Lynas sees niche market in rare earths

Posted on August 4, 2011. Filed under: Pollution |

-The West Australian-

Lynas Corp executive chairman Nicholas Curtis says geopolitical tensions over the rare earths trade are likely to continue, with China showing “no real sign of increasing its exports of rare earths”.

“I think China’s got very good reasons why it’s not able to increase export production. I think they need the production internally,” Mr Curtis told reporters on the sidelines of the Diggers and Dealers conference.

“So I think that’s going to continue to create perception problems about China’s intent.”

His comments came ahead of today’s official opening of the concentrator plant at Mt Weld, the site of Australia’s first rare earths mine. One of the few new rare earths mines outside China, Mt Weld – near Laverton – is intended to be a major source of global supply, particularly to the hungry Japanese market.

Countries around the world have been alarmed by China’s restrictions on exports of rare earths — used in everything from iPods to missile guidance systems – because its production accounts for roughly 97 per cent of global supply.

Mr Curtis also addressed community concerns about the processing plant Lynas is building in Malaysia, which triggered an environmental review of the project.

“We’re very comfortable (with the project),” he said. “We’re finding that there are a recalcitrant few (in the community) who are unlikely to be listening to the facts but . . . we’re not seeing a problem.”

A Malaysian Government- commissioned report released in June dismissed community concern about the threat of radioactive pollution. However, it made 11 recommendations that Lynas will have to adopt to receive an operating licence.

Mr Curtis said the company faced an “extraordinary” once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take advantage of China’s decision to clamp down on exports.

“The outlook for rare earths remains very strong,” he said. “We think we are there to sustain this market for the very long term.”

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