British giant Rainbow Rare Earths has reached a tripartite agreement with Moroccan state-owned phosphate and fertiliser company OCP Group and the Mohamed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), a private, non-profit research centre, to develop an optimal pathway for extracting and processing rare earths. The parties also intend to “continue research” to improve techniques for obtaining this material “from phosphogypsum”.
The mining company, which specialises in the extraction of these rare elements that are increasingly used in various industrial sectors, explains in the statement that OCP Group “has accumulated significant intellectual property assets, know-how and experience in the field of phosphogypsum processing” through its collaboration with the research centre, which “offers a synergistic opportunity for joint development”.
Scarcity of high-quality rare earth element
Rainbow, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, will join forces with OCP and UM6P in this area, drawing on its experience, which has been proven in other parts of the African continent. In South Africa, Rainbow owns the Phalaborwa project, which hosts estimated reserves of over 38 tonnes with a high percentage of rare earths in the phosphogypsum waste. In Burundi, the British company has played a leading role in the mining of the Gakara mines until the government decided to halt mining in an attempt to renegotiate the terms of the contract.
Rainbow Rare Earths chief executive George Bennett highlighted the “enormous potential” of phosphogypsum as a source of rare earths and said the company “is focused on securing opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing, as well as gaining access to new supplies”. “We are delighted to sign this agreement with such innovative partners,” Bennett said.
The scarcity of high-quality rare earth element (REE) deposits has pushed energy companies to seek alternative sources of supply, mostly from the extraction of industrial waste such as phosphogypsum. Despite successive crises, the demand for these materials has been growing exponentially for the past two decades due to their multiple applications.