- PM flags strengthening ties with United States
- Key components are infrastructure, trade and a Strategic Partnership on Energy
- Energy Partnership to focus on “rare earths and high performance metals”
As Prime Minster Turnbull concluded his recent visit to the United States, he issued a statement indicating joint cooperation with the US on rare earths and high performance metals.
This has direct relevance for multi commodity explorer and miner, Alkane Resources (ASX: ALK)*, which is moving towards final commitments and financing of its A$1.3 billion Dubbo Project which contains deposits of rare earths, hafnium, niobium and zirconium.
These minerals have been designated “critical” in the US# and the Prime Minister’s statement said:
“We launched the Australia-United States Strategic Partnership on Energy in the Indo-Pacific, and intend to work together on strategic minerals exploration, extraction, processing, and research and development of rare earths and high performance metals.”
A feature of Alkane’s Dubbo Project, in central west New South Wales, is that it offers a source of critical technology metals that is independent of China and traditional titanium sands production.
According to Alkane Managing Director, Nic Earner, the governments of Australia and the United States have recognised the value of an alternative source of rare earths and high performance metals.
“As there is increasing demand for the metals that are critical for uses in aerospace, renewable energy and electric cars, Alkane as a future supplier of these metals is likely to benefit from this new government prioritisation which puts the project directly into the national interest of both countries,” Mr Earner said.
Future production from Alkane’s Dubbo Project and uses of these metals includes:
- Rare earths – for permanent magnets for wind power turbines, electric vehicles and industrial robots, as well as applications in medical imaging and smartphones
- Hafnium – for increasing high temperature resistance, especially in space, aerospace and separate uses in semi-conductors, with Alkane’s resource positioning it as a leading source of supply
- Niobium – a steel strengthening agent, with aerospace applications
- Zirconium – for ceramics, fuel cells, jet turbine coatings and medical and smartphone applications
Establishing the importance of Alkane’s independent positioning is that China currently produces more than 95% of the world’s zirconium chemicals, over 90% of high-value rare earths, with Brazil providing 85% of the world’s niobium.
Alkane’s Dubbo Project is construction ready subject to financing and has a mine life of over 70 years.
Funding of the project to date has been assisted by Alkane’s nearby Tomingley Gold Operations, which in 2017 produced revenue of A$117.5m and profit before tax and non-recurring items of A$17.1m.
* Owner and operator of Alkane’s Dubbo project is wholly owned subsidiary, Australian Strategic Materials Ltd.