Sunday 22nd September 2019

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘cobalt’

International Montoro Resources employs high-tech analysis of Elliot Lake-region nickel-copper prospect

September 10th, 2019

by Greg Klein | September 10, 2019

A geophysical analysis on the property released last March found targets described as “good candidates for semi-massive nickel-copper mineralization.” Now International Montoro Resources TSXV:IMT has contracted Mira Geoscience to compile and analyze a much larger data set for the Pecors Lake project, part of the 1,840-hectare Serpent River property in Ontario’s Elliot Lake district.

International Montoro Resources employs high-tech analysis of Elliot Lake-region nickel-copper prospect

Nickel-copper potential brings new interest to
International Montoro Resources’ Serpent River property.

Historic drilling on Serpent’s southwestern area found uranium-rare earths mineralization. But extensive geophysical programs completed last year alerted Montoro to nickel-copper-PGE potential as well. A 3D model revealed that three assumed magnetic anomalies at Pecors actually comprise one contiguous anomaly estimated to be five kilometres long, two kilometres wide and two kilometres deep.

Considered pioneers of advanced geological and geophysical 3D and 4D modelling, Mira Geoscience will enter a library of data into its Geoscience Analyst 3D interactive platform. Included will be Ontario Geological Survey geochem and petrographic studies; OGSEarth data from drilling conducted by Teck Resources TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B, Rio Tinto NYSE:RIO, BHP Billiton NYSE:BHPand others on or near the property; federal government regional gravity and magnetic surveys; Montoro’s 22 drill holes; and downhole EM data for two holes reaching depths of one and 1.3 kilometres respectively.

In central British Columbia, Montoro had a 43-101 technical study completed in April for its recently acquired Wicheeda North property, adjacent to the Wicheeda rare earths deposit currently being drilled by Defense Metals TSXV:DEFN under option from Spectrum Mining. The report states that Wicheeda North “has the potential to host, and should continue to be explored for, rare earth element mineralization because it occurs within a favourable geological belt known to contain carbonatite-hosted REE mineralization.”

A 3D magnetic inversion was completed in June for the property, which Montoro has expanded to 2,138 hectares.

The company’s portfolio also includes the 2,300-hectare Duhamel property in central Quebec, considered prospective for nickel-copper-cobalt, as well as titanium-vanadium-chromium.

Along with Belmont Resources TSXV:BEA, Montoro shares 50/50 ownership of two uranium properties in northern Saskatchewan’s Uranium City area.

Last month Montoro closed a private placement first tranche of $47,500.

Site visits for sightseers III

July 26th, 2019

Travel Ontario and Quebec one mining destination at a time

by Greg Klein

Small local museums, historic mines, a major science centre and massive operations demonstrate the industry’s importance and also offer diversions for summer road trips. After covering Yukon and British Columbia in Part 1 and the prairie provinces in Part 2, our survey continues east through Ontario and Quebec. Omitted were museums not primarily devoted to mining, although many do include worthwhile mining memorabilia among other exhibits. Be sure to contact sites to confirm opening times, ask about footwear and other clothing requirements, and inquire about age restrictions if you have little ones in tow.

Part 4 covers the Atlantic provinces.

Ontario

Travel Ontario and Quebec one mining destination at a time

One of many Dynamic Earth attractions
makes mining a family experience.
(Photo: Science North/Dynamic Earth)

Where better than Sudbury for a mining showcase of global stature? Dynamic Earth visitors can don hard hats to tour a demonstration mine seven storeys below surface, or virtual reality headsets to mingle with imaginary miners and gargantuan equipment. Other simulations provide aspiring miners with training on mining equipment and rescue operations. Films, multimedia and interactive exhibits enhance the experience. Much more than a museum, this is an exposition of mining’s past, present and future, with enough attractions to justify repeat visits.

Located at 122 Big Nickel Road, Sudbury. Open daily 10:00 to 6:00 until September 2, then reduced hours until September 29. Reopens for Halloween events on October 4

 

Travel Ontario and Quebec one mining destination at a time

Cobalt’s silver heritage comes alive in the Colonial Adit Tour.
(Photo: Town of Cobalt)

Despite the recent speculative boom sparked by the town’s namesake mineral, Cobalt’s largely a relic of the past—or a collection of relics strewn about the town and surrounding countryside. And it was silver, not cobalt, that made this town so important to Canadian mining history. To experience that history, check out the Cobalt Mining Museum, with seven galleries that include the world’s largest display of native silver. Take a guided tour of the Colonial underground mine, and self-guided tours that show off a nearby route hosting 19 mining-related sites and the town itself, which sometimes looks like a movie setting in search of a movie.

Located at 24 Silver Street, Cobalt. Open daily 10:00 to 4:00 until September 2, then Tuesday to Friday 11:00 to 3:00 during fall and winter. Call 705-679-8301 to book the one-hour Colonial Adit Tour.

 

Travel Ontario and Quebec one mining destination at a time

Visitors find themselves engrossed in Red Lake’s mining story.
(Photo: Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre)

After the 1926 rush that spawned something like 29 mines, the town’s still churning out yellow metal at one of Canada’s largest gold operations. In recognition, the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre’s permanent exhibit presents Beneath It All: Red Lake’s Mining Story, with displays, films and audio clips.

Located at 51A Highway #105, Red Lake. Open Monday to Friday 9:00 to 5:00 year-round, also open summer Saturdays 10:00 to 4:00 until August 31.

 

Travel Ontario and Quebec one mining destination at a time

A former mica mine, Silver Queen can evoke a sense of wonder.
(Photo: Ontario Parks)

About 115 crow-flying klicks southwest of Ottawa, the Silver Queen Mine was one of hundreds of operations in a world centre of mica production. Visitors to Murphys Point Provincial Park can descend 20 metres underground and also check out an open pit on either guided or self-guided trips.

Tours leave from the Lally Homestead at Murphys Point, off Highway #21. Guided trips take place Wednesday evenings at 8:30 p.m. and Friday mornings at 10:00 a.m., self-guided tours from 10:00 a.m. to noon on Sundays until September 1. Call 613-267-5060 for reservations, fall hours and other info.

 

Quebec

Travel Ontario and Quebec one mining destination at a time

Tourists explore Lamaque’s birthplace in the valley of gold.
(Photo: Corporation du Village minier de Bourlamaque)

This might be the best place to begin an historical pilgrimage to Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Just over a kilometre southwest of Eldorado Gold’s Lamaque and on the eastern edge of Val-d’Or sits la Cité de l’Or, with the original Lamaque mine and Bourlamaque Mining Village. A four-hour tour takes visitors 91 metres underground before viewing a number of surface buildings, while an express two-hour tour explores the underground mine and a laboratory. An audio guide tour also covers the town, with still-occupied 1930s to ’40s-era log houses and a 1949 home-turned-museum. La Cité also offers Gold in our Veins, a permanent exhibit about mining life and, en français seulement, a geocaching rally.

Located at 90 avenue Perrault, Val-d’Or. Open daily 8:00 to 5:30 to August 31, Wednesday to Sunday 8:30 to 5:00 in September, Thursday to Sunday 8:30 to 3:00 in October. Phone to inquire about off-season visits from November to May. Call 819-825-1274 or toll-free 1-855-825-1274 for tour reservations and other info.

 

Travel Ontario and Quebec one mining destination at a time

Malartic’s sheer scale can be appreciated from an observation deck.
(Photo: Abitibi-Témiscamingue Mineralogical Museum)

Twenty-five kilometres west of Val-d’Or, the Abitibi-Témiscamingue Mineralogical Museum offers displays about regional geology and mining, and interactive exhibits as well as tours to one of the world’s largest gold producers, the Agnico Eagle/Yamana Gold Canadian Malartic mine, a technological marvel with some really big machines rumbling around.

Located at 650 rue de la Paix, Malartic. Open Tuesday to Sunday until September. Call 819-757-4677 for opening hours and reservations.

 

Watch as molten copper flows at Glencore’s Horne smelter in Rouyn-Noranda. Guides lead visitors through a museum and into the heart of one of the world’s most specialized plants.

Located at 1 Carter Avenue, Rouyn-Noranda. Tours begin Monday to Sunday at 9:00, 10:30, 1:30 and 3:00 until mid-August. Call 819-797-3195 or 1-888-797-3195 for reservations. Not suitable for pregnant women.

 

Travel Ontario and Quebec one mining destination at a time

Visitors get in the spirit at Thetford Mines.
(Photo: Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines)

About 107 kilometres south of Quebec City in a building sheathed with an asbestos-cement coating, le Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines depicts the history, geology and mineralogy of an area where mining began in 1876. Tours take visitors around buildings, open pits and mountains of tailings left over from the now-banned practice of asbestos extraction.

Located at 711 Frontenac Boulevard West (Highway #112), Thetford Mines. Open daily 9:00 to 5:00 to September 2, off season Tuesday to Friday 9:00 to 4:00, weekends 1:00 to 5:00. Summer mine tours begin at 1:30. Call 418-335-2123 for reservations.

 

One of three nearby former copper producers in the Eastern Townships, the Capelton Mine welcomes visitors to an operation that lasted from 1863 to 1907. One tour travels by wagon to the mine entrance, another offers a gold panning experience. Additional attractions include a small museum and a bike path through the mine site.

Located at 5800 Capelton Road (Highway #108), North Hatley. Call 819-346-9545 or 1-888-346-9545 for reservations.

See Part 1 about Yukon and British Columbia, Part 2 about the prairie provinces and Part 4 about the Atlantic provinces.

U.S. continues push for domestic rare earths supply

July 23rd, 2019

by Greg Klein | July 23, 2019

Five presidential memos issued July 22 further show American commitment to develop rare earths deposits and supply chains unbeholden to China. Under Section 303 of the U.S. Defense Production Act, Donald Trump formally declared production capability for a number of critical elements to be essential for national defence:

U.S. continues push for domestic rare earths supply

  • separation and processing of heavy rare earth elements

  • separation and processing of light rare earth elements

  • neodymium-iron-boron-rare earth sintered material and permanent magnets

  • samarium-cobalt-rare earth permanent magnets

  • rare earth metals and alloys

Without presidential action under section 303, Trump stated, American industry “cannot reasonably be expected to provide the production capability [for these elements] adequately and in a timely manner. Further, purchases, purchase commitments or other action pursuant to section 303 of the act are the most cost-effective, expedient and practical alternative method for meeting the need for this critical capability.”

One week earlier the U.S. reportedly began an inventory of rare earth deposits and facilities, asking that companies respond to a Request for Information by July 31, “a short time frame that underscores the Pentagon’s urgency,” according to Reuters.

With China supplying 93% of U.S. rare earths supply for these defence necessities, military dependency on a geopolitical rival has given REEs top priority out of an official list of 35 critical minerals. In June, after the U.S. unveiled a new critical minerals strategy calling for closer co-operation with allies, Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed “to develop a joint action plan on critical minerals collaboration,” according to another Reuters report.

MGX Renewables introduces new fuel cell, anticipates July trading

June 28th, 2019

by Greg Klein | June 28, 2019

Having completed its spin-out from a parent company, gained conditional listing approval and closed a financing, a new company prepares to bring new technology to the green energy market. MGX Renewables expects to begin CSE trading on or before July 11.

MGX Renewables introduces new fuel cell, anticipates July trading

Over 20 patents went into the creation of the company’s first product, an energy storage system using rechargeable zinc-air fuel cell technology. Offering greater stability to solar- and wind-generated electricity, the system provides backup power that can range from 5 kW to 100 kW by enlarging the fuel tank. Modular design allows the addition of greater capacity.

MGX Renewables says the system overcomes limitations of lithium-ion batteries that are constrained by “a fixed power-to-energy ratio severely limiting flexibility and significantly increasing cost of energy storage when limited output power is required.”

The company says much lower storage costs reflect “a paradigm shift essentially eliminating the traditional fixed power-energy ratio and allowing for scaleable power with highly flexible energy storage.”

Parent company MGX Minerals CSE:XMG spun out approximately 40% of MGX Renewables, retaining about 18 million shares. Gross proceeds of $2,005,000 from a previous subscription have been released to the new company. MGX Renewables received conditional CSE trading approval in April.

Technology metals expert Jack Lifton calls for progress on critical minerals

June 17th, 2019

…Read more

Update: Saville Resources/Commerce Resources hit more near-surface, high-grade niobium, with tantalum and phosphate in Quebec

June 6th, 2019

This story has been expanded and moved here.

Saville Resources/Commerce Resources hit near-surface niobium high grades, with tantalum and phosphate in Quebec

June 3rd, 2019

This story has been updated and moved here.

Senkaku revisited

May 29th, 2019

China-U.S. trade tactics highlight rare earths peril and potential

by Greg Klein | May 29, 2019

China-U.S. trade tactics highlight rare earths peril and potential

 

They’re vital to several categories of modern essentials including military defence. But rare earths have themselves become weapons in an escalating conflict between China and the U.S. Despite Washington’s heightened awareness of its critical minerals conundrum, the U.S., like the rest of the non-Chinese world, remains almost completely dependent on its rival-turned-enemy for the rare earths that China threatens to cut off.

Among recent hints, comments and implied threats was last week’s well-publicized visit to a Chinese RE plant by President Xi Jinping and his top trade negotiator, where the leader reportedly steeled his country’s resolve with talk of an impending “Long March.” Additionally significant and non-cryptic code came in a May 29 admonition from the state-run People’s Daily: “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

China-U.S. trade tactics highlight rare earths peril and potential

Northern Minerals’ Browns Range pilot plant readies
a Western Australia project for Chinese customers.

If a full-blown trade war’s imminent, it’s not without irony. In a change of plans the U.S. has dropped rare earths from a long list of tariff-attached imports, tacitly acknowledging its dependency on China. China did the opposite, increasing its tariff from 10% to 25% on RE imports from America, a small portion of China’s supply but nevertheless an increase to the cost of its trade war weaponry.

The 17 elements comprise essential components for a host of modern necessities including phones, computers and other communications and electronic devices, electric vehicles, batteries, renewable energy and military defence.

China already mines over 70% of global supply, according to 2018 data from the U.S. Geological Survey, and that doesn’t include illegal Chinese production. The U.S. relies on China for 80% of RE compounds and metals. America imports another 11% from Estonia, France and Japan, but that stuff’s “derived from mineral concentrates and chemical intermediates produced in China and elsewhere,” the USGS added.

The risks of an all-out trade war might be demonstrated by the 2010 East China Sea conflict, where China and Japan both claim the islands of Senkaku. When a Chinese fishing boat captain felt emboldened to twice ram a Japanese naval vessel, Japan arrested him. Within days, China banned all rare earths exports to Japan, crippling its globally important but RE-dependent manufacturers. China also imposed heavy cutbacks and duties on exports to other countries.

China-U.S. trade tactics highlight rare earths peril and potential

A Greenland Minerals MOU would commit the
proposed Kvanefjeld mine’s total RE production to China.

Desperate for RE supply, some non-Chinese manufacturers relocated to China. Meanwhile Western resource companies strove to develop alternative supplies. By 2013 two new mines reached production, Lynas Corp’s Mount Weld in Western Australia and Molycorp’s Mountain Pass in California. The following year the World Trade Organization ordered China to drop its export restrictions on rare earths, as well as tungsten and molybdenum.

China complied with a vengeance, flooding the world with cheap RE supply. America’s WTO victory proved Pyrrhic as a burgeoning non-Chinese supply chain failed to compete. The most salient casualty was Mountain Pass, which suspended operations during 2015 bankruptcy proceedings.

The mine resumed production in early 2018 under new owner MP Materials. But with China’s Shenghe Rare Earth Company a minority shareholder, North America’s only RE producer exports its entire output to China.

Lynas, meanwhile, remains committed to serving non-Chinese markets through a non-Chinese supply chain. But skeptics might consider the company’s strategy precarious. Plans announced last week include a refinery in Texas that’s merely at the MOU stage, an AU$500-million financing commitment that appears inadequate to the company’s needs and an unconvincing proposal to meet a Malaysian ultimatum with alternative ideas.

Home to Lynas’ refining and separation facility, Malaysia insists the company remove over 450,000 tonnes of radioactive waste by September or face a shutdown. The country also wants future Mount Weld material rendered non-radioactive prior to arrival. (Update: On May 30 Malaysia’s prime minister said the government will likely allow Lynas’ plant to continue operation, according to Reuters.)

China-U.S. trade tactics highlight rare earths peril and potential

At a northern Quebec rare earths deposit, Commerce
Resources’ Ashram project moves towards pre-feasibility.

An AU$1.5-billion takeover bid from deep-pocketed giant Wesfarmers might offer a made-in-Australia solution. But Lynas has so far held itself aloof.

The CEO’s commitment to non-Chinese markets, however, differs from some other Australian companies. ASX-listed Northern Minerals, self-described as “the first and only meaningful producer of dysprosium outside of China,” has committed the total production of its Western Australia Browns Range project to China, apparently at the behest of minority shareholder Huatai Mining. Last August ASX-listed Greenland Minerals signed an offtake MOU with majority shareholder Shenghe Resources, which would give China the proposed Kvanefjeld mine’s total RE production.

Technology metals expert Jack Lifton emphasizes the need for non-Chinese resources and expertise: “If we don’t reconstitute a total American supply chain, if the Europeans don’t do the same, for the critical materials like rare earths, cobalt, lithium, we’re going to be out of luck,” he told ResourceClips.com.

Heightened awareness in Washington led to 35 minerals getting a formal “critical” classification, a prelude to last year’s Secretary of Defense study calling for government initiatives to encourage domestic supply chains. More recently, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators proposed legislation to prod the country into action.

That approach rankles those who prefer laissez-faire solutions. Moreover government meddling in the form of trade wars can backfire, libertarians believe. As Rick Rule said last week, “If the Chinese decided to obviate their competitive advantage with some stupid political ploy, they would find themselves with a much smaller proportion of the global market.”

Many investors seem to have agreed. Following China’s May 29 rhetoric, stock prices surged for advanced-stage RE projects.

Infographic: Visualizing copper’s role in the transition to clean energy

May 28th, 2019

by Nicholas LePan | posted with permission of Visual Capitalist | May 28, 2019

A future powered by renewables is not on the distant horizon, but is rather in its early hours.

This new dawn comes from a global awareness of the environmental impacts of the current energy mix, which relies heavily on fossil fuels and their associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Technologies such as wind, solar and batteries offer renewable and clean alternatives, and are leading the way for the transition to clean energy. However, as with every energy transition, there are not only new technologies, but also new material demands.

Copper: A key piece of the puzzle

This energy transition will be mineral-intensive and it will require metals such as nickel, lithium and cobalt. However one metal stands out as being particularly important, and that is copper.

This infographic comes to us from the Copper Development Association and outlines the special role of copper in renewable power generation, energy storage and electric vehicles.

Visualizing copper’s role in the transition to clean energy

 

Why copper?

The red metal has four key properties that make it ideal for the clean energy transition.

1. Conductivity

2. Ductility

3. Efficiency

4. Recyclability

It is these properties that make copper the critical material for wind and solar technology, energy storage and electric vehicles.

These properties also explain why, according to ThinkCopper, solar- and wind-generated electricity uses four to six times more copper than electricity from fossil fuel sources.

Copper in wind

A three-megawatt wind turbine can contain up to 4.7 tons of copper with 53% of that demand coming from the cable and wiring, 24% from the turbine/power generation components, 4% from transformers and 19% from turbine transformers.

The use of copper significantly increases when going offshore. Onshore wind farms use approximately 7,766 pounds of copper per MW, while an offshore wind installation uses 21,068 pounds of copper per MW.

It is the cabling of the offshore wind farms to connect them to each other and to deliver the power that accounts for the bulk of the copper usage.

Copper in solar

Solar power systems can contain approximately 5.5 tons of copper per MW. Copper is in the heat exchangers of solar thermal units as well as in the wiring and cabling that transmits the electricity in photo-voltaic solar cells.

Navigant Research projects that 262 GW of new solar installations between 2018 and 2027 in North America will require 1.9 billion pounds of copper.

Copper in energy storage

There are many ways to store energy, but every method uses copper. For example, a lithium-ion battery contains 440 pounds of copper per MW and a flow battery 540 pounds of copper per MW.

Copper wiring and cabling connects renewable power generation with energy storage, while the copper in the switches of transformers helps deliver power at the right voltage.

Across the United States, a total of 5,752 MW of energy capacity has been announced and commissioned.

Copper in electric vehicles

Copper is at the heart of the electric vehicle. This is because EVs rely on copper for the motor coil that drives the engine.

The more electric the car, the more copper it needs; a car powered by an internal combustion engine contains roughly 48 pounds, a hybrid needs 88 pounds and a battery electric vehicle uses 184 pounds.

Additionally, the cabling for charging stations of electric vehicles will be another source of copper demand.

The copper future

Advances in technologies create new material demands.

Therefore it shouldn’t be surprising that the transition to renewables is going to create demand for many minerals—and copper is going to be a critical mineral for the new era of energy.

Posted with permission of Visual Capitalist.

Turbulent times for Lynas

May 17th, 2019

Rare earths provide a cautionary tale about supply chain weaknesses

by Greg Klein | Updated May 21, 2019

Rare earths provide a cautionary tale about supply chain weaknesses

One of the world’s biggest supplies of magnet metals
undergoes separation at Lynas’ Malaysian facility. (Photo: Lynas Corp)

 

Update: On August 15 the Malaysian government granted Lynas a six-month licence extension. Read more.

 

How often does an investor presentation draw such keen interest from non-investors?

No doubt representatives from a number of governments and industries watched intensely on May 21 as Lynas CEO/managing director Amanda Lacaze accentuated her company’s “will to win.” Lynas has plans in place and funding en route to overcome what previously appeared to be an unattainable ultimatum. Far from becoming a takeover target, let alone a jurisdictional fatality, the miner expects to continue building a rare earths supply chain “focused on rest-of-the-world markets, that is non-Chinese markets.”

That was her message, and if stirring delivery could convince listeners, Lacaze made her case. But insufficient details cast a pall of uncertainty. Clearly the company can’t meet a September 2 deadline to remove over 450,000 tonnes of radioactive waste from Malaysia and thereby avert a processing plant shutdown in that country which would render useless the company’s Mount Weld mine in Western Australia.

Rare earths provide a cautionary tale about supply chain weaknesses

One of the world’s richest rare earths deposits, Mount Weld boasts reserves expected to give over 25 additional years of production at 22,000 tonnes of rare earth oxides annually. Included is an especially bountiful distribution of the magnet metals neodymium and praseodymium. Lynas concentrates ore in WA before shipping material to Malaysia for refining and separation. But while rare earths metallurgy has stymied some other non-Chinese operations, this facility has operated successfully since 2012.

At least it did so under Malaysia’s previous government. Its first electoral defeat since the country’s 1957 independence brought to office a party long opposed to Lynas’ operation in Kuantan. Concerns about waste containing thorium and uranium brought to mind a Malaysian RE refinery operated by Mitsubishi up to 1992. The plant closed down after an increase in leukemia and birth defects that critics attributed to the operation’s waste.

Following an environmental review of Lynas’ facility late last year, the new government delivered two formidable demands: Ensure that all material brought into the country has been rendered non-radioactive. And remove seven years of accumulated radioactive tailings from the country by September 2. Failure to do so will shut down the plant, the government warned.

An enormous logistical problem notwithstanding, Lacaze and her “dream team” told investors they have solutions backed by a AU$500-million “capital envelope” from senior lender Japan Australia Rare Earths (JARE) and the Japanese trading company Sojitz Corp.

“Of course we cannot do this on the smell of an oily rag, much as we might like to,” Lacaze acknowledged.

Rare earths provide a cautionary tale about supply chain weaknesses

Lynas managing director Dato’ Mashal Ahmad at the
podium, CEO Amanda Lacaze holding the microphone
at the company’s May 21 shareholder presentation.

A new cracking and leaching plant to be built in WA would “detox” Mount Weld material. Plans to pour money into Malaysia to upgrade the company’s Kuantan facility also sounded an optimistic note. But accumulated waste remains troublesome.

As managing director Dato’ Mashal Ahmad explained, the company will counter the ultimatum by asking the government to choose one of two options: Allow Lynas to treat the waste by producing a type of fertilizer, or allow Lynas to build another waste depository in Malaysia. The company already has four years of research backing Option 1. As for Option 2, “which Lynas is prepared to do anytime,” the company has already chosen three potential sites.

To those skeptical that Malaysia would accept the proposals, Ahmad said the environmental review, which hasn’t been officially translated, pronounced the Kuantan operation safe. Politicians, not the report’s authors, issued the ultimatum, he maintained. Discussions with the government continue and another decision will come from the entire government, not individual politicians, Lacaze added. Based on what she termed “relatively constructive” public comments from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, she expressed “confidence in the outcome.”

An entirely different possibility for Lynas arose last March when Wesfarmers launched a AU$1.5-billion bid for the miner. One of Australia’s largest listed companies and a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate with interests including chemicals, energy, fertilizers and industrial products, Wesfarmers imposed a daunting condition: Kuantan must retain a valid permit for a “satisfactory period following completion of the transaction.” 

Lynas spurned the offer, provoking talk from Wesfarmers of going hostile. Undeterred, and the day before proclaiming its “will to win,” Lynas joined one of its customers, downstream rare earths processor Blue Line Corp, to announce a memorandum of understanding to build an RE separation plant in Texas. The proposed joint venture “would be the only large-scale producer of separated medium and heavy rare earth products in the world outside of China,” the companies stated.

Of course the Blue Line MOU lacks certainty, as does the strategy of presenting options in the face of a government ultimatum. $500 million isn’t all that much. To industry observers, the predicament once again emphasizes the need to create non-Chinese supply chains.

Rare earths provide a cautionary tale about supply chain weaknesses

A founding principal of Technology Metals
Research LLC and a senior fellow at the
Institute for Analysis of Global Security,
Jack Lifton has over 55 years’ experience
with technology metals.

Speaking with ResourceClips.com the week before Lynas’ May 20-21 announcements, Jack Lifton discussed the urgency of addressing critical minerals challenges.

A chemist specializing in metallurgy, a consultant, author and lecturer focusing on rare earths, lithium and other essentials that he labels “technology metals,” Lifton was one of four scientists hired by the previous Malaysian government to evaluate the Kuantan facility prior to its initial permit.

Wesfarmers “would have the money and the time” to solve Lynas’ problems, he said. “A $38-billion company can spend a year fixing problems and stay in business. If Lynas were shut down for a year, I think that would be the end of it.”

Earlier this month Wesfarmers offered AU$776 million for ASX-listed Kidman Resources, which shares a 50/50 JV with Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA (SQM) on the advanced-stage Mount Holland lithium project in Western Australia.

“Wesfarmers clearly knows all the problems with Lynas but they’re still interested in buying it,” Lifton pointed out.

The possibility of a Chinese buy-out, on the other hand, could meet opposition from either of two governments. Malaysia’s previous administration feared Chinese influence, Lifton says.

As for Australia, “I do not think that the government, as it will be constituted after this election, will allow the Chinese to buy what is basically the largest high-grade deposit of magnet rare earths on the planet,” he says. Even so, Chinese control could eliminate the Malaysian problem. “China has immense facilities and excess capacity for treating ore like that. They wouldn’t need the Malaysian plant, not at all.”

Control need not mean total ownership. Following Molycorp’s bankruptcy, California’s Mountain Pass mine quietly resumed production last year under MP Materials. With China’s Shenghe Rare Earth Company a minority shareholder, North America’s sole rare earths producer exports all its output to China.

Shenghe Resources comprises the world’s second-largest RE company by output. It holds a majority stake in ASX-listed Greenland Minerals, which describes its Kvanefjeld polymetallic deposit as having “potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths.” Last August the companies signed an offtake MOU for the proposed mine’s total RE production.

Huatai Mining, a subsidiary of Chinese coal trader Shandong Taizhong Energy, holds 15.9% of ASX-listed Northern Minerals, which plans to become the “first significant dysprosium producer outside China” at the Browns Range project in Western Australia.

“Everything from Browns Range is now going to China for refining and use,” Lifton notes. “My understanding is that’s what’s going to happen in Greenland.”

Neither Greenland nor Northern can handle separation, he explains. “They can concentrate the ore, but where are the facilities to separate individual rare earths from the mixed concentrate? They are, today, overwhelmingly in China. The Chinese have an advantage in excess refining capacity.”

While Lifton thinks Malaysia would welcome Japanese ownership of Lynas, the Japanese no longer have processing abilities. They’re also burdened by Mitsubishi’s legacy.

“China does not, to the best of my knowledge, have ore as rich as Mount Weld. I don’t know of any other deposit on earth that’s so high-grade and well-distributed with magnet materials. So anyone who has processing would love to have that.”

If we don’t reconstitute a total American supply chain, if the Europeans don’t do the same, for the critical materials like rare earths, cobalt, lithium, we’re going to be out of luck.—Jack Lifton

Such a fate is now pure speculation but should Lynas face a Sino-scenario, it would only intensify a trend well underway, he adds. “They already have the largest RE industry on the planet and they’re buying RE, cobalt and other critical assets in Greenland, Africa, Australia, South America.

“If we don’t reconstitute a total American supply chain, if the Europeans don’t do the same, for the critical materials like rare earths, cobalt, lithium, we’re going to be out of luck. The Chinese in my opinion are already self-sufficient in rare earths, lithium and cobalt. They have mines all over the world that they own and operate, they have the bulk of chemical processing. They’re going to take care of their domestic needs first, and then if they want to export, they’ll control the price, the supply, and they do control the demand because at this time about 60% of all world metals goes to China.

“In America there’s a lot of talk now about critical minerals and some people are saying we need ‘a conversation’ on the subject. So while we think about it and have conversations, the Chinese are setting themselves up for the rest of this century.”