Jamaica opens pilot plant to extract rare earth elements from mud

It will be working with Nippon Light Metal to process red bauxite mine residue.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaica’s energy minister has opened a pilot plant where researchers will test whether rare-earth elements can be commercially extracted from bauxite waste on the Caribbean island.

The small plant was opened Oct. 22 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the capital of Kingston, some eight months after construction started. Full operations are expected to begin before the end of the month.

Jamaica is working with Nippon Light Metal Co. Ltd. of Japan, which holds a patent for a type of technology required for extracting rare-earth elements from red bauxite residue.

Some 30 metric tons (33 tons) of dry red mud from mining areas is to be processed in evaluating the potential commercial scope.

Rare-earth elements are key ingredients for high-tech products like smartphones and computers.