In Central Australia’s red dust, a mining firm Arafura has been planning to build a mine to process a facility to sort elements. The place is located 80 miles north of Alice Springs. The Nolans project, as it is called, will be in one of the driest and hottest parts of the country.
Arafura’s Mining Project
Despite the extreme conditions, Arafura thinks that investing there is a good idea. The mine and processing facility will be able to satisfy 5% of the global demand for praseodymium and neodymium. These minerals are high-power magnets and crucial to the electronics industry. Terbium, europium, and other rare metals that were never heard of are now vital components in manufacturing wind turbines, phone touch screens, and other modern technologies. The mining industry producing these elements is dominated by China, but trade and geopolitical forces are at work to reshape the international market.
Australia: Leading Coal Miner
Australia is a superpower in exporting coal and iron ore and believes it is capable of providing minerals that are vital components in the manufacturing of wind turbines and electric vehicles. Gavin Lockyer, Managing Director of Arafura, says that this can be a game changer for Australia, which is already started producing rare earth elements. He added that the success of this project could put Australia upfront in the renewable sector. He further said that it’s easy to discover the deposits of a rare metal however it is difficult to find metal deposits that have economic value.
There are dozens of elements in the periodic table, but most are available in a fair amount across the earth’s crust. On the other hand, rare earth metals are found in limited quantities and have magnetic, electric, catalytic, nuclear, and luminescent properties. Due to its properties, it is used in magnets, metal alloys, batteries, catalytic converters, medical imaging, and many other things. In the present time of menace, rare but valuable metals have great value as they can be used in jets, missiles, and drones. Lynas Rare Earths has contracted the United States Department of Defence to build a processing facility in the US to reduce its dependence on China for strategic minerals. This way, Australia is looking forward to meeting the earth's needs of the US. Jennifer Granholm, US Energy Secretary, warned at a conference that China is a significant footing in the field of renewable energy and supply chains.
China is a major exporter of rare earth metals. Hence, it tends to exploit the market this way. In 2010 there was a collision between Japanese patrol boats and Chinese fishermen near a disputed area. Beijing controls the supply of rare metals to the world. After this incident, the Chinese government stopped the supply of rare metals to the Japanese government as a result of the dispute. Since then, countries have noticed that it is a risk to depend on one producer for essential earth metals. Australia has the companies and capital investment that is needed to diversify the supply chain. Due to a recent Chinese threat to limit rare earth metals to the US, Australia has decided to intervene by providing the earth metals needed.