USA Rare Earth has purchased the neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) permanent magnet manufacturing equipment formerly owned and operated in North Carolina by Hitachi Metals America.
Demand for rare earth magnets is being driven by plug-in vehicles (electric motors and batteries), wind generators (direct drive generators), medical devices (personal vital sign monitors and medical imaging machines) and other technologies.
More than 60% of the $14-billion-a-year global rare earth magnet market is controlled by China. The equipment purchased by USA Rare Earth can produce at least 2,000 tons of rare earth magnets annually—approximately 17% of the current US market—generating more than $140 million in annual sales (at 2019 prices). At present, no other NdFeB permanent magnet manufacturing plant is operational in the Americas.
USA Rare Earth will warehouse the equipment pending a decision about where to locate the new magnet operation, with the priority being good access to the Round Top Project, located in Texas. At the same time, USA Rare Earth plans to work with manufacturers of rare earth metals and alloys in order to convert the highly purified rare earth oxides from Round Top into magnets.
“Acquiring this capability is consistent with our mine-to-magnet strategy,” said Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth. “We did not want the United States to lose this key equipment, so when it became clear that was an imminent possibility, we moved quickly to ensure that this essential part of the critical minerals supply chain remains in the US. We have commenced discussions with the domestic electric vehicle and defense sectors to determine their needs and to work together to establish a domestic source of not only the raw materials from Round Top, but also the finished magnet product. We expect to partner with one or more groups that have expertise in rare earth magnet manufacturing.”
This acquisition is complementary to the Company’s Round Top Project in West Texas, which it is developing with Texas Mineral Resources Corporation and its pilot processing facility in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Round Top is rich in heavy rare earths, including dysprosium and terbium, which are required for NdFeB magnets. Round Top is also projected to produce 10,000 tons of lithium a year for the EV battery market.
“Developing a full rare earth supply chain independent of China is essential for both the national economy and national security,” said General Paul Kern, US Army (ret.), Board member of USA Rare Earth. “This plant provides the relevant industries in the US the possibility of purchasing US-manufactured permanent magnets, without the reliance on China for this key component.”
Source: USA Rare Earth