Tesla, Toyota interested in Chilean REEs

Pilot plant at Aclara rare earths project in Chile. (Image courtesy of Hochschild Mining.)

Toyota and Tesla have expressed interest in the products that may be extracted at the Penco Module project in central Chile, which is owned by Aclara Resources (TSX: ARA), a rare earths spin-off of Hochschild Mining (LSE: HOC).

During a radio interview, the mining company’s general manager Rodrigo Ceballos said that although the carmakers are not directly investing in the project, they have been in talks with Aclara and see it as a potential supplier of the raw materials that are key to the electric car industry.

Ceballos pointed out that one of the main drivers of such interest is the need to reduce the reliance on China as a rare earths supplier. He said that this also means that the EV manufacturers are keen on having access to raw materials that have been produced following high environmental and community engagement standards.

The executive also mentioned that Aclara plans to resubmit Penco’s environmental impact assessment application, which had to be withdrawn in March following widespread community opposition. The application also had issues related to the protection of local flora and fauna, which were identified by Chilean authorities.

According to Ceballos, the company’s community engagement team has been strengthened since then, people’s concerns have been taken into consideration and the EIA application has been adjusted to account for the additional demands.

Penco Module, which covers 600 hectares, contains ionic clay deposits that are rich in heavy rare earth elements and are hard to find outside of China, a country that dominates the extraction and production of REEs. Aclara plans to produce rare earth concentrate through a processing plant that will be fed by clays from nearby deposits.