Plans to process rare earth minerals on Teesside have moved a step closer after the mining group behind the project exercised a lease option for a proposed refinery site.

Peak Resources, which is listed in Australia, plans to mine rare earth deposits in Tanzania and then to transport the concentrate to Britain for processing. It plans to construct a refinery on a 19-hectare plot at the Wilton International industrial site near Middlesbrough.

It said yesterday that it had exercised a £1.86 million option for a long-term lease to develop the site. The company said that the plan should create 130 jobs and could enable it to become a leading producer of rare earths outside China, which dominates the sector.

Rare earth minerals are an important ingredient in electric vehicles and renewable energy projects and there is increasing focus on securing adequate secure supplies to meet global needs as the world decarbonises.

Peak Resources said that the 250-year lease for the Teesside site had been agreed with Homes England at a nominal rent and that it had all the planning and environmental approvals needed to build the refinery.

Peak plans to develop the refinery in parallel with its Ngualla rare earth project in Tanzania, east Africa, which will produce neodymium praseodymium oxide and other separated rare earth products. It is awaiting a special mining licence for the Ngualla mine and is yet to secure financing to build the two projects.

Peak said that the total development cost of both projects was estimated at $365 million, including $160 million on Teesside, and that it had engaged a financial adviser on project and export financing. It expected to source debt funding from export credit agencies and development banks, as well as from commercial banks.

Bardin Davis, 46, Peak’s managing director, said: “The Teesside location provides a major competitive advantage with its ‘plug and play’ infrastructure, skilled labour force and proximity to potential customers, while its freeport status provides tangible tax and other benefits.”

Emily Gosden, The Times

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