Pensana begins construction of Saltend rare earth refinery

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Pensana, a London-listed rare earths developer, has opened its rare earths processing center in Saltend, Humber Freeport, England.

The refinery is the first major rare earths separation facility to be built in over a decade. Once in full production in 2024, it will be one of only three major producers of rare earth oxides outside of China and will be the world’s first rare earth processing facility powered by offshore wind.

Pensana in May completed a technical design and value engineering study for the rare earth separation plant, which plans to produce 12,500 t/y of rare earth oxides in total, of which 5,000 t/y a of neodymium and praseodymium oxides.

The plant will process material from the Longonjo mine in Pensana, Angola, which will include an open pit mine and a flotation concentration plant, to produce mixed rare earth sulphate (MRES).

The Longonjo operation will process 1.5 million tonnes of ore per year, producing around 40,000 t/y of MRES for export to the Saltend refinery.

The capital cost of the Saltend refinery is estimated at $195 million, while the mine and processing infrastructure will cost just under $300 million.

Saltend will employ over 450 people during the 12-month construction phase and create 125 long-term, high-value jobs once operational.

President of Pensana Paul Atherley says it is a great privilege to have inaugurated the world’s first independent and sustainable rare earth separation plant.

“This is an important milestone for Pensana, the Humber region and the UK, as part of our ambition to establish an essential magnetic metals supply chain to secure the green energy transition.

“Securing funding [from the UK government’s £1-billion Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF)] is a key development, demonstrating the UK Government’s support for this important project, in line with the recently launched Critical Minerals Strategy.

The ATF is a funding program that has been developed to promote the creation of a high-value, end-to-end electrified automotive supply chain in the UK. It is an important mechanism for achieving the goals set out in the government’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution and its recent transport decarbonisation plan.

The UK also has a Critical Minerals Strategy, which details the Government’s approach to securing technology-critical minerals and metals, and is a step towards a resilient, long-term supply chain. for the green industrial revolution in the UK.

British Secretary of State for Business kwasi Kwarteng remarks that Pensana is innovating, with government support, shows how the UK’s plans to secure an internationally competitive electric vehicle supply chain continue to gain momentum.

“This incredible facility will be the only one of its kind in Europe and will help ensure the resilience of UK supplies in the future,” he added.

Pensana is set to play a vital role in transforming the UK electric vehicle and offshore wind industries, producing low carbon magnetic metals and creating high value local jobs.

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