Rare Earths MMI: Lynas restarts operations at Malaysian processing facility

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The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) fell 4.5% this month.

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Lynas Corp. restarts Malaysian plant

Australia’s Lynas Corporation, the world’s largest rare earths miner and processor outside of China, on March 23 announced a temporary suspension of operations at its processing plant in Malaysia in compliance with government restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

After six weeks, Lynas announced the facility would be restarting operations May 4.

“We have already implemented strict health and hygiene protocols at both our sites that comply with federal and state government requirements,” the company said in a release.

“Lynas will be guided by health and hygiene requirements, global economic activity, customer demand, and any ongoing restrictions on suppliers as we ramp up the Lynas Malaysia plant.

“We will restart the Lynas Malaysia plant at approximately 70% of Lynas NEXT production rates. We expect that producing at this rate will enable us to refill supply chains and to restock depleted inventories of critical materials, while maintaining new health and hygiene protocols at each site. Our number one priority will continue to be the health and safety of our people and our local communities.

“Our Mt Weld facility will continue to operate with reduced staff on site, and with health and hygiene protocols that comply with government guidelines.”

Dept. of Defense awards Phase 1 contract to Lynas for HRE separation facility

As we’ve noted previously in this space, the U.S.’s dependence on China for rare earths — used for a variety of high-tech capacities, from laptops to cellphones to military uses — has led the defense sector to explore alternative sources of the coveted elements.

As a result, the Department of Defense has been assessing its options, concluding with the awarding of a Phase 1 contract to Lynas for the building of a heavy rare earths separation facility in the U.S.

“Lynas Corporation Limited is pleased to announce that it has been advised by the U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”) of the DoD’s intent to award a Phase I contract for a U.S. based Heavy Rare Earth separation facility to Lynas, following the company’s tender submission to the DoD in December 2019,” Lynas said. “Phase I funding provided by the DoD will allow Lynas and Blue Line to complete detailed planning and design work for the construction of a U.S. based Heavy Rare Earth separation facility, in line with DoD Phase I milestones.”

Lynas signed a memorandum of understanding with Texas-based Blue Line Corp. last year to form a joint venture aimed at building a rare earths separation facility in the U.S.

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Actual metals prices and trends

The Chinese yttrium price rose 0.4% month over month to $31.89/kg. Terbium oxide fell 2.7% to $554.90/kg.

Neodymium oxide fell 2.6% to $3,544.57/mt.

Europium oxide rose 0.4% to $29.76/kg, while dysprosium oxide fell slightly to $253.00/kg.

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