Energy Fuels plans rare earth metals production for magnet alloys

Energy Fuels

The Utah-based uranium firm, Energy Fuels, announced Monday it plans to produce neodymium and praseodymium for magnets. According to the company, they’re willing to work with downstream companies to explore the feasibility of making metals and magnet alloys.

Energy Fuels, a uranium and vanadium processor company based in Utah, announced Monday it would purchase 2,500 metric tons of monazite sands from Chemours. In the first quarter of 2021, the company would buy this amount of sand per year for three years.

In this sense, the company would process the sand at its White Mesa Mill near Blanding, Utah.

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Energy Fuels: monazite sand for multiple uses

Energy Fuels would acquire monazite sand from the Offerman Mineral Sand Plant, operated by Chemours in southeast Georgia. This plant is part of a deposit that also contains the mineral ilmenite.

President and CEO Mark Chalmers told Chemical & Engineering News the mill has been operating for 40 years and is already licensed to handle the sand and any wastes.

Chalmers added it was already set up to extract the uranium. The plant needs only minor upgrades, planned for 2021, to obtain and concentrate rare earth oxides.

Design and build a plant to produce separated Neodymium-Praseodymium (NdPr) oxide, and possibly cerium, as soon as 2023, are the next steps. This facility would cost $100 million.

“It is our goal to supply 50% of the US separated rare earth oxide demand. We think this is absolute rocket speed,” Chalmers told investors on a conference call.

Furthermore, Chalmers says Energy Fuels would like to work with downstream companies to explore the feasibility of making metals and magnet alloys. “We’re going to start seeking collaboration with auto manufactures, renewable energy companies, and others to look at rebuilding the entire US rare earth supply chain.”

Monazite sands and the global market

Monazite sands contain an average of 55% rare earth oxides and 0.2% uranium. These elements are used to make permanent magnets for electric motors and wind turbines. Besides, they are used in electronics and defense applications equipment.

In this regard, Energy Fuels wants to start-up operations to produce and sell rare earths. The company could become the second rare earths producer in the country.

According to Energy Fuels, this purchase project could pave the way for companies in the US to become less reliant on China for two critical rare earth elements: neodymium and praseodymium.

China has controlled the world’s rare earths market for decades. The country has worked since the 1980s to finance and manage the vast majority of downstream processing infrastructure.

Though the US, Australia, Russia, and Canada have large valuable deposits, China has maintained its dominance with prices that no other country can match.

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