ASM Produces Neo Metal & Alloy at New Plant in South Korea While Progressing on Rare Earths Mine Site in Australia 

Officially opened in 2022, Australia Strategic Material’s new Korea Metals Plant is now steadily producing Neodymium metal and alloy. 

Aiming to become a vertically integrated mine-to-magnet producer, Australian Strategic Materials reports that it is now steadily manufacturing neodymium metal and alloy at its new Korea Metals Plant, while making progress in the development of its rare earths mine site in Australia. 

The company’s Korean Metals Plant in Ochang, South Korea, opened in May 2022, is currently producing metals and alloys to customer specifications, reports ASM. The initial production focus is on neodymium praseodymium (NdPr) and neodymium iron boron (NdFeB). Currently, it sources the rare earth oxides from a third party located in Vietnam. In the future, ASM plans to supply its own oxide from its Dubbo Project, being developed as a long-term resource of rare earth elements, zirconium, niobium and hafnium, located in New South Wales, Australia. It sees the plant in Korea as a model for rolling out more of them in other parts of the world. 

Rowena Smith, managing director of ASM 

“Our mine to metals strategy is to extract, refine and manufacture high-purity metals, alloys and powders, supplying direct to global manufacturers in clean energies, electric vehicles, aerospace, electronics and communications,” according to Rowena Smith, managing director. The two key pillars of ASM’s vertically integrated materials business are to mine and recover critical metal oxides from the polymetallic Dubbo Project, and to establish metals plants in strategic global locations to convert oxides into high-purity critical metals and alloys. 

The Dubbo Project is located near the Australian town of Toongi, 25 km south of Dubbo, in central-western New South Wales. It is construction-ready with all major permits approved, says ASM, but still needs funding. 
Neodymium praseodymium metal from KMP 

The KMP continued to deliver neodymium (Nd) and neodymium praseodymium (NdPr) metal production consistently in specification at the targeted daily rate, resulting in a total output of 3.7 tonnes of Nd/NdPr metal during the quarter, reported ASM in January, in its end-of-year quarterly report. 

NS World, ASM’s inaugural metal customer, took delivery of an additional three tons of NdPr metal during the Quarter. Through its subsidiary KSM Metals Co. Ltd, ASM has signed a further binding agreement for the sale of an additional six tons of NdPr metal produced at the KMP – to be delivered from January 2024 to June 2024. 

During the quarter, ASM also made enhancements to the production line, commenced upgrades to laboratory facilities and undertook groundwork in preparation for the installation of two additional furnaces, laying the foundation for future expansion and to optimize production capabilities.  

Neodymium iron boron strip alloy from KMP 

ASM also reported that during the quarter it held discussions with American customers, Noveon Magnetics and USA Rare Earth, regarding  the supply of NdFeB strip alloy in accordance with their individual metal sales agreements. These interactions focused on advancing technical validation and producing samples to meet the specifications of the NdFeB alloy tailored for each customer. Additionally, there were ongoing discussions regarding the delivery schedule to align with each customer’s production timeline, reported ASM. 

The supply agreement with USARE is designed to secure the majority of its metal and alloy requirements for magnet production at its magnet production facility in Stillwater, Oklahoma until it begins sourcing materials from its Round Top reserve in Sierra Blanca, Texas, which is under development as a new rare earths mine in North America. 

Regarding KMP feedstock, ASM reported that, in pursuit of its mine to metals strategy and its objective to secure diverse feedstock supply beyond the Dubbo Project, it has continued to progress discussions with multiple parties spanning various jurisdictions to secure both short-term and longer-term supply commitments. At present, KMP maintains sufficient inventory to meet the fulfilment of production and customer delivery needs through FY24, the company reported. 

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