Written by Brenda Nakalema

UK to cut reliance on China rare earth magnets

The UK government is determined to support the revival of domestic production of super strong metals used in electric vehicles …

The UK government is determined to support the revival of domestic production of super strong metals used in electric vehicles and wind turbines. Britain is looking to cut its reliance on China and at the same time cut its carbon emissions.

Three rare earth metals- dysprosium, neodymium and praseodymium- are commonly used to manufacture magnets for electric vehicle batteries and wind turbine energy generators.

On Friday, a government funded feasibility study will be published outlining the steps Britain must take to restart output of rare earth permanent magnets, the sources said. British production of rare earth permanent magnets used to be high prior to the 1990s, but when competition with China became too stiff, the production was halted in favor of Chinese exports.

A magnet factory would place Britain in good stead as far as meeting its goal of banning petrol cars by 2030 and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  The government recently outlined its plans to achieve net zero strategy which included spending 850 million pounds ($1.5 billion) to support the production of Electronic Vehicles and help build reliable supply chains.

The study details how the plant might be built by 2024, with a capacity to produce enough of the powerful magnets to supply 1 million EVs a year, an astounding feat if achieved.

A government spokesperson was quoted saying, “the government continues to work with investors through our Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF) to progress plans to build a globally competitive electric vehicle supply chain in the UK.”

A British rare earths company, Less Common Metals, is said to have conducted the feasibility study and are also said to be looking for possible partners to build the facility. LCM is one of the only companies globally that transforms rare earth metals into special compounds used to make permanent magnets.

According to Ford Motors, the auto industry will be in need of these metals as the industry turns to EVs as the vehicles of the future.  The company announced that it would invest up to 230 million pounds in and English plant to produce about 250,000 EV power units a year.

Another company looking to help decrease the UK’s dependence on Chinese rare earth metals is Pensana Rare Earth, a company that has announced its intention to build a rare earth materials processing facility at The Saltend Chemicals part in Yorkshire.  In a statement to the press, the firm said it would build the world’s first sustainable magnet and metal supply chain, having anticipated a spike in demand owing to the increased production of EVs.

Globally, supply chain bottlenecks have been experienced which have hurt production levels for various EV auto makers in the industry. The Covid- 19 pandemic also added further strain to an already existing problem in the industry. With this move, the UK government hopes to become a dominant player, and perhaps one day even rival China.