Sunday , July 3 2022

Australia is looking at rare earths amid supply fears in China


PERT: Australia will step up production of rare earths and other sensitive "war metal" metals, the country's defense minister said on Monday, as doubts over security of supply in China are mounting.

Linda Reynolds told a Perth audience that resource-rich Australia has fields that could guarantee supplies for allies, including the United States and Britain.

So-called technological minerals are used in everything from smartphones and lasers to aircraft systems and electronic warfare technology. But trade tensions prompted China to warn that supplies could be stifled.

China produces more than 95 percent of the world's rare earths, and the US relies on more than 80 percent of its imports.

Reynolds stressed the importance of Western allies receiving metals from outside China.

"(C) Australia has at least 40 per cent of the known reserves of process metals, whether it is lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, but also most of the rare earths that our modern technology and method relies on today. of life, "she said,

She added that she had been thoroughly discussed at recent ministerial consultations in Australia and the US and in discussions with British colleagues.

"What we want to do is make sure we have a delivery guarantee," she told reporters in Perth.

"A lot of our equipment and our defense capabilities actually use rare earths in their production."

The key problem for Australia, the US and other allies "is the continuity and security of supply of these rare earths and technological metals, as they are now called, is a matter of national importance," she said.

Jeffrey Wilson, head of research at the Center for Perth Asia, said there is about $ 350 million in global rare earth trade a year, with China also having a disproportionate share of processed products such as carbonates and magnets.

In the case of dysprosium – which can be used in magnets for electric vehicles or nuclear reactor rods – it is 100 percent.

"China? Close to a monopoly means that there is no truly genuine or credible international market for rare earth trade," Wilson said.

"Its market power also gives the Chinese government considerable scope to control and shape world trade patterns," he added.

Reynolds' comments followed news of a deal between German industrial giant Thyssenkrupp and a mining company developing a rare earth project in North Australia.

The listed Northern minerals in Thyssenkrupp Materials Trading have announced that Thyssenkrupp Materials Trading will take 100 percent of the heavy rare earth carbon from its $ 56 million pilot project for a Browns Range plant.

Northern Minerals earlier terminated a two-year agreement with a Chinese company.

The Australian company aims to develop the world's first significant manufacturer of dysprosium outside China.

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