US-based uranium producer Energy Fuels has started commercial production of NdPr at its White Mesa Mill in Utah.

The NdPr produced meets the specifications required by rare earth element (REE) metal-makers for the manufacture of permanent magnets, essential for electric vehicles and hybrid power systems.

Energy Fuels has reached full design capacity of its new Phase 1 REE separation circuit, with commercial quantities of separated NdPr expected to be available for shipment by the end of June 2024.

This achievement is notable as it represents the first time in decades that a US company has produced on-spec separated REEs from monazite on a commercial scale.

Energy Fuels has been refining and separating NdPr from monazite sourced from the Chemours Company’s operations in Florida and Georgia.

The construction of the Phase 1 REE Separation Circuit was completed in Q1 2024 for approximately $16m, lower than the original $25m budget.

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Energy Fuels added that the integration of REE separation processes has not impacted the mill’s uranium production capabilities, with a uranium processing campaign planned for Q3 2024.

In Q2 2024, the company anticipates producing 25–35t of on-spec, separated NdPr.

The company also plans to produce a samarium-plus heavy REE concentrate and recover uranium from the monazite feedstocks.

Efforts are under way to pilot-scale dysprosium and terbium separation, aiming to produce these heavy REEs to meet metal and alloy-making specifications.

Following the NdPr production, Energy Fuels will focus on uranium production, with an expected output of 150,000–500,000 pounds of triuranium octoxide (U3O8) in 2024, increasing in 2025.

Energy Fuels is securing monazite supply through acquisitions including the Bahia Project in Brazil, the Donald Project joint venture, and the pending acquisition of Base Resources and the Toliara Project in Madagascar.

Energy Fuels president and CEO Mark Chalmers said: “We have achieved a significant milestone for the Energy Fuels, for Utah, and for the United States: the commercial production of separated rare earths that meet applicable product specifications, while simultaneously ramping up domestic uranium production aggressively.

“With this announcement, Energy Fuels can confirm the return of separated rare earth production from monazite back to the US after a multi-decade absence, in addition to the return of technological know-how and expertise in this extremely important field that is critical to national and economic security.”