Energy Fuels secures Australian rare earth minerals for U.S. supply chain
Photo courtesy of NASA

Energy Fuels secures Australian rare earth minerals for U.S. supply chain

Energy Fuels Inc., a leading U.S. producer of uranium, rare earth elements (REE), and vanadium, has announced a pivotal memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Astron Corporation Limited, a company engaged in the exploration, development, and production of mineral sands and rare earth elements, headquartered in Sydney, Australia.

This agreement marks a significant step in developing the Donald Rare Earth and Mineral Sands Project in Victoria, Australia, and securing a substantial source of rare earth-bearing monazite sand for the U.S.-based supply chain. Monazite sand is the only commercial source of cerium, other rare-earth metals, and thorium, which are essential to many industries.

All monazite mining is focused on placer deposits because they are easier to mine and the monazite is often present in higher concentrations than in hard rock deposits. Today, most of the world’s monazite is produced in the offshore waters of India, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brazil. Southern India and Sri Lanka have the most extensive offshore monazite resources known. Australia was once the world’s largest producer of monazite and is thought to have the world’s largest monazite resource.

The Donald Project, located in the Wimmera Region of Victoria, Australia, is a ‘shovel-ready’ critical mineral deposit. Energy Fuels believes this project will provide a near-term, low-cost, and large-scale source of monazite sand in an REE concentrate (REEC) for processing at the company’s White Mesa Mill in Utah, U.S.A. The project is expected to supply approximately 7,000 to 14,000 metric tons of REEC annually, containing significant quantities of total REE oxides (TREO), starting in 2026.

Energy Fuels’ proposed investment of approximately AUD180 million (USD122 million) is primarily for the construction of the Phase 1 project. The Donald Project is set to become a new, long-term source of critical minerals crucial for the clean energy transition, including REEs, titanium, zircon, and uranium. The annual REEC output from the project will contain key elements like neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) oxide, dysprosium (Dy) oxide, and terbium (Tb) oxide, essential for manufacturing powerful permanent REE magnets used in electric vehicles (EVs), wind generators, and other advanced technologies.

Joint venture and offtake agreement

The MoU outlines the formation of a joint venture between Energy Fuels and Astron, covering the Donald Deposit. Energy Fuels will invest AUD180 million (USD122 million) to earn a 49% interest in the venture, with Astron as the manager and operator. The venture will initially focus on mining 7.5 million tonnes of ore per year (Phase 1), potentially doubling to 15 million tonnes (Phase 2). Energy Fuels will enter into an offtake agreement for 100% of the Donald Project’s REEC production, while Astron may opt for an offtake agreement for the heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) product.

Energy Fuels’ U.S.-centric REE supply chain

Energy Fuels is actively developing a secure U.S.-centric REE oxide supply chain, sourcing monazite concentrates globally. The company is utilising its White Mesa Mill for REE recovery and plans to produce mixed REE carbonate and separated REE oxides. The Mill’s capabilities in solvent extraction, honed over 40 years, are being adapted to produce high-purity NdPr oxide, with plans to expand to “heavy” REE oxides.

Mark S. Chalmers, president and CEO of Energy Fuels, emphasized the company’s strategy to become a globally diversified, multi-decade supplier of U.S.-produced magnet REE oxides.

“Our venture with Astron on the Donald Project, alongside our Bahia Project in Brazil, positions us as a key player in the REE business, contributing to carbon-reduction and electrification,” said Chalmers.