Scrap & Recycling
Canadian firm Geomega has raised funds to build a demonstration plant in Quebec for recycling rare earth elements from permanent magnets using a new processing technology that creates no acid waste.
The project is nearing construction just as manufacturers seek ways to diversify the supply chain for permanent rare earth magnets needed for electronics, electric and conventional vehicles, wind turbines and consumer appliances. China produces over 80pc of the world's rare earth magnets, with Japan supplying most of the balance. The US-China trade war is accelerating the search for ways to protect global manufacturing supply chains against political risk.
Geomega raised $1.2mn this year in a private share placement and is selecting a location for the plant in Quebec. The province has supportive policies for recycling projects, including financial incentives.
The project will take six months to complete and commission. It will produce 450 kg/d of rare earth oxides — the raw material for metal, alloy and magnet production — by processing 1.5 t/d of neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-cobalt magnets. The manufacturing process for magnets creates considerable waste because they need to be cut into a wide range of shapes and sizes.
The plant will be able to recycle manufacturing waste as well as end-of-life magnets.
The dominant technology for separating rare earth elements — organic acid-based solvent extraction — has gone largely unchallenged for decades.
The company plans to develop a circular economy for the magnet industry by using a process that recycles 95pc of the main reagents. The final stage of the process produces a high-purity iron-cobalt product used in other industries.
The processing technology was developed during a rare earth price slump in 2012-15, which created hostile economic conditions for mining projects. Geomega owns the neodymium-rich Montviel rare earth deposit in Quebec.