Aim-listed Mkango Resources has announced that its indirect subsidiary HyProMag and partners, European Metal Recycling (EMR) and the University of Birmingham, have been awarded a grant by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, delivered by UK Research and Innovation, for a new project called Rare-Earth Extraction from Audio Products (REAP).
REAP will investigate ways of recycling rare earth magnets from speakers used in automotive and consumer electronics applications, which account for about 20% of the current market for rare earth magnets, according to Adamas Intelligence, and therefore represent a significant opportunity for rare earth magnet recycling.
Mkango’s subsidiary, Maginito, holds a 25% equity interest in HyProMag, with an option to increase its interest up to 49%.
Mkango CEO William Dawes comments that rare earth magnet recycling from end-of-life components represents a significant market opportunity and will become an increasingly important part of the rare earth supply chain in the UK, Europe and elsewhere.
The REAP project complements the Rare Earth Recycling for E-Machines project announced earlier in the year and further cements HyProMag and the University of Birmingham’s positions as leaders in the field.
Mkango is uniquely positioned in the rare earths supply chain, developing sustainable solutions for the supply of rare earth carbonate, neodymium and praseodymium oxide, neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) alloys and magnets, underpinned by the strategic partnership with HyProMag and sustainable development of the Songwe Hill rare earths project, in Malawi, for which a feasibility study is under way.
“With demand for rare earth magnets accelerating, it is imperative that we find viable economic solutions to reclaim end-of-life magnets that are currently lost.
“Current estimates suggest that the recycling rate of rare earth magnets from end-of-life products stands at below 5%. The REAP project is focused on one of the biggest potential sources of those magnets, namely loudspeakers.
"Innovative processes developed to overcome the challenges around extracting magnets from assemblies are integral to the REAP project, and we are very pleased to be working with our partners to further optimise these processes for audio products,” says HyProMag operations GM Nick Mann.
Fundamental to the REAP project is a patented process for extracting and demagnetising NdFeB alloy powders from magnets embedded in scrap and redundant equipment named Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS), originally developed within the Magnetic Materials Group at the University of Birmingham and subsequently licensed to HyProMag.
The other project partner, EMR, is a global leader in metal recycling, operating at 150 locations around the world. EMR will pre-process automotive and flat screen television loudspeaker scrap to provide a feed of scrap components containing NdFeB magnets to HyProMag.
HyProMag will use the HPMS process in conjunction with the University of Birmingham to extract the magnets as a demagnetised alloy powder, which can be used in the remanufacture of magnets. The short loop recycling processes which are being developed by HyProMag will have a significant environmental benefit compared with the primary production of magnets.
The total budget for REAP is £256 144, of which £174 744 will be funded by UK Research and Innovation, through the Driving the Electric Revolution challenge, part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with the balance funded by the project partners.
HyProMag’s contribution will be fully funded from the £300 000 investment made by Maginito in January.