Local mining of rare earth minerals could grow high tech manufacturing

Miner Northern Minerals hopes that the processing of rare earth minerals could spark a burst of investment in high-tech manufacturing – if their Browns Range project is successful.

The Browns Range mine is currently in development, and the company hopes to separate dysprosium from surrounding ores. The rare earth mineral can be found in Western Australia.

Consumer products such as electric vehicles, computers and smart phones as well as industrial applications such as wind turbines require a supply of rare earth minerals.

There are hopes that if Australia were to develop a local rare earth mining sector the production of items such as vacuum cleaners and air conditioners could occur locally.

While 40 per cent of global rare earth minerals are found in China, the country controls 90 per cent of the market from mining to processing.

The market for rare earths is estimated at anywhere from $3 billion to $5 billion, and the growth of the market could expand to potentially $100 billion.

Benefiting from this value would require Australia have a hand in producing the products that are made from rare earth minerals.

So far, Northern Minerals reports that it has received positive feedback from the wider market, and the company is working to finalise an offtake agreement for the pilot plant.

If the plant were to reach full production, Northern Minerals hopes to deliver a number of products, including mixed rare earth carbonate, individual oxides and DyFe metal.

Currently, the site has produced a proof-of-concept through the mineralisation of xenotime at the Browns Range plant.