Premier Colin Barnett officially opened the Mt Weld Mine for rare earths in early August, and said the project was an important development in Western Australia’s resources history. Mr Barnett congratulated Lynas Corporation on its vision and commitment of the past 10 years, in developing the $100million project.
“As the first significant rare earth mine to be opened outside of China for many years, the Mt Weld project brings an important new capacity to Western Australia’s already diverse and globally important resources sector,” he said. “It will give WA a stake in some of the 21st century’s most exciting technological developments. As well as directly employing up to 90 people at its full capacity, the mine is expected to contribute at least $17million in annual royalty payments to the State."
Rare earths are used in advanced materials, batteries and electronic devices such as computers, high definition televisions, mobile phones and audio devices. They are not found as free metals in the earth’s crust, rather within a mixed ‘cocktail’ of rare earth elements that need to be separated for their individual or combined commercial use.
The Mt Weld deposit, located about 35km south of Laverton, is the richest known deposit of rare earths in the world. The mine is expected to be in production for 20 years, with its first phase producing an estimated 33,000 tonnes per annum of rare earth concentrates.
The ore will be concentrated at Mount Weld, exported to Lynas’ purpose-built advanced materials processing plant in Kuantan, Malaysia and then sold globally. Lynas has already signed a long-term supply contract with Sojitz Corporation in Japan.
China currently supplies about 95 per cent of the 134,000 tonnes global rare earths market in 2010. China is limiting its supply of the processed rare earths to the rest of the world, with the total export quota for 2011 being 30,814 tonnes.