Rare earth miner Lynas picks Kalgoorlie for processing plant

9.12.2019, 13:31 - eeppo

Australian rare earths miner Lynas Corp (ASX: LYC) has selected the city of Kalgoorlie to build its new cracking and leaching plant to extract low-level radioactivity from the ore mined at its Mt Weld operation, which is then shipped to Malaysia for final treatment.

The world’s only major producer of rare earths outside China
said planned to begin building the plant, which will perform the first step of
concentrate processing, in 2021. Completion is expected late 2022 or early 2023,
it said.

The decision is a further step towards delivering on the Australian Government’s Critical Minerals Strategy and the objective of the Western Australian Government for more downstream processing, Lynas said in the statement.

Plant will remove low-level radioactivity from rare earths concentrate Lynas ships to Malaysia.

The miner also said it planned to explore opportunities for
the next stage of rare earth processing (upstream solvent extraction) in
Western Australia.

Lynas, which controls just over 10% of the global rare earths market, said last month it was fine-tuning funding plans to build a separation plant in Texas.

The facility would be the world’s only large-scale producer
of separated medium and heavy rare earth products outside of China, which
currently accounts for 70% of global production. Beijing also
controls 90% of a $4 billion global market for materials used in magnets and
motors that power phones, wind turbines, electric vehicles and military
devices.

After relentless attacks in Malaysia from environmental groups and locals fearing the effects of radioactive waste generated by Lynas’ refinery, the miner agreed to relocate it to Western Australia by 2025. The deal was a condition imposed by the Southeast Asian country to renew Lynas operating licence.

Despite their name, the 17 minerals used in magnets and
motors that power phones, wind turbines, electric vehicles and military devices
are not rare. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), they are roughly as
common as copper. But, because rare earth ores oxidize quickly, extracting them
is both difficult and extremely polluting.

In the past three months, The Trump administration has stepped up efforts to ensure the supply of critical minerals from
outside China. As part of those initiatives, it recently signed a memorandum of
understanding with Greenland to conduct a hyper-spectral survey to map the
country’s geology.

Washington has also gained the support of Australia,
which has committed to facilitate potential joint ventures to
improve rare earth processing capacity and reduce reliance on Chinese rare
earths. The mineral agencies of the both countries signed last week a research agreement to quantify
their reserves of critical mineral reserves.