Rare Earths: African ramp-up and Australian advances for rare earth supply

Rainbow Rare Earths

Rainbow Rare Earths produced 75t of rare earth concentrates in December 2017 from its Gakara project in Burundi and ramped up production to 279t during Q1 2018. The concentrate, which averaged 62% total rare earth oxides over the first quarter, is produced from ore mined from exposed rare-earth-rich veins. One truck per week currently leaves the separation plant for the port of Mombasa with 25t of concentrate per truck. In order to achieve its target of 5ktpy, Rainbow is aiming to increase shipments to four trucks per week.

Meanwhile, Northern Minerals has fired up the rare earths crushing circuit at its Browns Range project in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. Along with starting up on-site power, the company is aiming to keep to its scheduled end-June practical completion of the pilot plant. Development of the pilot plant is in the form of modular units built by Sinosteel in China, with the final two shipments of modules received on site in Q1 2018. The pilot plant will aim to produce 60ktpy of heavy rare earth carbonate (dysprosium-rich) over three years.

Roskill View: Most potential rare earth suppliers are focussing on the NdPr content of rare earth deposits to feed a growing demand from permanent magnets which, in turn, have found their way into the drive train of electric vehicles. Dysprosium is the key heavy rare earth used to increase performance of neodymium-praseodymium permanent magnets in higher temperature environments. Efforts have already been made to reduce dysprosium contents in permanent magnets in order to reduce cost and issues over security of supply.