Energy Fuels considers White Mesa REE expansion

Staff reporter

Production marks “return of technological know-how and expertise in this extremely important field”

New York-listed Energy Fuels expects to have commercial quantities of separated neodymium-praseodymium available for shipment by the end of this month after starting production via a rare earth element (REE) separation circuit at its White Mesa mill in Utah, USA.

The uranium producer said its NdPr output met the specifications of REE metal-makers in the electric motor permanent magnet manufacturing sector.

“Further, this on-spec NdPr is now able to be produced by Energy Fuels at the full design capacity of its new phase-one REE separation circuit [850-1000 tonnes per annum],” Energy Fuels said.

“Energy Fuels believes this is the first time in several decades that a US company has produced on-spec separated REEs from monazite on a commercial scale.”

The Chemours Company is supplying monazite from heavy mineral sand operations in Florida and Georgia for refining and separating at White Mesa.

Energy Fuels said its US$16 million REE separation circuit had not experienced start-up complications “so typical with the commissioning of new equipment and processes”.

“The addition of REE separation processes has not hindered the ability or capacity of the company to produce uranium at the mill, and preparations are being made to commence a uranium ore and alternate feed uranium-bearing material processing campaign in Q3-2024,” it said.

“From the new circuit Energy Fuels also expects to produce a samarium-plus heavy REE concentrate, while also recovering the contained uranium from the monazite feed stocks.

“The company expects to utilise this Sm+ concentrate to continue pilot-scale dysprosium and terbium separation and to design SX circuits at the mill able to produce these heavy REE products in separated individual forms at the specifications required for metal and alloy making.

“Currently, there is no company in the Western hemisphere capable of commercially producing separated, on-spec Dy, Tb, or other heavy REE products.”

Energy Fuels CEO Mark Chalmers said the REE production milestone almost marked the “return of technological know-how and expertise in this extremely important field that is critical to national and economic security”.

“Due to the overwhelming success of Energy Fuels’ Phase 1 REE separation project, Energy Fuels can now continue to advance its rare earth initiatives with an extremely high degree of confidence,” he said.

“This includes a potential expansion of standalone rare earth separation capabilities at the mill to 4000-to-6000 tonnes of NdPr per year, along with 150-to-225 tonnes of Dy, and 50-to-75 tonnes of Tb, through development of our planned Phase 2 and Phase 3 REE separation circuits.

“While our recently commissioned Phase 1 separation circuit is globally significant and would rank the company as one of the leading producers of separated REEs in the world outside of China, our planned Phase 2 and Phase 3 Separation Circuits would truly be world-class.”

Chalmers said expansion investment was dependent “suitable customer and/or government backing in the form of supply agreements, offtake agreements and/or financial support”.

Energy Fuels has a circa-$1 billion market capitalisation.


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