USA Rare Earth and its joint venture partner Texas Mineral Resources Corp., developers of the Round Top heavy rare earth and critical materials mining project in southwest Texas, are poised to end the United States’ dependency on China for its supply of rare earth metals and other critical materials. Later this month, an expanded Preliminary Economic Analysis (PEA) of the Round Top project – assessing both its projected rare earth element production as well as production of another 13 U.S. government-designated critical minerals – will be released.
Currently, the U.S. is 100 percent import-dependent for rare earths, while China is the world’s leading producer. The reliance on China for processed rare earth minerals places the U.S. in an economically and strategic vulnerable position in both the defense and manufacturing sectors.
Located 80 miles southeast of El Paso, Round Top Mountain hosts 15 of the 17 rare earth elements, all accessible through above-ground, openpit mining and other well-established mining techniques. The Round Top deposit contains defense-critical rare earths needed for U.S. national defense stockpile and for U.S. industrial manufacturing. Round Top is among the lowest-cost projects in the world, with a low capex due to due to several factors including low extraction costs by heap leaching, efficient ion exchange processing, low separation costs, and existing major infrastructure.
“Rare earths access is about more than the U.S.-China trade war. Essential tech metals and rare earths are key not only to advanced weapons systems, but also for major technology applications and manufacturing that are defining the 21st century,” said Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth. “The quest to revive American manufacturing -- and the high-wage jobs it creates -- will require a reliable supply of domestic rare earths, not subject to sudden interruption or a monopoly by the Chinese government.”
“Not all rare earths are created equal,” said Dan Gorski, CEO of Texas Mineral Resources and Director of Operations for USA Rare Earth. “As a deposit comprised primarily of heavy rare earths, Round Top can provide not only the major permanent magnet REEs (dysprosium, terbium, neodymium and praseodymium), but heavy rare earths essential to fiber and solid-state lasers, scarce rare earth alloys like scandium, and even new 5G infrastructure applications (erbium, thulium, holmium, ytterbium, yttrium). No other U.S. rare earth deposit offers the same range of rare earths as Round Top.”
Because Round Top contains an abundance of other valuable minerals — lithium, beryllium, uranium and others — this will offset the costs of rare earth mining and processing at Round Top and USA Rare Earth and its joint-venture partner, Texas Mineral Resources, will be able to operate one of the world’s lowest cost rare earth mining and processing operations. By 2025, the global lithium market is expected to see a shortage of 154 million tonnes. At Round Top, there is enough lithium hydroxide in a highly soluble form to produce 20,000 tonnes per day for the next 137 years.
USA Rare Earth and Texas Minerals Resources Corp. are planning to build a pilot plant at Round Top. This will be completed within the next nine to 12 months and demonstrate, at scale, the ability to recover and process the various materials contained at Round Top. Thereafter, a Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS) will be completed ahead of construction of the mine.