 2023, MP's Fort Worth facility is expected to have the capacity to produce approximately 1,000 metric tons of the neodymium-iron-boron alloy per year, roughly enough to make the magnets for 500,000 EV motors, with room to grow.

GM provides foundational support

In a quest to ensure a reliable, ethical, and environmentally sound source of rare earth magnets for its rapidly expanding EV production, General Motors is providing a solid foundation to support MP's vision of building a complete rare earths magnet supply chain in the U.S.

"The new MP Materials magnetics facility in Fort Worth, Texas, will play a key role in GM's journey to build a secure, scalable, and sustainable EV supply chain," said Anirvan Coomer, executive director of global purchasing and supply chain at GM.

In support of establishing an all-American supply of the rare earths and REE products its needs to fulfill its own vision of getting "Everybody In" an EV, GM agreed to buy rare earth alloys and magnets from MP Materials' Texas facility. A definitive agreement announced in parallel with the groundbreaking solidifies this supply chain partnership.

Under the long-term agreement, MP will supply rare earth materials, alloy, and finished magnets for the electric motors in more than a dozen models built on GM's Ultium battery and electric drive platform.

"As the foundational automotive customer of the Fort Worth facility, GM will use the products from this plant in the GMC HUMMER EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV, and more than a dozen models based on GM's Ultium platform," said Coomer. "We also look forward to collaborating with MP Materials from a public policy perspective to seek policies that are supportive of the establishment of an efficient U.S.-based rare earth and magnet supply chain."

Made in Texas

With rare earths and critical minerals, especially those needed for the EV and clean energy supply chains, being a hot political topic at all levels of government, the contingent of municipal, state, and federal officials at MP's rare earth magnet facility groundbreaking are already well aware of the need to repatriate critical mineral supply chains.

"Rare earth magnets are essential for U.S. economic and national security, and it is vital to our national interest that we manufacture these components at scale here at home," said Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas. "I applaud MP Materials for building this landmark facility in Fort Worth, and I'm pleased that Texas is at the forefront of restoring this important supply chain back to America."

Texas, the new home of Tesla Inc. and that company's newest lithium-ion battery and EV megafactory, is establishing itself as an increasingly important link in North America's EV and critical mineral supply chains.

Gov. Greg Abbott said the MP Materials Fort Worth magnet plant adds to the growing "Made in Texas" brand.

"This incredible investment will not only create more than 100 new jobs for hardworking Texans, but will also bolster the state's supply chain in high-tech industries while solidifying Texas as a mecca for advanced manufacturing and innovation," said the Texas governor.

CORRECTION: MP's Fort Worth facility is expected to have the capacity to produce approximately 1,000 metric tons of the neodymium-iron-boron alloy (previously reported as magnets) per year by the end of 2023.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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