- Ucore recently announced it is investing $75 million over the next four years to set up the Louisiana Strategic Metals Complex (“LSMC”) REE separation and oxide production facility
- The facility will cover a footprint of 80,800 square feet and will be located within the England Airpark Community complex in Alexandria, Louisiana
- Ucore expects to produce 7,500 tons per annum of total rare earth oxide (“TREO”) throughput and create 100 family-wage paying jobs
- The facility is one of three strategic metals complexes that Ucore plans to set up across North America as part of efforts to help the continent take charge of REEs and other critical elements that are necessary as the world introduces electric vehicles and electrification
Ucore Rare Metals (TSX.V: UCU) (OTCQX: UURAF), a company engaged in the exploration for and separation and scalable production of rare earth elements (“REEs”) in Canada and the United States, recently announced it is investing $75 million in capital expenditure (“CapEx”) over the next four years to establish North America’s first modern technology REE separation and purification facility at the England Airpark Community in Alexandria, Louisiana. The investment will result in the establishment of the Louisiana Strategic Metals Complex (“LSMC”) REE separation and oxide production facility, whose construction is scheduled to begin this year. Once completed, the facility will create 100 family-wage paying jobs (by 2027).
“This project has been a year in the making from an economic development standpoint,” company Chairman and CEO Pat Ryan, P.Eng., said in his opening remarks during an in-person meeting where the company made the announcement. In fact, according to company Vice President and COO Michael Schrider, MEng, P.E., Ucore began its search for a location by looking at the wider Gulf Coast region before narrowing it down to Louisiana. Here, the company engaged numerous local economic development agencies and communities as it worked on down-selecting twenty potential brownfield facilities that expressed interest in housing the LSMC.
“We started with 20 different facilities on which we did a desktop search. We narrowed those 20 down to 10. Peter Manuel [Ucore’s Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and Corporate Secretary] and I actually came down to the state. We visited each of those facilities around the entire state, and since then, we have just been narrowing this down from ten to two, and now, this facility in Alexandria. We are very excited to be here,” Schrider explained in his portion of the presentation.
The facility Ucore finally selected covers a footprint of 80,800 square feet within the England Airpark Community complex, run by the England Authority. Per a recent press release, the selection was based on the fact that the Alexandria facility met four criteria: engineering fitness and expansion capabilities; environmental assessment and permitting; community integration; and commercial terms (https://ibn.fm/AYpOw). Moreover, the facility is larger than Ucore had initially anticipated, and as a result, the company plans to revise its maximum production rate upwards from 5,000 to 7,500 tons per annum of total rare earth oxide (“TREO”) throughput. Initially, however, the company plans a phase one production rate of about 2,000 tons per year, according to Schrider.
The updated maximum production rate has been met with acclaim, with the Louisiana Economic Development (“LED”), a body responsible for strengthening the state’s business environment and creating a more vibrant Louisiana economy, for instance, preparing an amended non-binding Letter of Intent (“LOI”) committing to add a potential $0.9 million grant for infrastructure costs in consideration of the updated facility. The company received and accepted the LOI.
The LSMC is part of Ucore’s efforts to focus on the midstream section of the REE supply chain, in what is aimed at helping wean North America and the world off its dependence on China for REE processing. “Over 90% of the processing takes place in China, and China dominates the REE industry. That’s not a negative; it is just that they have done a much better job of planning their future than we have, and Ucore is trying to change that narrative by focusing on the processing of REE,” Schrider continued.
To beat China at its own game, Ucore is targeting efficiency by using an improved processing method. Presently, Schrider noted, virtually every commercial rare earth plant in the world utilizes the solvent extraction (“SX”) method of separating REEs. However, on its part, the company intends to deploy “a new and highly efficient critical metal separation technology called RapidSX(TM),” which is based on the conventional SX method. One key advantage of the new technology over the conventional method is speed. According to a YouTube video explaining the technology, “RapidSX(TM) is at least three times faster, which significantly reduces plants’ physical and environmental footprint, CapEx, and OpEx. Moreover, any metal that can be separated with SX can be separated with RapidSX(TM)” (https://ibn.fm/2jFYx).
Ucore is in the process of commissioning its RapidSX(TM) Demonstration Plant located within its RapidSX(TM) Commercialization and Demonstration Facility in Kingston, Ontario. In early March, it hosted dozens of industry and government visitors for private tours and presentations in which the company demonstrated the operational advantages of the RapidSX(TM) 52-stage REE separation system (https://ibn.fm/FikgA).
The demonstration plant can process about 80 tons per year of TREO throughput if it is run around the clock, according to Schrider, who added that the plant will act as a copy-and-paste template for what the company plans to set up in Louisiana. Except the Louisiana facility will be slightly larger. The LSMC will, for instance, feature larger equipment, such as 24-inch contactor-separator columns, compared to the 4-inch columns used in the demonstration plant (refer to the March 16 press release for pictorial reference). Once production commences, each large column will be capable of producing a higher annual TREO throughput, with Schrider putting the figure at about 1,750 tons.
Ucore plans to build three SMCs strategically located across North America. “And with that, we are trying to make sure that North America has the ability to take charge of REEs and other critical elements that are necessary as the world introduces electric vehicles and electrification alongside the use of fossil fuels,” Schrider continued. The company intends to manufacture REE oxides from mixed earth concentrates received from US-friendly sources all over the world.
For more information, visit the company’s website at www.Ucore.com.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to UURAF are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/UURAF
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