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By Shane Lasley
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Louisiana welcomes Ucore rare earths plant

Metal Tech News - April 7, 2023


Last updated 4/7/2023 at 7:02pm

A Welcome to Louisiana road sign at the border of the Bayou State.

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Louisiana welcomes Ucore Rare Metals' plans to invest at least $75 million into a REE separation facility in the Gulf Coast state with a roughly $15 million economic incentive package.

Offers $15 million incentive package for REE separation plant to spur job creation, new opportunities in Gulf Coast state.

Louisiana welcomes Ucore Rare Metals Inc. to the Bayou State with an enhanced financial incentive package for establishing the company's first rare earths separation and oxide production facility at a newly selected 80,800-square-foot in the central part of the state.

The rare earths that are produced at Ucore's Louisiana Strategic Metals Complex are in short supply and in high demand for electric vehicle motors, wind turbines, and a wide array of other high-tech and commercial products.

"This major manufacturing project in central Louisiana is another illustration of how the shift toward cleaner energy is creating jobs and increasing investment all across our state," said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Ucore had originally planned to build its first Strategic Metals Complex, a commercial-scale rare earths separation and purification plant that will feature the company's RapidSX technology, in Alaska. Louisiana, however, lured the company with economic incentives and already established industrial sites that will make the permitting and development of its first rare earths plant quicker and less expensive.

"Ucore has executed a very focused plan to establish its first rare earth processing plant within an existing brownfield facility," said Ucore Rare Metals President and CEO Pat Ryan. "This plan accelerated once Ucore narrowed its U.S. Gulf Coast search to Louisiana and worked through many excellent potential sites throughout the state."

The company found an ideal building for its cutting-edge rare earths plant within England Airpark, a former U.S. Air Force base that was transformed into an industrial park with access road, rail, and river port infrastructure in the heart of Louisiana.

"Several communities around the state were very seriously considered, yet England Airpark and the community of Alexandria presented local partnership and expansion opportunities to ensure Ucore achieves and perhaps exceeds its original objectives," Ryan added.

Larger Louisiana SMC

The size of the industrial building secured by Ucore offers an opportunity to establish a larger rare earths production facility than originally envisioned.

The company now plans to scale up its Louisiana SMC throughput to 7,500 metric tons of total rare earth oxides per year, which is 50% more capacity than the company originally proposed.

Ucore'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, will be installed at the new Louisiana site.

This technology was developed to improve the efficiency and environmental characteristics of rare earths separation and is currently installed at a demonstration plant in Ontario, Canada. Modular in design, this plant provides a template for copying and pasting the RapidSX technology platform at the Louisiana plant.

The commercial-scale replication of RapidSX at the Louisiana SMC will begin this year and culminate in production trials by the end of 2024. Ucore plans to be operating the rare earths separation facility at a roughly 2,000-metric-ton-per-year capacity by early 2025, incrementally scaling up to 7,500 metric tons per year in 2027.

Commercial production at Louisiana SME will offer a critical domestic supply of rare earths that are increasingly important to the U.S. economic and national security due to their widespread energy, industrial, and military technology applications.

There are currently no commercial-scale rare earths separation facilities in North America and only two outside of China – one in Malaysia and the other in Estonia – though others are being developed. With the rapid rise in demand for the rare earths need for low-carbon energy and transportation, American policymakers and private sector executives are pushing for more reliable supplies of these technological elements critical to transitioning to low-carbon energy and transportation.

"It is critical that the United States leads in establishing the critical metals supply chain essential to a changing manufacturing landscape across North America," said Ryan. "The establishment of the Louisiana SMC in Alexandria represents one of these first building blocks and a significant contributor to the shift toward energy production and consumption diversification."

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said Ucore's rare earths plant "is the latest of a series of developments in Louisiana related to the cutting edge of the energy industry."

Bright Louisiana future

Aside from being strategically located at a highway and rail hub near the Gulf Coast, Louisiana lured Ucore with an economic incentive package that has been enhanced with the selection of the Alexandria industrial building.

Based on Ucore's plan to invest at least $75 million into scaling up production at the Louisiana SMC by 2027, the economic incentive package of state grants, tax incentives, payroll rebates, and employment recruitment and training benefits has a potential value of $15 million.

A large industrial building with semi-trailers backed up to loading docks.

Ucore Rare Metals Inc.

This 80,800-square-foot building in England Airpark near Alexandria will house Ucore Rare Metals' Louisiana SMC rare earths separation plant.

"Ucore's substantial investment in Louisiana's Fifth District will bring hundreds of new jobs and countless opportunities to our region," said Congresswoman Julia Letlow.

In addition to the state incentives through an agreement with Louisiana Economic Development, the Greater Alexandria Economic Development Authority has offered Ucore a $360,000 grant to offset costs to lease the Louisiana SMC building for the first two years.

In addition to employment opportunities, it is expected that Ucore's Louisiana SMC will attract other businesses that need the rare earths requisite to many future leaning energy and industrial technologies.

"The products manufactured at Ucore will reinforce Louisiana's importance to the global supply chain as we look to further diversify and expand our economy," said Gov. Edwards.

"The future is bright for Louisiana," said Sen. Cassidy added.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

With more than 15 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

Three rows of RapidSX rare earths separation columns at Ucore’s Ontario plant.A Welcome to Louisiana road sign at the border of the Bayou State.A large industrial building with semi-trailers backed up to loading docks.


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