Minoru Matsutani’s Jan. 26 article, “Worse rare earth shortages ‘yet to come’ “: What isn’t widely known is that Australia has a large part to play in resolving this situation, as Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)-listed companies control more than 40 percent of the world’s rare earth element resources.
Australia’s Lynas Corp., for example, is now mining one of the world’s richest deposits at Mount Weld in Western Australia. It is building an advanced refining plant in Malaysia that will be operational in mid-2011. The combined rare earth-mineral resource estimate at Mount Weld is 17.49 million tons (ore grade 8.1 percent). The mineral resource estimate for a high distribution of heavy rare earths is 7.62 million tons (ore grade 4.8 percent). It has been recently renamed the Duncan Deposit (neodymium 18.08 percent, samarium 2.87 percent).
Australia also has Alkane Resources Ltd., which holds one of the world’s richest deposits of heavy rare earths (28 percent), which are vital for the production of the strong magnets used for hybrid cars and wind turbines.
And there is Greenland Energy and Minerals, which holds the world’s largest deposit of rare earth elements (4.9 million tons, 1.07 percent grade) in Greenland. The company is in the process of drilling for two more deposits that look likely to have higher grades. Greenland’s parliament has opened up a development path by changing its mining policies toward the company’s uranium credits.
Australia has several more companies with holdings of proven rare earth deposits that are economically viable. Some have demonstrated favorable chemistry and have established separation flow sheets and concentration plant pilot programs (go to www.AustralianRareEarths.com).
Australia could become the world’s swing producer of processed rare earth oxides (REOs) in the very near future and, within a few years, one of the dominant suppliers of processed REOs outside of China. This sets the stage for extraordinary investment opportunities.