Lynas Corporation, the world’s only processor of rare earths outside China, is looking to expand production in Asia and the US in coming years, as it sees increasing unmet growth in demand for the metals.
Lynas mines rare earths in Western Australia but processes the ore into oxides in Malaysia. It said three years ago that it wants to boost output by 50% by 2025 but government decision-making appears to have delayed its expansion plans.
Meanwhile, demand for rare earth elements, which are used in electric vehicles, weapons and numerous other products, has soared.
Chief executive Amanda Lacaze said on Thursday: “Our biggest challenge right now is to grow as fast as the market.”
“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.
Rare Earth Exports
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 US 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 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 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.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell