A heavy rare earths separation plant will be built in Texas.
Australian mining group Lynas has announced that its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary Lynas USA LLC has been awarded a contract to build a heavy rare earths separation plant. A contract to this effect has been signed with the U.S. Department of Defense, according to a press release (PDF). Construction costs of $120 million will be fully covered by this agreement, it adds.
Construction is planned near the January 2021 announcement of a light rare earths separation facility to be built on the Texas Gulf Coast. The raw materials to be processed will come from Lynas’ Australian Mt. Welt mine, and processing of material from other suppliers is also being investigated, it said.
Light and heavy rare earths are needed for electric vehicles and wind turbines, among other things, but are also of great importance for defense technology. According to estimates by the Congressional Research Service (PDF) about 420 kilograms of rare earths are needed to build the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter aircraft, which the German Air Force also wants to procure, and ten times this amount is needed for a Virginia-class submarine. The strong dependence on China, the main supplier of rare earths and components made from them, had recently led to concerns that U.S. national security was at risk.