Ionic Rare Earths has started the production of high-purity, recycled magnet rare earth oxides (REOs) at its demonstration plant in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Operated by the company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Ionic Technologies International, which Ionic Rare Earths acquired in April 2022, the facility uses a hydrometallurgical process to extract rare earth elements (REEs) from spent neodymium-iron-boron magnets. Those separated REEs are then refined to produce individual REOs suitable for the manufacture of high-performance magnets used in electric vehicles and wind turbines.
“Our Belfast facility is key to us harnessing our technology to accelerate our mining, refining and recycling of magnets and heavy rare earths, which are critical for the energy transition, advanced manufacturing, and defence,” Ionic Managing Director Tim Harrison said.
In addition to a steady supply of spent magnets, the Belfast facility also has access to 50 million tonnes of neodymium-iron-boron magnets and swarf material. This feedstock material will be used to support the completion of demonstration trials, the data from which will then be used for the development of commercial facilities.
In a statement to the ASX this morning (19 June), Harrison noted that the current US$3 billion global market for REO magnets is expected to increase to US$15 billion by the end of the decade as the demand for electric vehicles and greener sources of energy continues to increase.
“To help fill this deficit, Ionic Rare Earths wants to accelerate its mining, refining and recycling to align with global policy priorities and off-taker objectives in order to enter these markets.
IonicRE (is) planning to progress the technology with the deployment of modular recycling initiatives in markets looking to develop domestic, secure, and sustainable supply chains to address strategic supply and sovereign security, placing Europe at the epicentre of rare earth element recycling.”
In addition to its Belfast demonstration plant, Ionic Rare Earths also holds a 60% stake in the Makuutu rare earths project in Uganda, where a recent definitive feasibility study for the first of 6 tenements outlined a 35-year mine life for the production of a 71% rich magnet and heavy rare earth carbonate (MREC) product.