Mkango Resources has joined with Grupa Azoty Zakłady Azotowe Pulawy SA to work towards development of a rare earth separation plant in Poland.
A new Polish wholly owned subsidiary of Mkango, Mkango Polska, has been established, with an experienced Country Director for Poland, Jarosław Pączek, appointed. Pączek will be joined by rare earth separation experts, Carester, and a strong team of technical advisors and engineers to help steer the collaboration.
Grupa Azoty PULAWY is part of The Grupa Azoty Group, the EU’s second largest manufacturer of nitrogen and compound fertilisers, and a major chemicals producer. Its products are exported to over 20 countries around the world, including Europe, the Americas and Asia, according to Mkango.
The parties have signed an exclusive lease option agreement for a site adjacent to Grupa Azoty PULAWY’s large-scale fertiliser and chemicals complex at Pulawy in Poland. This location is served by excellent infrastructure, access to reagents and utilities on site, and an attractive operating environment, resulting in a highly competitive operating cost position for the plant, based on scoping studies to date, Mkango says.
“Located within a Polish Special Economic Zone, the site provides excellent access to European and international markets,” it added. “Production from the plant will strengthen Europe’s security of supply for rare earths, used in electric vehicles, wind turbines and other green technology and strategic applications, and aligns with European initiatives to create more robust, diversified supply chains.”
The plant is expected to initially produce approximately 2,000 t/y of neodymium, praseodymium and/or didymium (NdPr) oxides as well as a heavy rare earth enriched carbonate, containing approximately 50 t/y dysprosium and terbium oxides. It is also expected to produce lanthanum cerium carbonate. Mkango is also evaluating marketing and processing options for the heavy rare earth enriched carbonate and lanthanum cerium carbonate.
“The plant will use best-in-class, conventional and proven technology, and will benefit from excellent rail and road infrastructure as well as the direct supply of the required processing reagents from Grupa Azoty PULAWY,” Mkango said. “It will also have access to a local skilled workforce, on-site engineering and project development expertise and R&D science institutes.”
Based on scoping studies undertaken to date, the plant is expected to have highly competitive operating costs.
Further feasibility studies will be completed by Carester, SENET (a DRA Global Group company) and a local engineering firm, Prozap, together with support from Grupa Azoty PULAWY. Mkango is also working closely with ANSTO to optimise feed specifications for the plant.
Development of the plant is expected to be underpinned by the sustainable supply of a purified mixed rare earth carbonate from Mkango’s Songwe Hill project in Malawi (pictured). Mkango will also evaluate the potential to process third-party feeds. The feasibility studies for the plant will run in parallel with those for the Songwe Hill rare earths project.
Mkango says it will also seek to maximise the renewable energy content and minimise the carbon impact of the developments in both Malawi and Poland, as part of the feasibility studies.
William Dawes, Chief Executive of Mkango, said: “Development of this plant will underline Mkango’s unique positioning in the rare earths sector. Our integrated ‘mine, refine, recycle’ strategy, encompassing sustainably sourced light (NdPr) and heavy (Dy/Tb) rare earths from Malawi and rare earth magnet (NdFeB) recycling in the UK, via our interest in HyProMag, is now enhanced by the opportunity to create a rare earths separation and downstream hub in Poland, working with one of Europe’s largest chemical and fertiliser companies.
“Rare earths are a vital component of magnets required in many technologies needed for the green energy transition. Therefore, their security of supply is becoming increasingly important to governments worldwide, especially in Europe and the US.
“We have carried out extensive due diligence on the site and believe the development of the plant in Poland will enhance the sustainable supply of rare earths into Europe, as well as bringing significant benefits to the region, creating new jobs and potential, additional, downstream developments.”
Andrzej Skwarek, Management Board Member of Grupa Azoty PULAWY, said: “We look forward to working together with Mkango on this exciting project, which complements the adjacent activities of Grupa Azoty PULAWY, benefiting from synergies in relation to reagents, by-products, utilities and infrastructure. As an industry leader in Poland, Grupa Azoty PULAWY welcomes this potential new development to the region and will continue to support Mkango as it progresses through the feasibility studies.”
Jarosław Pączek, Mkango’s Country Director for Poland, said: “This is a very exciting development for Poland at a time when Europe is focused on strengthening supply chains for critical materials and transitioning to a greener economy. The creation of a new European hub for rare earths at the heart of central Europe in Poland complements battery, electric vehicle and renewable energy developments in the region, with a site strategically located for European trade and transport routes and benefiting from plug and play access to reagents and utilities. I look forward to working with Mkango and Grupa Azoty PULAWY on this ground-breaking project for Poland and Europe.”