Pensana Rare Earths Plc has appointed the Wood Group to undertake a study into establishing an integrated rare earth processing facility in the UK with a view to creating what it describes as "the world’s first sustainable magnet metal supply chain"
Having progressed the design of the Longonjo project in Angola to include the production of a mixed rare earth carbonate, Pensana will now explore the potential for it to make one further step downstream by establishing a rare earth oxide production facility in the UK.
By linking a mid-stream magnet metal supply with downstream magnet manufacturing capacity there is the potential to create a sustainable magnet metal supply chain at a time of increasing concern over the provenance of the metals for the electric vehicle and offshore wind industries.
Following the recent resource upgrade, the Longonjo project is now one of the world’s largest known rare earth resources. To give a sense of scale, the Longonjo project could, together with the UK processing facility, produce enough rare earth oxide to supply the wind turbines at Dogger Bank, projected to be the world’s biggest windfarm, for the next 20 years.
Located 130 km off the Yorkshire coast, the Dogger Bank windfarm will be powered by GE Renewable Energy’s Haliade-X 13-MW turbines, each requiring more than 7 tonnes of permanent magnets.
With Presidential approval and ongoing financial backing from the Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund, Pensana said its Longonjo project is well-placed to become the first producing major rare-earth mine in over a decade at a time of burgeoning demand for these critical metals.
The project is being developed to international standards, has established infrastructure, including the capacity to be entirely powered by hydro electricity, making Longonjo one of the world’s most sustainable rare earth producers.
The company noted that the EU’s internal market commissioner Thierry Breton recently announced the establishment of a European Raw Materials Alliance, recognising that the EU needs to establish sustainable supply and processing capacity of rare earths to support the fast-growing offshore wind industry.
Pensana said it is focused on this broader context and the Wood Group study will take into account sustainable development when considering the process route, preferred location, capital and operating costs, financing arrangements and government incentives relating to the UK project. The study is expected to take three months to complete.
Pensana chairman Paul Atherley said, “We all want a green economy and to ‘build back better’, however this burgeoning demand for magnet metals brings into focus the provenance and sustainability of these critical supply chains.
“The UK and the EU lead the world in the offshore wind and EV industries, both of which are dependent on permanent magnets. Both have recognised that the green recovery requires critical raw materials and that a sustainable magnet metal supply chain is needed to support the green economy.
The Wood Group Study will look at the first and most important step in creating a sustainable mine to magnet supply chain, and that is establishing rare earth processing capability in the UK.”
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