Site selected for UK’s first rare earth processing facility

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A Humber site has been chosen as the proposed location for what would be the UK’s first rare earth processing facility.

Exploration and development company Pensana Rare Earths says Hull’s Saltend Chemicals Park has been selected, in order to create the world’s first fully sustainable magnet metal supply chain.

Working with Wood Group, the UK engineering consultants, the processing plant would become one of only two major producers outside China of rare earth oxides used in the manufacture of powerful permanent magnets, critical to the offshore wind and electric vehicle industries.

Lynas Corporation, of Australia, is currently the world’s largest non-China producer of magnet metal rare earth oxides from its facility in Malaysia.

Gerry Grimstone, UK Minister for Investment, said: “We very much welcome the proposal to establish a fully sustainable rare earth oxide magnet metal processing facility in the Humber region.

“This facility is an important step in the establishment of a permanent magnet supply chain in the UK which could support a range of industries important to building back greener and our Net Zero ambitions.”

Saltend Chemicals Park is a cluster of chemical and renewable energy businesses including BP Petrochemicals, Ineos, Nippon Gohsei and Air Products, strategically located on the Humber estuary.

The 370-acre site, which is managed by the px Group, has had £500m worth of investment over recent years.

The px Group provides a range of services including power, water, reagents, waste disposal, centralised control and administration which will allow Pensana to focus on the operational aspects of its planned rare earth facility.

Pensana chairman, Paul Atherley, said: “The Saltend Chemicals Park offers an exceptional range of services allowing us to plug into power, water, reagent supplies and services and to recruit a highly skilled local workforce at internationally competitive rates.

“It is very clear that it is no longer acceptable for British and European companies to import the raw materials critical to the Green economy from unsustainable sources.

“The Saltend facility has the potential to become a world class producer of rare earth oxides and to help establish a supply chain for the manufacture of powerful permanent magnets critical for the offshore wind and electric vehicle industries in the UK and Europe.”

Pensana is looking to begin development of the Longonjo mine in Angola in the first quarter of next year and bring it online as the first major rare earth mine in over a decade.

By importing mixed rare earth sulphates from Longonjo, and processing them into separated magnet metal oxides in the UK, for the first time customers should be able purchase these raw materials with confidence that they have been sourced and processed sustainably.

Wood Group and Pensana are working with the px Group to finalise a scoping study of the proposed Hull facility.

Pensana adds it has begun discussions with the Department for International Trade on setting up a sustainable permanent magnet supply chain in the UK.

The business says it is also working with various initiatives designed to support the electric vehicle and offshore wind industries in the UK.

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