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New factory on the Humber

Saltend Chemicals Park, Humberside, where the Pensana plant is being built. Photo Mat Fascione (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Kwasi Kwarteng announced the Critical Minerals Strategy at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new rare earth refinery – the Pensana development at the Saltend Chemicals Park, Humber (Port of Hull), to be operational by 2023. 

It’s the first major rare earth separation facility to be built anywhere in over a decade and is unique to Britain and Europe. There are only three outside China. 

Saltend is to be built in a “freeport”. (Pensana pushed for the concept of duty-free ports, which benefit the employer). The company has promised 450 jobs during construction, plus 125 “high value” full time jobs. It is expected that Saltend’s entire production for the next decade will be taken up with the all-electric Volkswagen ID.3 range.

As with Nissan in Sunderland, Pensana found a locally skilled workforce and existing infrastructure. The company describes the Humber as having “chemical engineering in its DNA”.

The plant is expected to produce 12,500 tonnes a year of magnet metal oxides from one of the world’s largest deposits at the Longonjo Mine in Angola (total production 45,000 tonnes a year), including neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr), key to the manufacture of permanent magnets. 

Angola’s sovereign wealth fund has invested millions in Pensana, and on 5 August announced a further investment to take its stake in the company to nearly 25 per cent.

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