Lynas races to keep up with global rare earths demand

Inside the lab at Lynas’ rare earths deposit in Mt Weld, Western Australia. Credit: Lynas Corp.

Lynas Corp the world’s only processor of rare earths outside China, sees growth in demand for the metals used in everything from cars to missiles rapidly outpacing production and expects to spell out expansion plans in the next six months.

“Our biggest challenge right now is to grow as fast as the market,” Lynas Chief Executive Amanda Lacaze said on Thursday.

The company, which mines rare earths in Western Australia and ships the material to Malaysia where it produces rare earth oxides, said in 2019 it wanted to boost output by 50% by 2025, but Lacaze said that would not be sufficient.

“It will not be enough for us to keep pace with the market, and so that’s what our team is working on – is how do we grow to meet the market and therefore, what’s that configuration,” Lacaze told reporters after addressing the Melbourne Mining Club.

The company is in talks with governments eager to beef up access to rare earths outside China following supply disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic and geopolitical challenges, but Lacaze said government decision-making timelines were frustratingly slow.

Talks with the U.S. government to build a heavy rare earths plant in Texas have dragged on for four years. Documentation for the plant was submitted to the Department of Defense a year ago and approved.

Lynas is still waiting for a final contract with the U.S. government and funding approval.

Lacaze said a key issue was to ensure contracts protect the company’s intellectual property (IP) “because even though we’re happy to work with the government, we also are not in the business of being any more generous with our IP than the Chinese are”.

She said she was hopeful a contract could be signed this year for the plant in Texas.

(By Sonali Paul; Editing by Robert Birsel)


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