Neo Performance Materials of Toronto and Lakewood, CO-based Energy Fuels Inc. have announced a rare earth production initiative spanning European and North American critical material supply chains. The initiative will produce value-added rare earth products from natural monazite sands, a by-product of heavy mineral sands mined in the southeastern U.S.
Energy Fuels will process the monazite sands into a mixed rare earth carbonate (RE Carbonate) in Utah for use as feed material for Neo’s value-added separated rare earth production plant in Europe.
Energy Fuels is also continuing to evaluate developing additional value-added U.S rare earth production capabilities in Utah in the future.
Under an agreement in principle signed today by the companies’ respective affiliates, subject to completion of definitive agreements, Colorado-based Energy Fuels will process natural monazite sands into RE Carbonate beginning in March or April 2021 and ship a portion of that production to Neo Performance Materials‘s rare earth separations facility in Sillamäe, Estonia (Silmet).
Neo will then process the RE Carbonate into separated rare earth materials for use in rare earth permanent magnets and other rare earth-based advanced materials. Because of increasing demand for value-added rare earth materials in European manufacturing, Toronto-based Neo seeks to expand and diversify its current supplies of rare earth feedstock at Silmet, which is the only operational rare earth separations facility in Europe. Silmet has been separating rare earths into commercial value-added products for more than 50 years.
“Producing value-added rare earth materials from monazite resources is a massive step forward for our industry and for consumers of rare earths,” said Constantine Karayannopoulos, Neo CEO.
“Monazite is an excellent and rich source of rare earths, particularly the magnetic rare earths that are highly sought for new electrification applications. Yet, monazites derived from heavy mineral sands have historically not been favoured due to the naturally-occurring radioactive elements they normally contain.
“Energy Fuels provides the missing link in solving this challenge. They extract valuable uranium from monazite and put it to good use while also recovering monazite’s rare earth content. And, given the relatively significant monazite resources around the world, we expect this collaboration will help Neo expand our production of separated rare earth products in Europe and improve resiliency of European manufacturing.”