USA Rare Earth, the funding and development partner of the Round Top heavy rare earth project and Texas Mineral Resources announced Thursday that its rare earths pilot plant processing facility in Wheat Ridge, Colorado has received the required permits and officially opened.
Once fully commissioned, the plant will be focused on group separation of rare earths into heavy (dysprosium, terbium), middle, and light (neodymium, praseodymium) rare earths (REE’s) and will be the first facility to separate the full range of rare earth elements in the US since 1999.
USA Rare Earth’s pilot plant is the second link in a 100% US-based rare earth oxide supply chain, drawing on feedstock from its Round Top deposit.
The final phase of the pilot work will be the further separation of high-purity individual REE compounds. The pilot plant will also be focused on the recovery of non-REEs focusing on lithium, uranium, beryllium, gallium, zirconium, hafnium, and aluminum, all of which are on the US Government Critical Minerals List.
Confirming the recovery of these critical non-REEs will support upgrading the measured and indicated resources to proven and probable reserves (with no in-fill drilling required), and completion of the Preliminary Feasibility Study (PFS) for the Round Top project, the company said.
“Establishing an independent domestic rare earth and critical minerals supply chain is monumental for USA Rare Earth and for the United States, overcoming reliance on China for materials and processing that are essential for defense applications and advanced technology manufacturing,” said Pini Althaus, USA Rare Earth CEO.
Althaus also said the opening is another step forward for USA Rare Earth’s objective to build the first rare earth and critical minerals processing facility outside China and to bring the Round Top project into full commercial production – which they estimate to be in 30 months.