Ceballos pointed out that one of the main drivers of such interest is the need to reduce the reliance on China as a rare earths supplier. He said that this also means that the EV manufacturers are keen on having access to raw materials that have been produced following high environmental and community engagement standards.
The executive also mentioned that Aclara plans to resubmit Penco’s environmental impact assessment application, which had to be withdrawn in March following widespread community opposition. The application also had issues related to the protection of local flora and fauna, which were identified by Chilean authorities.
According to Ceballos, the company’s community engagement team has been strengthened since then, people’s concerns have been taken into consideration and the EIA application has been adjusted to account for the additional demands.
Penco Module, which covers 600 hectares, contains ionic clay deposits that are rich in heavy rare earth elements and are hard to find outside of China, a country that dominates the extraction and production of REEs. Aclara plans to produce rare earth concentrate through a processing plant that will be fed by clays from nearby deposits.