Ucore's Alaska 2023 is now Louisiana 2024
Metal Tech News - October 17, 2022
Last updated 10/18/2022 at 2:24pm
Plans to build first rare earths plant In the Gulf Coast state by 2024.
With $10 million in economic incentives and quicker permitting of already established industrial sites on the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana has lured Ucore Rare Metals Inc. and its proprietary rare earths separation technology away from Alaska.
In 2020, Ucore set a plan in motion to begin producing individual rare earth elements in Alaska by 2023. The idea was to install its RapidSX rare earths separation technology in an Alaska Strategic Metals Complex, a commercial-scale rare earths separation and purification plant to be built at the Southeast Alaska port town of Ketchikan.
This Alaska SMC was to be the first of potentially several strategic metal complexes Ucore plans to develop to help supply the rapidly growing demand for rare earths and other critical minerals being driven largely by the auto sector's transition to electric mobility.
"Over the last several years, Ucore has been diligently working to establish its first SMC," said Ucore Rare Metals Chairman and CEO Pat Ryan. "At the beginning of this year, we finalized two fundamental tenets. One, the emerging worldwide demand for Western rare earth oxides will far exceed the capacity of just one SMC. Two, the only way to successfully meet the required production timelines of our prospective partners will be to build the first SMC within an established facility – which is just not currently possible with our original plans in Southeast Alaska."
To deliver rare earths close to the schedule it benchmarked in its Alaska2023 plan, Ucore announced on Oct. 17 that Louisiana will now be the home of the company's first strategic metals complex – the Louisiana SMC.
Louisiana lures Ucore
Ucore's shift to Louisiana began with discussions with state officials that quickly advanced to a trip to assess 10 existing facilities that could provide the company a head start on developing a Louisiana SMC compared to building one from scratch in Alaska.
"It became quickly apparent that Louisiana had the existing infrastructure to support a new processing facility, such as ours, with an established chemical industry workforce, local access to universities and community college programs, chemicals and other raw materials, low energy rates, and several of North America's largest shipping ports," said Ucore Rare Metals COO Mike Schrider.
The Gulf Coast state clinched a deal for Ucore's proposed $55 million Louisiana SMC with an initial $9.6 million economic incentive package to be administered through Louisiana Economic Development over 10 years.
"Louisiana is rapidly expanding its significant energy-centered industry infrastructure to include the renewable energy sector," said Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson. "Ucore's planned $55 million investment and 80 family wage paying jobs represent a significant opportunity for the state to diversify its energy portfolio."
In addition to the Louisiana Economic Development funding, upon finalizing its site election, Ucore would also be eligible for several other incentives offered by the state that include reimbursements, tax credits, loan guarantees, and expedited permitting.
Louisiana 2024 plan
Following the Louisiana Economic Development incentive package, Ucore's board of directors immediately and unanimously approved the development of Louisiana SMC as the company's first rare earths processing and separation facility.
Over the next few months, Ucore will select the specific facility that provides the best opportunity to execute its objective of producing 2,000 metric tons of rare earth oxides per year by the end of 2024 and at least 5,000 per year beginning in 2025.
Much like the facility that was previously proposed for Alaska, the Louisiana SMC will feature the company's proprietary RapidSX technology, a faster and more environmentally sound technological upgrade to the solvent extraction method that has been the standard for separating rare earths in China for more than four decades.
Ucore is currently commissioning a plant in Canada that will be used to demonstrate the commercial viability of its RapidSX separation technology to automakers and others that are seeking an efficient and sustainable means of producing rare earths.
More information on RapidSX and the demonstration plant can be read at Ucore's rare earths plant takes shape in the September 16, 2022 edition of Metal Tech News.
Ucore says the Louisiana SMC will process rare earth feedstock from several U.S.-friendly nations into the individual rare earth oxides required for the powerful permanent magnets used in EV motors, wind turbine generators, and a wide range of other household and high-tech goods.
The company also indicated that the Alaska SMC is not completely off the table, as North American manufacturers will need more rare earths than multiple Louisiana SMC-sized facilities could feed into the supply chain.