This is an article published by Roskill on 6th September 2018. You can find the original article here: https://bit.ly/2MautYi
US-based Rare Earths Salts (RES) has commissioned its separation facility in Nebraska and, as of September 2018, has begun ongoing monthly production of recycled lamp phosphors into separated rare earth products. The facility has the capacity of approximately 430tpy rare earth oxides (REO), which will include initial production of 144tpy yttrium oxide, 24tpy of lanthanum and cerium oxide and 12tpy of terbium and europium oxide.
RES is expecting to break ground at the end of 2018 on an expansion to increase production capacity to 3,500tpy REO in a staged fashion. It plans to produce other separated rare earth oxides, focussing on neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium oxides in partnership with BioLantanidos and Medallion Resources. Minera BioLantanidos is evaluating its ionic-clay deposit in Chile, while Medallion Resources is focussing on sourcing American-based monazite feedstock.
Roskill view: Imminent domestic production of separated rare earth products in the USA is likely to spike the interest of many market participants. The USA imported over 17kt of rare earth compounds in 2017 alone, of which 10.1kt of lanthanum compounds and 3.6kt of cerium compounds were sourced from China.
With an initial design capacity of <430tpy REO, the Nebraska facility is not expected to break the USA’s reliance on imported rare earth products. Processing recycled lamp phosphors is also likely to limit feedstock if production capacity is scaled up, however, the commissioning of the facility provides RES with the opportunity to optimise processing and separation of rare earths on a commercial scale and to target other feedstock materials, such as mineral concentrates – a method currently under review. Processing mineral concentrates or other recycled products could provide an important domestic source of the wider range of rare earths.
The rare earth market is poised to react to the demand dynamics of neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr), two key rare earth ingredients in permanent magnet motors used in electric vehicles (EVs). Driven by government legislation around the world, the deployment of EVs and HEVs is set to increase at a staggering rate, which will put pressure on the global supply availability of neodymium.
For the USA, supplying domestic feedstock is only the first step in securing a supply chain for rare earth permanent magnets, as capacity to produce NdPr metal alloys and neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets in the USA is very limited. Unless there is significant investment into downstream NdPr products, it is likely that neodymium and praseodymium compounds produced in the USA would be exported to China, Europe and Japan, where high-quality Nd-Pr alloy and NdFeB magnet capacity already exists.