(Reuters) – Developers of a Texas rare earths mine said on Monday they will build a pilot plant to refine the strategic minerals, the latest domestic processing project announced at a time when more Americans are voicing concern about China’s control over the sector.
China is the largest global processor of rare earths, a group of 17 minerals used to make a range of electronics and military equipment.
Texas Mineral Resources Corp (TMRC.PK) and privately held USA Rare Earth said they will spend $10 million to $12 million to build the pilot plant in Colorado, near industry consultants and academics.
The partners hope to be producing small amounts of processed rare earths by the middle of 2020 – roughly 100 kilograms (220 pounds) annually. This would help them finalize supply deals with potential customers and secure financing for a full-scale plant near their Round Top mine in rural west Texas.
The partners plan to move the pilot plant to Texas by 2021 and have full-scale production by 2023. California’s Mountain Pass mine, which is controlled by a hedge fund, is building its own rare earth processing equipment and hopes to have it online by next year.