The Canadian company Ucore Rare Metals is building a pilot plant to process rare earths and technology metals. This could be a crucial step toward an independent North American supply chain for the critical raw materials.
An independent U.S. rare earth supply chain is part of Ucore Rare Metals’ corporate vision. To counter China’s control of this market sector, the company wants to build the first advanced rare earth processing facility in North America, the Alaska Strategic Metals Complex (SMC).
The underlying technology will first be used in a pilot plant in Kingston, Ontario, before its market launch. According to Ucore Rare Metals, the new RapidSX process represents a significant improvement to the standard rare earth element separation and purification technology used worldwide. It will make it possible to process rare earths, as well as technology metals such as cobalt and lithium, in a more cost-effective, faster and space-saving manner, he said. RapidSX was developed by Innovation Metals, a subsidiary of Ucore, in part in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense.
The pilot plant is scheduled to be operational in the first quarter of 2022. Subsequently, the RapidSX process will be used at the Alaska SMC to produce individual rare earths on schedule in the first half of 2024. According to Mining Magazine, the raw material processed will come from Vital Metals, Canada’s first rare earth producer.