A NEW Central West mine has received an international boost.
Dubbo’s proposed rare earths mine — estimated to cost almost $1 billion to establish and expected to create 800 jobs — is to benefit from a decision by the Chinese government to issue a white paper on its rare earths industry.
Some experts say China has taken a major step forward with the white paper to counter bad publicity on withholding rare earth exports.
China has 23 per cent of the world’s rare earths reserves and in 2011 met more than 90 per cent of world demand for rare earths.
One of China’s concerns highlighted in the white paper was a significant divergence between price and value for rare earths.
The report has a chart showing while prices for rare earths went up 2.5 times between 2000 and 2010, prices for gold, copper and iron ore rose 4.4 times, 4.1 times and 4.8 times respectively.
The biggest customers for China’s rare earths output are Japan (56 per cent) and the United States (14 per cent).
Increasing world demand for rare earths augurs well for Australia’s Alkane Resources, which is expecting to begin production towards the end of 2014 from its Dubbo zirconia and rare earths project.
Alkane will be spending nearly $1 billion to develop its Dubbo project over the next two years.
Alkane managing director Ian Chalmers said an environmental impact statement should be lodged in the final quarter of the year in one of the key steps in getting the project moving.
He hoped obligations like the impact statement would be resolved by June next year, so work could begin soon after.
Of total output from Alkane’s project, about 21 per cent of revenue will be from light rare earths and 18 per cent from heavy rare earths, making Alkane one of the bigger heavy rare earths producers globally outside China in the next few years.
Dubbo’s Alkane would be a major contributor to the strategically important production of dysprosium, terbium, yttrium and neodymium.