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Iluka progresses critical rare earths refinery

Manufacturing News

Iluka Resurces has continued to progress during the latest quarter its rare earths production plant at Eneabba in Western Australia (pictured), the country’s first fully integrated refinery for the production of separated rare earth oxides.

Supported by a $1.25 billion non-recourse loan to Iluka under the federal government’s Critical Minerals Facility, bulk earth works and ground works continue to be progressed.

Completion of earth works is expected during Q4 2023.

The accommodation camp upgrade is now complete and operational, and the construction of the operational camp has begun.

Iluka told investors that Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management contractor Fluor Australia continued to progress key design elements for the refinery,, with Front End Engineering Design to be completed by the end of the year.

Iluka plans to reprocess its one million tonne stockpile of mine wastes created thorough processing mineral sands for zircon at Eneabba.

China dominates rare earths production, leading western nations to work to onshore key elements of the rare earths value chain, with limited results in Australia.

Since the 1990’s Iluka has strategically stockpiled the monazite produced at its Narngulu Mineral Separation Plant at Eneabba, further concentrating the stockpiled material to a ~90 percent monazite that will provide a direct feed to Iluka’s planned rare earths refinery.

The Eneabba refinery would produce separated neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium – critical materials for high technology products such as electric motors, touch screens and computer hard drives.

Australia is the home of the biggest rare earths producer outside China, Lynas Rare Earths, but the company chose to build its metals production facility in Malaysia where it has been the subject of ongoing environmental demonstrations.

Other companies developing a rare earths supply chain include Australian Strategic Materials which is refining its metals in Korea, and Arafura Rare Earths.

Further reading:
Iluka Resources plans Australia’s first rare earths refinery

Picture: Iluka Resources Eneabba refinery

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