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MP awarded $58.5M for REE magnet plant

Metal Tech News - April 1, 2024

Will use federal funds to establish the first fully integrated mine-to-magnets rare earths supply chain in the U.S.

In support of the development of a complete mines-to-magnets rare earths supply chain in the United States, the Department of Energy has awarded MP Materials $58.5 million to help build a fully integrated rare earths metals and magnet plant in Texas.

MP Materials, which operates the Mountain Pass Mine in California's Mojave Desert, is already a major global producer of rare earths. The 41,557 metric tons of rare earth oxides produced at this U.S. operation last year accounted for 12% of global production.

Until recently, however, concentrates produced at Mountain Pass had been sent to China, which continues to dominate the separation of rare earths and the production of REE metals, magnets, and other value-added products from this suite of 14 technology elements.

According to a 2022 investigation by the Department of Commerce in 2022, sintered neodymium-iron-born magnets (NdFeB) are "required for critical infrastructure" and "irreplaceable in key defense applications," yet the U.S. is "essentially 100% dependent on imports" for the rare earth magnets.

This heavy dependence on imports for these powerful permanent magnets used in electric vehicles, wind turbines, and countless other high-tech devices poses a serious national security risk, especially considering that more than 90% of the world's NdFeB magnets are produced in China.

Adding to U.S. supply concerns, the global demand for rare earth magnets is expected to triple by 2035 as automakers increase EV manufacturing.

MP Materials is doing its part to help meet the growing demand for rare earth magnets, while at the same time establishing a complete REE magnet supply chain in the U.S.

Rare earths metals and magnets

Toward its goal of establishing a vertically integrated rare earths supply chain in the U.S., MP Materials is ramping up REE metals and magnet production at its 200,000-square-foot factory in Fort Worth, Texas.

"Our magnetics division completed construction in Fort Worth and began trial production of rare earth metal," MP Materials Chairman and CEO James Litinsky said in February.

MP Materials

MP Materials CEO James Litinsky during the 2022 groundbreaking for the company's rare earth metals and magnets plant.

The 2022 groundbreaking ceremony for this rare earth metal, alloy, and magnet facility was attended by Texas lawmakers and executives from General Motors, which is a foundational customer of the rare earth magnets produced at the Texas facility.

"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," GM Ventures President Anirvan Coomer said during the groundbreaking.

The materials going into magnets being manufactured at the Texas plant will be mined, separated, and converted into metal and alloys by MP Materials.

Last year, the company produced 200 metric tons of neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) oxide, the primary ingredient in NdFeB magnets, at Mountain Pass.

The Texas factory will convert NdPr oxide to NdPr metal, which will be used to create NdFeB alloy and finished magnets. This will culminate in America's first end-to-end rare earths magnet supply chain, which also happens to boast integrated recycling and world-class sustainability.

MP Materials, whichalready produces NdPr metal and NdFeB alloy at the pilot scale, expects to begin commercial production of these precursor materials at Fort Worth this summer and finish REE magnets by late 2025.

To help get America's first fully integrated rare earth magnet manufacturing factory across the finish line, the IRS and Treasury Department have issued MP Materials $58.5 million under Section 48C Advanced Energy Project, an Inflation Reduction Act-funded tax credit for clean energy and critical materials projects in the U.S.

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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