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Report: US Army looking to invest in heavy rare earths plant

The U.S. Army plans to invest in a rare earths plant as part of the country's efforts to boost domestic supplies of the materials used in military weapons and technology, Reuters reported Dec. 11, citing a government document.

The Army will reportedly fund at least one project and up to two-thirds of a refiner's cost. The division overseeing munitions asked miners for proposals on the cost of a pilot plant to produce heavy rare earths, with responses due Dec. 16, according to Reuters.

In July, U.S. President Donald Trump dubbed rare earths-related processing capacity as "essential" for the defense sector as part of a broader push by the administration to safeguard materials deemed critical for the economy and defense sector.

Ucore Rare Metals Inc., Texas Mineral Resources Corp., and a joint venture between Lynas Corp. Ltd. and privately held Blue Line Corp. are among the expected respondents, the report said.

Citing industry executives, Reuters pegged the cost of a rare earths pilot plant at US$5 million to US$20 million, depending on location, size and other factors. A full-scale plant may cost more than US$100 million, the newswire added.

The U.S. Army headquarters did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment. Lynas also declined to comment.

Texas Mineral Resources Chairman Anthony Marchese acknowledged the development, while UCore CEO Jim McKenzie noted the need for the U.S. rare earths sector to compete against China, which dominates the supply chain.

Blue Line CEO Jon Blumenthal welcomed the development, although he declined to say if the company will respond to the Army's request.