Published on July 25th, 2020 |
by Johnna Crider
July 25th, 2020 by Johnna Crider
Geomega Resources Inc, which is a rare earth cleantech developer for mining and recycling, is partnering up with USA Rare Earth, which is a funding and development partner of the Round Top Heavy Rare Earth and Critical Minerals Project in West Texas, to recycle rare earth–containing production waste. This waste comes from USA Rare Earth’s production of sintered neodymium iron boron permanent magnets (sintered neo magnets) in the US.
USA Rare Earth developed a mine-to-magnets strategy that will secure a supply chain in the United States. A key lesson learned from both the US–China trade war and the coronavirus lockdown was that North America needs better supply chains. Right now, we are reliant on China for our rare earth needs. The demand for these rare earth magnets has been driven by products in the cleantech industry, such as EVs and wind turbines, as well as other products, such as medical devices, smartphones, and aerospace applications. The magnet market is a $14 billion a year (or more) market that is mostly controlled by China — 60%.
While Mining.com noted that this was a $14 billion a year market, USA Rare Earth noted in its April 2020 press release that the market was a bit more than that. Industry estimates show that permanent magnets are a $21 billion annual market that is split between high-performance magnets (70%) and lower-performance ferrite magnets (30%). The lower performance ferrite magnets are used in chargers for electrical devices or other applications in which weight and performance are not as important, and also where operating conditions are not as extreme.
Sources project that the global neo magnet market will expand by 100% to $27 billion in 2027. In 2019, The US purchased around 12,000 metric tonnes of neo magnets for around $71,000 per tonne. This is around 6% of the global rare earth magnet market and doesn’t include magnets in finished or semi-finished products that are imported. The U.S. was around 23.6% of the global DGP in 2019 so total imports of magnets could be at least four times the magnet-only numbers.
As a part of this strategy to secure the supply chain here, USA Rare Earth purchased the sintered neo magnet manufacturing equipment that was owned and operated in North Carolina from Hitachi Metals America, Ltd. It’s currently weighing its options for the location of the plant, which will be the first one of its kind not just in the US, but in North America.
This plant is designed to produce an excess of 2,000 tonnes of sintered neo magnets annually. This is around 17% of the current U.S. demand for neo magnets. The creation process of these magnet blocks creates up to 30% swarf and scrap, which is up to 600 tonnes that would need to be recycled. Material from the new American facility will be the feed for Geomega’s recycling plant located in Quebec. After processing, the Geomega plant could become one of the rare earth oxide feeds required for USA Rare Earth’s magnet plant. USA Rare Earth plans to make all of its swarf and feed available for Geomega to recycle for at least five years.
Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth said, “With more than 60% of the materials coming out of our Round Top deposit being used in cleantech, green tech, and renewable energy applications, we see recycling magnet waste as a natural way to be economically efficient and environmentally responsible. Geomega’s process to recycle waste and bring it back into our magnet feedstock reconfirms our readiness to innovate at every point in our mine-to-magnets strategy. It is also part of our strategy to accelerate revenues from our U.S.-based neo magnet production ahead of mine production from the Round Top project.”
Geomega’s President and CEO, Kiril Mugerman also made a statement: “We are very excited to be working in collaboration with USA Rare Earth. We both share the same vision to bring rare earth magnet production back to North America while securing the critical rare earth elements using Geomega’s clean technology to process magnet waste.
“It is exciting to be part of the USA Rare Earth mine-to-magnet strategy which we can participate in and support using our rare earth clean recycling technology. Establishing a partnership initiative such as this in North America will prevent any supply chain disruptions from China for these critical elements. Every rare earth magnet factory produces waste. By working together, Geomega and USA Rare Earth will ensure that the rare earths contained in this waste shall remain in North America and are then reused to make more rare earth magnets for the U.S. and Canadian markets that comply with the McCain National Defense Authorization Act. It will be a great opportunity to demonstrate to global magnet manufacturers that there are innovative solutions to obtain rare earths from trusted sources that don’t harm the environment and produce less greenhouse gases than the current outdated methods used in China. Geomega’s vision is for every magnet factory to use our technology in order to recycle their waste and not be dependant on foreign entities.”