Pensana, which has been granted permission to build a £100m factory at Saltend in the city to process the rare earth which it will import from its own mines in Angola.
Rare earth, a crucial component in the offshore wind turbine and gas industry, is almost entirely processed in China but Pensana chairman Paul Atherley said his firm wants to create a sustainable supply chain in the UK to support the growth of these industries domestically, a process which begins with the chemical engineering which his firm hopes to have up and running in Yorkshire as early as 2023.
Mr Atherley told The Yorkshire Post: “What we want is for Saltend to become a rare earth processing hub. We will mine in Angola initially and then build on that base, we are talking to other companies about them supplying their rare earth, high value, high purity product to Saltend.
“And then what we are looking to do is not just produce the oxide but to then go to produce metal and ultimately team up with a magnets producer to produce the magnets.
“What we are looking to achieve is a completely independent supply chain of magnet metal for offshore wind turbines and electric vehicles.”
Taking the step to producing metal will require a significant increase in costs given the amount of electricity used and Pensana is speaking to Government to see if arrangements can be reached on this front.
It is already in talks with magnet manufacturer once it can produce metal.
“It will happen relatively quickly, said Mr Atherley.”
The location of the Saltend factory takes it within the boundary of the Humber freeport, something the Pensana boss said would enable it to engage in frictionless trade with Europe.
“There is a package of things there which is perfect for us at this point of time” he said.
“I am not saying it recreates being part of the European Union but it takes away there very obvious negatives of being a Third Country to the European Union.”
Pensana is already speaking to Volkswagen and Volvo about its plans for a supply chain which it believes could bring great benefit to the wider Yorkshire area.
“It is a platform industry,” said Mr Atherley.
“Once you establish these oxides and metals are available, then lots of other companies start to spring off that. But if you don’t have the platform, if you don’t bring those oxides into the country, that platform gets built somewhere else.
“So you have to get the feedstock, and non-Chinese sustainable feedstock at that. Once you have that, you have a platform.”
Hull was selected by Pensana for the factory over rival bids around the country and Mr Atherley said there was growing enthusiasm around the north.
He said: “I can honestly tell you that if I said to you a few years ago ‘come and have a look at a processing site in Hull’, they would not have got on the train.
"Now they are excited, and it is part of the bigger conversation. It is about levelling up and it is about the narrative around the Red Wall and Rishi Sunak putting the Infrastructure Bank into Leeds - they see it as another aspect of that.”