Pilot rare-earth processing plant opens in Colorado

USA Rare Earth and partner Texas Mineral Resources have opened a pilot plant processing facility outside of China, in Colorado, United States. In addition to these elements, the plant will process lithium and other critical minerals in order to ensure the domestic supply of materials in this country, for military weapons, electric vehicles, and phones.

According to information provided by the website Mining.com, the ore processing will come from the Round Top project of heavy rare earth and critical minerals, located outside El Paso, Texas. Aside from the significant concentration of heavy rare earth (HREE) and lithium, the deposit also includes uranium, beryllium, gallium, hafnium and zirconium, all of which are on the list of critical minerals of the US government.

The investment for the construction of the final plant, which is carried out by both companies, borders the USD $ 12 million. Small quantities of rare earth processed by mid-2020 are expected to be obtained, reaching approximately 100 kilograms per year. In 2021, both companies have expressed that they hope to move the pilot plant to Texas, and to obtain large-scale production by 2023.

As context, it should be noted that, in the last quarter of the year, the Donald Trump administration has stepped up efforts to guarantee the supply of critical minerals from outside China.

In addition to this, Australia is committed to facilitating possible joint ventures to improve the processing capacity of rare earth and to reduce the dependence on these products from Chinese origin, which represent 70% of world production. The mining agencies of Australia and the United States signed a research agreement last month to quantify their reserves of critical mineral reserves.

During 2018, China produced about 120,000 tons of rare earth, while the total of the next two leading producers, Australia and the United States, was 20,000 and 15,000 respectively.