South Africa: Rainbow’s Phalaborwa pilot can help break China rare-earths dependence

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: South Africa looks for growth

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Thursday, 19 January 2023 06:00

Offshore wind turbines are among the applications for which rare earths are essential. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Rainbow Rare Earths is close to starting a pilot project at Phalaborwa in northeast South Africa to provide an alternative to relying on Chinese supplies.

The pilot plant, which will extract rare earths from gypsum stacks, will start operating in the second quarter and will run for three to four months, CEO George Bennett told investors in an online briefing 17 January. That will be followed by a bankable feasibility study to be completed by the end of 2023 or the first quarter of 2024. The company will be raising money to fund the pilot, he said, without giving an amount.

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