Iluka refinery to lead the Western world


Iluka Resources' Cataby project in WA. Image: Iluka Resources

Iluka Resources has made promising progress towards developing a rare earths refinery in Eneabba, Western Australia, with a government-backed feasibility study expected to be finalised in March.

The company has been stockpiling rare earths monazite and xenotime at a former mining void in Eneabba since the early 1990s and is now working through phase three of a fully integrated refinery.

Phase one began in 2020 when a mixed monazite-zircon concentrate was produced, before phase two construction began in 2021.

This construction is expected to be commissioned in the first half of 2022, as the feasibility study for the refinery’s full integration is completed.

In Iluka’s half-year report, ending December 31, 2021, Iluka emphasised the magnitude of owning such a facility.

“If it existed today, Eneabba phase three would be the only operational refinery of its type in the Western world,” the company stated.

“Phase three presents an opportunity to establish a strategic processing hub for the further growth of Australia’s rare earths refinery.”

The industry is indeed growing. Hastings Technology Metals’ Yangibana rare earths project in Western Australia has been recognised by the state government with a commendation from Premier Mark McGowan.

More recently, Hastings received multiple approvals for Yangibana and a $140 million loan from the government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

This kind of positivity has given Iluka managing director Tom O’Leary the confidence to proceed with the Eneabba project.

“Iluka is in discussions with the Australian Government regarding risk sharing arrangements for a potential phase three at Eneabba,” O’Leary said in the half-year report.

“Growing demand for rare earths in 2021 was reflected in rising prices throughout the year.

“This demand is project to increase markedly in coming years.”

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