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Energy Fuels building up its monazite supply chain for REE production

Monazite Supply
May 07, 2024

by nfdeklerk 0 comment

Energy Fuels building up its monazite supply chain for REE production

Uranium and rare earth element (REE) producer Energy Fuels is making good progress towards securing its own large-scale, low-cost sources of monazite to process at its White Mesa mill, in the US, into rare earth oxides, reports president and CEO Mark Chalmers.

In the last year, the company has not only acquired the Bahia heavy mineral sands (HMS) project in Brazil – which is being advanced to production – but it is also moving to acquire a 49% interest in the Donald mineral sands project, in Australia, and recently announced the acquisition of the Toliara project, in Madagascar.

Between these three projects, Energy Fuels will have secured up to 50 000 t/y of monazite to supply the mill, with an expected ramp-up during 2026 to 2028.

This quantity of monazite would contain estimated recoverable quantities of up to about 5 000 t/y of neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr) oxide, 200 t/y of dysprosium oxide, and 70 t/y of terbium oxide.

“Early on, it became very apparent that to become a low-cost, world-scale rare earth oxide producer, we needed to secure our own supply chain for monazite to better control our costs and production schedules,” Chalmers says.

Energy Fuels last month announced the proposed acquisition of ASX-listed Base Resources for its Toliara project.

Chalmers notes that many experts believe Toliara is one of the world’s premier mineral sands deposits, owing to its massive scale, projected low costs, and high quality and payability of its ilmenite, rutile, zircon and rare earth minerals.

The acquisition of the HMS projects means that Energy Fuels will diversify into a market that is independent of uranium and REEs.

“The Toliara project is recognised as a world-class HMS project based on the contained ilmenite and rutile (titanium) and zircon (zirconium) without any reliance on monazite or REEs, and if developed and operating is expected to generate significant cash flows independent of the prices of uranium and REEs,” he says.

Energy Fuels’ White Mesa mill is now the largest rare earth separation circuit outside China, having recently completed modifications and enhancements to the SX circuit. The mill’s Phase 1 circuit has the capacity to produce between 800 t/y and 1 000 t/y of NdPr.

During the second quarter, Energy Fuels plans to process stockpiled monazite and produce about 25 t to 35 t of separated NdPr oxide, along with 10 t to 20 t of ‘heavy’ mixed rare earth concentrate as the new circuit is commissioned.

Once the NdPr run is complete, Energy Fuels will shift its focus to processing alternate feed materials and conventional ore for uranium recovery later in 2024, through mid-2026.

By 2026 or 2027, the company expects to have significant quantities of monazite from its newly secured mineral sand projects.

The firm also plans to have a dedicated monazite crack-and-leach facility completed or under construction by that time.

“We are carefully calibrating mill and mine schedules to accommodate both uranium and rare earths production, without diminishing the capacity for either, in a clear optimisation and diversification strategy,” says Chalmers.