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Ionic ramps up rare earth recycling

From left to right Ionic Technolgies' Fergal Coleman (head of technology); Tracy Baker (finance manager); Thomas Kelly (general manager); Daryl Hinchcliffe (chemist) and Andrew Holmes (general manager sales/sourcing)

Northern Ireland clean tech company Ionic Technologies is backing the UK’s drive for more sustainable resources by unveiling a demonstration facility to produce 100% recycled rare earth oxides.

At its plant in Belfast, the company has developed a process to produce high purity rare earths suitable for use in high performance magnets. Ionic Technologies is a spinout from Queen’s University Belfast andwas acquired in 2022 by Australian multinational Ionic Rare Earths, a mineral exploration company. Nine months after receiving £1.72 million (EUR 2 million) in UK government support, the company has grown from a pilot to demonstration plant and has ambitions to scale up production and build a processing plant in the city, possibly creating 100 jobs.

Ionic Technologies general manager Thomas Kelly says: ‘We have produced over 5kg of rare earth oxides, including neodymium oxide and dysprosium oxide, at specification. This key production milestone confirms our capability as one of the UK’s foremost innovators in magnet recycling and a global leader in the advancement of this technology. Our patented process can provide a reliable UK supply chain source for rare earth elements, utilising existing end-of-life magnets and then create an opportunity for the UK to deliver these newly dubbed strategic materials to a global market.’

Kelly is confident that Ionic Technologies can rapidly deliver solutions to the dual challenges of developing a secure, reliable supply chain and demand growth significantly outstripping supply chain capacity. As the business expands, he anticipates recycling end-of-life wind turbines, used electric vehicle components and MRI equipment. ‘We are working with supply chain partners to establish resilient and secure networks of these critical components for the clean energy technologies vital to deliver the UK’s decarbonisation and net zero future.’

Tim Harrison, md of parent company Ionic Rare Earths adds: ‘Our Belfast-based UK facility is key to us harnessing our technology to accelerate our mining, refining and recycling of magnets and heavy rare earths which are critical for the energy transition, advanced manufacturing and defence.’

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