Serra Verde starts commissioning Brazilian rare earths mine

Pela Ema rare earths plant construction. (Image courtesy of Serra Verde.)

Brazilian miner Serra Verde, controlled by global investment firm Denham Capital,  has begun commissioning the first phase of operations at its Pela Ema rare earths deposit in the country’s centre-west state of Goiás. 

The company, which received in January a capital injection of $150 million to advance the project, said commercial production is scheduled to start by the end of the year.

Once operational, the Pela Ema mine will produce a unique mineral concentrate containing a high value combination of both heavy and light magnetic rare earths. These include neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), terbium (Tb) and dysprosium (Dy), which are expected to constitute over 85% of the value of the operation’s concentrate.

The four elements are essential to manufacturing permanent magnets for use in electric vehicles (EVs) and wind turbine generators, among other green technologies.

Serra Verde chief executive officer, Thras Moraitis, said the mine has the potential to be “a cornerstone upon which the permanent magnets sector can begin to diversify its supply chains.”

He noted the company had already kicked off work on the numerous growth options at its disposal, such as improving recoveries and  accelerating the potential Phase II expansion of the Pela Ema deposit.

The operation is initially slated to produce at least 5,000 tonnes per year of rare earth oxide over a 25-year mine life, with significant potential to increase capacity to double run-of- mine production before the end of this decade, Serra Verde said.

First scale operation outside Asia

Unlike many hard rock rare earths producers, ionic clay deposits such as Serra Verde’s are particularly attractive, as they contain all four magnetic elements that can be mined with low-cost open mining techniques.

According to the company, these rare earths can also be processed using simple, established technologies with no hazardous chemicals, resulting in lower operating costs and positive environmental, social, and governance credentials.

Serra Verde says its Brazilian asset, at startup, will be the first scale operation outside Asia to produce four critical magnetic rare earths.

China currently has a near monopoly on many of these materials, supplying close to 90% of processed rare-earths.

Former Xstrata boss Mick Davis was appointed chair of Serra Verde in January, following the investment made in the company by his battery metals investment firm Vision Blue Resources.