Australia's Lynas in the Pink With Best Rare Earths Outside China

Australia's Lynas in the Pink With Best Rare Earths Outside China
Rare earths dug up and processed into concentrate at Mount Weld in Western Australia, are pictured after being shipped to the Lynas plant in Gebeng, Malaysia, July 3, 2014. (Sonali Paul/Reuters)

Lynas Rare Earths, which is being wooed by defence and industry for critical supplies, says governments need to move faster to catch up with China's dominance in the sector.

As the largest producer of rare earth minerals outside of China, CEO Amanda Lacaze says China didn't make any secret about what it was up to.

"I chuckle when Western governments get indignant about China's dominance" in rare earths, she said told the Diggers and Dealers Mining Forum in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, on Tuesday.

"They didn't do it in a vacuum, they didn't make any secret about it."

Lynas is trading on its Australian credentials to build its presence in the rare earths market and has longstanding links with Japan.

Under a recent deal with the United States government, Lynas will send rare earths from its Mt Weld mine in WA for processing at a new plant being built in Texas—with the US taxpayer picking up the tab for construction.

Processing in Malaysia, where Lynas has faced community and government opposition, will continue to be an important part of the company, Ms. Lacaze added.

At Mt Weld, where a collapsed volcano is the source of rich pickings, Lynas continues to develop the ore body and processing operations supported by a $20 million government grant for a new plant.

In Kalgoorlie, Lynas is in the final commissioning stages of a processing plant a mere 18 months after getting final approvals.

She said the outback city would also be an ideal site for a standalone electricity grid, "a perfect project for government".

Ms. Lacaze urged Australian governments to invest more in critical minerals infrastructure to back in their ambitions to make batteries and process critical minerals onshore.

"I am hopeful we will have a more robust outside-China industry," she said.

"We've been in production for a decade and have faced every type of challenge that could be thrown at us."

But building a workforce is a challenge for the industry, Ms. Lacaze said, because not enough people are enrolling in mining-specific degrees, diplomas or even certificates.

"I often hear young people want jobs with purpose ... the mining industry actually has purpose," she said.

As well, while more women are joining the industry and taking more senior roles more could be done.

"You can dress like Barbie and be successful in mining," the pink-suited Ms Lacaze said.

Governments could also do more to explain how mining benefits society, supports technology and fills government coffers, she said.

As well as electric cars and wind turbines, rare earth minerals are also used in air conditioners and automated systems in factories to make goods or for medical imaging and lasers.

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