Brazilian rare earth elements (REEs) miner Serra Verde has started commissioning the first phase of operations at its Pela Ema deposit in the Brazilian state of Minaçú, Goiás.

The move follows the company’s capital injection of $150m to advance the project in January this year.

Serra Verde said that the commercial production will begin as scheduled, by the end of this year.

Once operational, the company aims to produce a unique mineral concentrate containing a combination of both heavy and light magnetic REEs.

The REEs include neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), terbium (Tb) and dysprosium (Dy).

The four critical magnetic REEs are important in the production of permanent magnets used in electric vehicle motors and wind turbine generators, said the Brazilian miner.

Serra Verde CEO Thras Moraitis said: “Reaching this critical milestone would not have been possible without the skill, hard work and dedication of the Serra Verde team – this is their achievement, and I am immensely proud of their efforts.

“Serra Verde is a world-class operation and the quality of its products and growth options make it a unique asset with the potential to be a cornerstone upon which the permanent magnets sector can begin to diversify its supply chains.

“We have already commenced work on the numerous growth options at our disposal, including debottlenecking and improving recoveries in our current phase, accelerating the potential Phase II expansion of the Pela Ema deposit and further exploration of our large tenement.”

Serra Verde said its Pela Ema asset will be the first scale operation outside Asia to produce four critical magnetic rare earths at startup.

The Phase 1 development of the Pela Ema deposit is anticipated to produce at least 5,000 tonnes per year of rare earth oxide over a 25-year mine life.

Also, the company aims to increase the production capacity through plant optimisation.

Furthermore, Serra Verde expects a potential Phase 2 expansion of the deposit, aiming to double the run-of-mine production before the end of this decade.

Serra Verde Brazil COO Ricardo Grossi said: “We have taken an important step towards commercial production and are focused on completing full commissioning and ramp-up of our initial operation to safely achieve commercial production by the end of this year.

“I am proud that throughout the construction process, we have set a very high standard for protecting the health and safety of our teams, supporting local stakeholders and caring for the environment around our operations.

“I am confident that we can maintain this positive performance as we bring Serra Verde into operation and explore potential expansion opportunities.”