Australian government announces funding boost for rare earths industry

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled an investment package worth US$175 million to develop its rare earths value chain, as part of a plan to boost the country’s self-reliance in a sector dominated by China.

The financial support, aimed at four new projects including a new nickel manganese cobalt battery material refinery hub in Kalgoorie and a vanadium refinery project led by Australian Vanadium, was announced during campaigning in Western Australia for a federal election in May.

In the announcement, Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said while Australia had some of the world’s largest reserves of rare earths, China dominated around 70% to 80% of the industry globally.

“This initiative is designed to address that dominance,” Taylor said. “These projects are not only game-changers for the local region with the creation of new jobs, they will also open up incredible export opportunities.”

The move is the latest attempt by an ally of the US to develop a rare earths value chain outside of China. The US has been concerned for years about China’s attempt to control rare earths markets, which are vital components in high-tech manufacturing.

Australian rare earth companies set to receive funding as part of the new policy saw their shares surge on Wednesday. Arafura Resources increased as much as 23%, while shares in Australian Vanadium soared by up to 34%.