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IonicRE, Viridis to form JV to advance rare earth prospects in Brazil

Rare earth oxides

Rare earth oxides

3rd April 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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ASX-listed companies Ionic Rare Earths (IonicRE) and Viridis Mining and Minerals are to form a 50:50 joint venture (JV) company to advance rare earth separation business prospects in Brazil.

The JV company aims to build a refinery and magnet recycling facility in the country using IonicRE subsidiary Ionic Technologies’ separation technology, which has been demonstrated at the company’s Belfast magnet recycling demonstration plant, in the UK, where magnet rare earth oxide (REO) production is successfully under way.

“This JV agreement cements IonicRE’s advancement over the past 24 months in becoming a significant global participant in the crucial supply chain for rare earths for the western world and follows our successful continuous magnet REO production at Belfast and demonstration plant mixed rare earth carbonate (MREC) product from the Makuutu [mining project in Uganda],” IonicRE executive chairperson Brett Lynch said on April 3.

At Belfast, IonicRE has been able to produce 11.5 kg of 99.8%-grade didymium, a mixture of neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr), oxide through continuous production as part of a UK government-supported programme in collaboration with car manufacturer Ford Motor Company and Less Common Metals.

“It is critical that the western world establish long-term, secure, resilient supply [of REOs] for a broad range of modern technologies that we depend upon every day, including the huge demand from the energy transition evolution under way, specifically electric motors, wind turbines, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, robotics for advanced manufacturing and defence,” Lynch said.

Viridis’ Colossus rare earth project, located within the same alkaline complex as Meteoric Resources’ high-grade Caldeira project in Poços de Caldas, Brazil, is potentially a major high-grade inferred, anticipated and confirmed (IAC) deposit, with maiden drilling yielding intercepts of 46 m at 3 285 ppm total REO (TREO), of which 27% is mixed REO (MREO) and 24 m at 4 573 ppm TREO, of which 38% is MREO.

Additionally, initial metallurgical extraction results yielded about 80% NdPr and about 66% dysprosium and terbium.

Viridis announced on March 4 that it had signed two memoranda of understanding with the state government of Minas Gerais and the municipality of Pocos De Caldas to fast-track regulatory approvals and infrastructure requirements to streamline the project’s advancement.

Under the JV arrangement with IonicRE, Viridis agrees to supply MREC processed from the Colossus project on standard market terms. The JV arrangement does not, however, constitute an offtake agreement and allows for Viridis to market 100% of the product developed from the Colossus project to any future offtake agreements and partners.

IonicRE will supply separation technology expertise to ensure successful commercial operation for the JV, ensuring a closed loop process for production and supply of RE product to market, within the supportive Brazilian jurisdiction.

Discussions are ongoing with Brazilian government agencies in an accelerated approvals process, where the government appears eager to secure the country a leading role in global rare earths supply by leveraging the skills and assets of IonicRE and Viridis.

The JV company aims to establish IonicRE as a significant global supplier, outside of China, of REOs crucial to the ongoing global energy transition, in which permanent magnets are essential for electric motors, wind turbine energy generation and advanced manufacturing.

The JV company seeks to ensure that IonicRE has mining and refining operations on different continents, thereby providing both a derisked advantage and broadened potential for global opportunity.

The partner companies will co-fund the JV company and the proposed Brazilian production facility on a 50:50 basis.

The scoping study for the refinery and recycling project is targeted for completion by the end of the year.

Pending a decision to proceed, the JV company would then aim to complete a prefeasibility study within the following 18 months.

“With IonicRE joining forces with Viridis, we are able to share assets that allow us to leap forward in terms of global footprint and operation. We can combine the significant scale and high-grade IAC from Colossus, with skilled staff, equipment, technology, and also leverage support from Brazilian authorities, and position IonicRE right at the forefront of this alternative global rare earth chain supply dominated by China,” Lynch said.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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