Ionic Rare Earths (IonicRE) and Viridis Mining and Minerals have announced a JV to establish a rare earth separation refinery and a magnet recycling facility in Brazil.

The facility will leverage IonicRE subsidiary Ionic Technologies’ separation technology, demonstrated at its Belfast magnet recycling plant in the UK.

The technology enabled the production of 11.5kg of high-purity 99.8%-grade didymium oxide, a blend of neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr), in a continuous production setting.

This was part of a UK Government-backed programme, which also received support from automotive giant Ford Motor Company and metal supplier Less Common Metals.

This new 50:50 JV aims to capitalise on growing demand for rare earth elements, which are crucial for various high-tech applications including electric vehicles and renewable energy systems.

The parties will co-fund the JV as well as the planned Brazilian facility on a 50:50 basis, with a scoping study for the refinery and recycling project scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024.

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The JV then looks to complete a prefeasibility study in the following 18 months, subject to a decision to proceed.

Viridis will supply mixed rare earth carbonate processed from the Colossus Project on standard market terms, although the JV arrangement does not constitute an offtake deal and enables it to market 100% of the product developed from Colossus to future offtake partners.

The planned refinery and recycling facility in Brazil represents a strategic move to expand IonicRE’s global footprint and leverage its proprietary technology.

The board of IonicRE has expressed that the JV is a significant step to utilise its intellectual property effectively and accelerate growth for all stakeholders involved.

The collaboration is expected to enhance the supply chain for rare earth elements and contribute to the sustainable production of critical materials necessary for the energy transition.

IonicRE executive chairman Brett Lynch said: “Secure REO [rare earth oxides] supply is critical for a broad range of modern technologies that we depend upon every day, including the huge demand from the energy transition evolution under way, specifically electric motors, wind turbines, HVAC, robotics for advanced manufacturing and defence.

“With IonicRE joining forces with Viridis, we are able to share assets that allow us to leap forward in terms of global footprint and operation.

“We can combine the significant scale and high-grade IAC from Colossus, with skilled staff, equipment, technology, and also leverage support from Brazilian authorities, and position IonicRE right at the forefront of this alternative global rare earth chain supply dominated by China.”