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The first shipment of rare earth carbonate processed by Energy Fuels at its Utah plant is heading for Neo Performance Materials’ rare earth separations facility in Estonia, re-establishing a US-Europe supply chain.

The first container of about 20 t of mixed rare earth carbonate produced at Energy Fuels’ White Mesa mill, in Utah, has been shipped to Neo Performance Materials’ rare earth separation facility in Estonia, the companies announced on Wednesday.

The shipment – the first of an expected 15 containers – represents the launch of a new US-to-Europe rare earth supply chain.

Colorado-based Energy Fuels president and CEO Mark Chalmers commented that the shipment was an important achievement not only for the companies, but for US government efforts to restore rare earth supply chains.

“This innovative US-to-Europe supply chain will supplement Neo’s existing rare earth supply from our long-time Russian supplier. It will enable Neo to expand value-added rare earth production in Estonia to meet growing demand in Europe for these materials.  It begins to unlock the extraordinary economic and environmental potential presented by utilising low-cost rare earth feedstock from monazite ore that is a byproduct of existing mining.  And, it helps Neo ramp up rare earth production in Estonia just as Europe accelerates vehicle electrification and other initiatives aimed at mitigating climate impacts,” said Toronto-listed Neo CEO Constantine Karayannopoulos.

Meanwhile, Energy Fuels stated that it was evaluating the potential to develop its own separation capabilities at White Mesa, or nearby, and possibly adding metals, alloys, and rare earth permanent magnets manufacturing capabilities.

The company has hired French firm Carester to produce a scoping study, including capital and operating costs for a full rare earth separations capability at the mill.

Energy Fuels is also in discussions with several parties to secure additional monazite that it can use to expand its rare earth initiative, noting that large resources exist in the US, Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

The company has a goal of processing 15 000 t/y of monazite, which would contain rare earths equal to about 50% of total current US demand, while only using 2% of White Mesa’s existing throughput capacity.