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IonicRE Champions Green Future with Ford in Rare Earth Breakthrough

Pioneering Terbium Oxide Production Sets Stage for Sustainable Energy Supply

by Adenike Adeodun

Ionic Rare Earths has recently marked a significant stride in its collaboration with Ford Technologies and the UK-based specialist alloy manufacturer Less Common Metals (LCM). This progress is underscored by the successful isolation and inaugural production of high-purity terbium oxide (Tb4O7) at the Belfast plant of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Ionic Technologies. This pioneering achievement in the magnet recycling industry underscores IonicRE’s prowess in establishing a Western supply chain for this critical magnet rare earth oxide (REO), positioning itself as a trailblazer in the sector.

This development follows on the heels of IonicRE’s triumphant magnet REO production from its demonstration plant in 2023, alongside notable advancements in its wind turbine magnet recycling initiative, as disclosed to the ASX on March 14, 2024. The production of approximately 2.8 kg of high purity (>99.5%) Tb4O7 not only marks a first in the industry but also anticipates the start of ongoing separated magnet REO production at the Demonstration Plant before the month’s end.

Brett Lynch, the Executive Chairman of Ionic Rare Earths, commented on this milestone, underscoring its significance in the evolution of a Western supply chain catered to energy transition industries. Lynch’s remarks highlight the critical role of IonicRE in spearheading efforts to build a secure and sustainable supply chain for wind power and other pivotal clean energy sectors. The ability to refine these elements to high purity from waste materials generated in the Rare Earth Permanent Magnet supply chain signifies a groundbreaking advancement for the industry and presents an opportunity to revolutionize how Western markets access heavy REOs, particularly dysprosium and terbium. Presently, more than 98% of the global supply of these elements is sourced from Chinese producers.

The global demand for secure and traceable heavy REOs, combined with the necessity for high purity, has led IonicRE to showcase its capacity to separate and purify Tb and Dy effectively. The consistent high demand for Dy and Tb, as evidenced by the reverse inquiry from the supply chain seeking alternative sources for these elements, underscores the critical nature of these resources. Heavy REOs are crucial for manufacturing the highest specification permanent magnets, and their importance is increasingly evident as the demand for Dy and Tb already surpasses the supply from traditional sources, a trend expected to intensify significantly by the decade’s end.

The remarkable progress in recycling these elements, coupled with the advancements at Ionic Rare Earths’ Makuutu Rare Earths Project in Uganda, indicates that Ionic Rare Earths and Ionic Technologies are diligently working towards enhancing the resilience of supply chains. This effort is part of a broader strategy to contribute to the new economy of strategic raw materials essential for global decarbonization. Through such initiatives, Ionic Rare Earths is not only cementing its position as a leader in the sector but is also playing a pivotal role in shaping a more secure and sustainable future for the clean energy industries.


Source: Mining Review

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