By Peter Roberts
Australia’s ability to produce rare earths have been boosted in a controversial way with the news that a Chinese producer is allying itself with the company developing the Cummins Range Rare Earths Project in the East Kimberly region of Western Australia.
China’s Shenghe Resources has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ASX-listed Rare X, the developer of the highly potential deposit containing neodymium and praseodymium (NdPR) crucial to making high tech products such as permanent magnets, computers, smart phones and visual displays.
China already dominates the rare earths market, with Australia’s Lynas Rare Earths the only significant producer outside China.
Questions have already been raised by US politicians about the dangers of Lynas’ supply chain including processing in Malaysia which is considered outside the close group of Australia’s allies.
The US is so concerned it is funding Lynas to build a rare earths separation plant in the United States.
The Biden administration is unlikely to look kindly at involvement by a Shanghai-listed company in one of the few large rare earths projects underway outside China, given elevated geopolitical tensions.
The Cummins Range deposit contains an Inferred Resource of 13Mt of ore containing 147 million kilograms of rare earths.
RareX is also exploring mining tenements at Weld North, close to Lynas’ rare earths mine and concentrator.
While RareX managing director Jeremy Robinson welcomed the alliance, the MoU will see Shenghe emerge with 51 per cent of a proposed trading company which will source rare earths outside China to supply the Chinese company.
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