UK-based rare earths developer Pensana has started construction at its $195m Saltend rare earth processing hub in northern England.

Said to be the first major facility of its kind to be developed in more than a decade, the hub will be powered by offshore wind.

Located in the Humber Freeport in East Yorkshire, the facility will be equipped to produce critical components for electric vehicle and offshore wind original equipment manufacturers.

The firm aims to produce 12,500t of separated rare earths, including 4,500t of the highly important magnet metal rare earths such as neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr).

Pensana plans to start production at the Saltend rare earth processing hub in late 2023 upon completion of a 12-month construction period.

This facility, which will be one of only three key rare earth oxide producers outside of China, is expected to reach full production capacity in 2024.

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By GlobalData

The Saltend rare earth processing hub is expected to create more than 450 jobs during its construction phase and 125 long-term jobs after commencing operations.

Pensana chairman Paul Atherley said: “It is a great privilege to have broken ground on the world’s first independent and sustainable rare earths separation plant.

“This is a huge milestone for both Pensana, the Humber region and the UK, as part of our ambition to establish a critical magnet metals supply chain to secure the green energy transition.”

Furthermore, Pensana secured funding to support the development of the rare earths facility, under the UK Government’s £1bn Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF).

The ATF programme aims to promote the creation of an end-to-end electrified automotive supply chain in the country.

UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Pensana breaking ground today has been made possible in part through government support and shows how our plans to secure an internationally competitive electric vehicle supply chain in the UK continue to gain momentum.

“This incredible facility will be the only of its kind in Europe and will help secure the resilience of Britain’s supplies into the future.”