Australian rare earth elements producer Ionic Rare Earths has begun the production of recycled magnet rare earth oxides at its recycling facility in Belfast, UK.

This demonstration plant is expected to receive a steady supply of magnets for recycling from sources such as end-of-life turbines from grid-scale wind farms and magnets and components from used electric vehicles and magnetic resonance imaging systems (MRIs).

The Belfast facility has so far produced products, including those that the company has targeted based on the potential supply chain requirements of its partners. These include 4.2kg of neodymium sesquioxide and 0.6kg of dysprosium oxide.

Ionic will now use these products and additional near-term production of neodymium praseodymium (NdPr) oxide to foster potential supply chain partnerships for commercial opportunities.

The facility in Belfast includes a rare earth element separation and refining technology, which was applied to recycling of spent permanent neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets.

The process involves a hydrometallurgical process to extract rare earth elements (REE) from which individual magnet REEs are then separated, including neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), dysprosium (Dy) and terbium (Tb).

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By GlobalData

These elements are then refined for higher levels of purity.

Ionic Rare Earths managing director Tim Harrison said: “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.”

“The commercialisation of our recycling technology and our focus on the delivery of the Makuutu heavy rare earths project in Uganda positions us to provide a secure, sustainable, and traceable supply of magnet REOs.”

The company is presently earning into Rwenzori Rare Metals, a Ugandan company that holds a 100% stake in the Makuutu rare earths project.

This project includes six licences covering 298km² of area. It is located near the capital city of Kampala.

It is claimed to be a source of cheapest and most readily available source of heavy rare earth oxides, which can be extracted through rudimentary mining techniques.