Construction begins on Lynas’ rare earths refinery in Western Australia

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Listed mining company Lynas Rare Earths has officially begun construction of its $500 million rare earths processing facility in Kalgoorlie which will eventually service the growing battery and electric vehicles markets.

Lynas plans to process rare earth concentrate from its Mount Weld mine at the facility, bringing that capacity onshore for the first time.

Lynas currently processes the Australian materials in Gebeng, Malaysia, producing separated rare earth materials like neodymium and praseodymium (used in magnets), lanthanum, cerium, and mixed heavy rare earths for export to manufacturing markets in Asia, Europe and the United States. 

Lynas Rare Earths’ Malaysian processing plant

Lynas Rare Earths

The company says its Malaysian facility is “the world’s largest single rare earths processing plant” and is the “only significant producer of separated rare earth materials outside of China.”

Bringing this capacity onshore has been welcomed by West Australian energy and mining minister Bill Johnston, who described the new facility as an “exciting moment for Kalgoorlie and the Western Australian economy” as it moves towards diversifying its economy. That is, moves away from its traditional role as “quarry” towards value adding. 

In the Western Australian government’s statement on the news, it said Lynas’ Mount Weld mine accounted for 10% of the global production of rare earths in 2021.

The news comes just weeks after another West Australian mining company Iluka announced it had received a $1.25 billion loan from the Commonwealth government to build an integrated rare earths refinery in Eneabba, Western Australia.

Presumably the Iluka project is bigger than Lynas’ plans, given the capital to be deployed by Lynas is around $500 million while the Iluka project will use more than $1 billion. It also appears Lynas won’t be moving its processing facilities out of Malaysia, but rather adding to its arsenal. 

“Western Australia is in a prime position to establish our place at the centre of the global critical minerals supply chain for generations to come,” minister Johnston said.

In February, Kalgoorlie-Boulder Mayor John Bowler said the Lynas facility could be as significant for the local economy as the discovery of gold.

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