News Article

Less Common Metals awarded magnet study funding

7 April 2021

Less Common Metals, an alloy and metals supplier based in Ellesmere Port, was awarded funding in November to conduct a feasibility study to identify the requirements for a fully integrated supply chain for Rare Earth Permanent Magnet production in the UK, and they have now been given support from the UK Government to carry out a second feasibility study to consider the requirements for a magnet plant in the UK.

The initial feasibility study, awarded as part of the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF), has allowed LCM to evaluate the first steps including raw material sources, production of concentrates and separation into individual rare earths, prior to processing into metals onsite, and then alloys for supply to a magnet production facility.

This next study will enable LCM to develop a detailed scope for a rare earth permanent magnet manufacturing facility in the UK. Focus will be on innovation and the study will investigate, market opportunities, location, size of the plant, amount of feed required, health and safety, environmental impacts, local community and employment.

Rare earth-based permanent magnets are the most powerful magnets commercially available and find use in many key applications such as electric vehicles, wind power, low energy pumps and chemical couplings. The rare earths required for such magnets are critical materials and the current overdependence on China for supply gives huge strategic vulnerabilities.

The funding has been guided through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) as part of the Automotive Transformation Fund.

Launched in July 2020, the ATF builds on the significant R&D base supported through the APC since 2013, helping to form the last part of the bridge into industrialisation at scale. The programme can provide support for investment in the key technology areas of batteries, fuel cells, motors, drives and power electronics, working to develop their upstream supply chains as well as circling back to address the opportunities around recycling technologies to enable the UK to be globally competitive.

Ian Higgins, Managing Director of Less Common Metals said: “The study initiated in November 2020 has focused on the creation of a viable supply chain for the critical raw materials needed for rare earth permanent magnet manufacture.

“This new study aims to complete the process by defining requirements for a new UK magnet plant based on this supply chain.  By using innovative processes for magnet production, in conjunction with the competitive supply of raw materials established by the earlier study, it is intended that resulting magnets will be economically viable in the global market.

“The availability of stable and economically viable magnets based on transparent and responsible supply chains is essential to enable key industries to grow their UK manufacturing base.”

Automotive Transformation Director at the APC, Julian Hetherington said: “As part of the second round of feasibility study funding by the Automotive Transformation Fund, we are pleased to award Less Common Metals with a grant.

This funding is a great start in supporting companies like Less Common Metals as they advance their future product development and manufacturing processes for a future net-zero vehicle supply chain.”