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USA Rare Earth Aims for 2024 Launch of Magnet Manufacturing in Oklahoma

2024-01-11

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USA Rare Earth plans to start up neodymium magnet production next year at its plant in Stillwater, Oklahoma and to be supplying it with rare earth feedstock mined at its own Round Rock property in Texas in late 2025 or early 2026, reports CEO Tom Schneberger to Magnetics Magazine. 

“At our Stillwater, Oklahoma facility, we are currently reconstructing existing assets that previously produced rare earth magnets in the US.  Our first magnet production line will be producing magnets in 2024,” said Schneberger, referring to the magnet production equipment which his company purchased in 2020 from Hitachi Metals America in North Carolina and is now recommissioning. The initial production target is about 1,200 tons per year.   

“We will use our production ramp up, during 2024, to qualify the magnets we produce at customers who reserve that initial production line’s capacity.  During our early customer conversations, we can already see that customers will need us to add subsequent production lines to ramp up our Stillwater facility to its 4,800 MT/yr capacity as quick as possible.” 

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“We are very excited about the round top deposit located in Sierra Blanca, Texas,” said Schneberger in response to a request from Magnetic Magazines for an update on its status.  “It is a large, unique and well characterized deposit that contains all of the important rare earth elements used in magnets.  We are still in the engineering phase of this project and so far we are on track for a late 2025 or early 2026 startup at which time it will supply our magnet production. In the interim, he noted, our magnet production will be supplied with material we are purchasing from multiple suppliers outside of China.” The site is located southwest of El Paso near the border with Mexico. 

USA Rare Earth owns an 80% interest in the Round Top deposit of heavy rare earth, lithium and other critical minerals deposit located in Hudspeth County, West Texas. It purchased the stake from Texas Mineral Resources Corp. in 2021, the same year it raised an additional $50 million in a Series C funding round. 

With its development of the processing facility and ownership of a scalable, sintered neo-magnet manufacturing system, USARE is poised to become a front-running domestic supplier of critical raw materials and magnets fueling the green tech revolution. The company has said that it plans to invest more than $100 million in developing the manufacturing facility and then will be in position to utilize its owned facilities and technology to convert rare earth oxides into metals, magnets and other specialty materials. It plans to produce high-purity separated rare earth powders at Round Top to supply the Stillwater plant. Round Top is also projected to produce 10,000 tons of lithium a year for electric vehicle batteries. 

In another development, earlier this year the company appointed former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a strategic advisor. “I am pleased to join the USA Rare Earth team as we build a fully integrated, U.S.-based supply chain for rare earth elements and permanent magnets. USA Rare Earth’s supply is critically important to reduce foreign dependencies while creating additional American jobs,” commented Pompeo. Prior to becoming the nation’s 70th Secretary of State, Pompeo served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the first person to have held both roles.  

“We are honored to welcome Secretary Pompeo to our team,” said Schneberger. “His U.S. government service combined with his aerospace manufacturing background provides a valuable perspective as we create a fully integrated U.S.-based supply chain. Secretary Pompeo understands the importance of supply chain resiliency and the critical need for a domestic solution.” 

The primary equipment in the Stillwater plant has a history of its own. In late 2011, Hitachi announced the phased construction of a state-of-the-art sintered rare earth magnet manufacturing facility, planning to spend up to $60 million over four years. However, following settlement of the rare earth trade dispute between China and Japan, Hitachi closed the plant in North Carolina in 2015 after less than two years of operation.