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Mayor Ben Houchen has met representatives from Australian company Peak Resources to move forward the development of a Rare Earth Refinery in Tees Valley, which could create more than 100 new jobs.

Rocky Smith, CEO of the Perth-based firm, flew in to the region for talks over the plan for a £70million development on the Wilton International Site, which could begin production as early as next year.

Tees Valley had been previously selected as the preferred location for their new facility after a global search of more than 25 countries.  The company based its decision on reasons such as “access to global shipping, cheap and reliable bulk reagent supplies, a skilled labour force, readily available power and water”.

The Rare Earth Refinery will produce materials used in the manufacture of powerful magnets. These will ultimately be placed in a range of items, including mobile phones, wind turbines and in the automotive sector.

Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This project shows the massive strength of Tees Valley’s manufacturing reputation and how attractive our region is to global investors. If a firm from halfway around the world is willing to invest in a site here, we must be doing something right.

“This project would not only create more jobs and inward investment in the short term but also act as an example for further international businesses looking to invest post-Brexit.

“My discussions with Rocky have been very productive and my officials will continue to work closely with Peak Resources to secure this huge opportunity for our area.”

Peak Resources’ Rocky Smith said: “Tees Valley’s unique profile gives us everything we need to launch a successful refinery site. The argument for setting up a base here has just become stronger and stronger.

“We are very close to seeing real delivery here and I’m looking forward to making an announcement soon.”