Rare Earths in Australia

Although it’s home to producer Lynas, the land down under only accounts for some 3 percent of the world’s rare earth reserves.

Rare earths are elements vital to the modern technology age. The 17 elements grouped as rare earths are found in batteries, magnets, lasers, fibre optics, battle tanks, satellites, guided missiles and wind turbines — and that’s just to name a handful of applications.

By Australia’s own account, the land down under only accounts for some 3 percent of the world’s rare earth reserves — well behind China, the global superpower of the rare earths supply chain.

But there is a global focus on Australia as a rare earths player, and China is part of the reason why. Not because China was hungry for rare earths in the same way it is for all the other commodities Australia sells — but because of a trade dispute between China and Japan.


The rise of Australian producer Lynas

Rare earths have been mined in Australia since 2007, but in 2010 China and Japan engaged in a bitter dispute over fisheries and trawling activity in the East China Sea.

The disagreement saw China, which at the time mined over 93 percent of global rare earths output, halt exports of the minerals to Japan, which needed them for its heavy and high-tech industries.

While the dispute between China and Japan eventually simmered down — as far as any dispute with China can — Japan started to look elsewhere for rare earths in a bid to diversify its purchases.

Enter: Australia. Japan found and poured money into a domestic company called Lynas (ASX:LYC,OTC Pink:LYSCF), which before then had been a small player sitting on a rich deposit of the obscure minerals. Its mine, Mount Weld, was operational, but it was very much small fry.

It’s worth noting that China had an interest in Lynas even prior to Japan. Lynas, which to this day markets itself as “the only producer of scale of separated rare earths outside of China,” was almost gobbled up by the Chinese before the Japanese ever came knocking.

In 2009, state-owned China Non-Ferrous Metal Mining offered AU$252 million for a 51.6 percent stake in Lynas, but the offer was quashed by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board on the grounds of concern for non-Chinese buyers.

Australia’s current rare earths production

Since then, Australia has never left the playing field when it comes to rare earths.

In 2019, Australia produced 21,000 tonnes of rare earths, making it the fourth largest producer behind China, and the recent additions of the US and Myanmar. Don’t be fooled, however — every country that isn’t China is a long way behind the Asian nation. China was responsible for 132,000 tonnes of rare earths in 2019, and remains the preeminent producer globally.

While there are more players on the field, Australia has skin in the game regardless, as the trade war between the US and China from 2018 onwards saw the powers that be in the US turn their attention to Australia — a steadfast military ally.

The US has long regarded its dependence on foreign imports of critical minerals as an Achilles heel, and through 2019 and 2020 it sought to bring Australia into its camp, even going as far as signing a critical minerals agreement in 2019.

For its part, Australia loves the attention. As an economic and diplomatic tool it has sought to play up its role as an alternative to China for buyers the world over. That said, the economic indicators for rare earths are hard to gauge, given there’s no set trade mechanism and most deals are done in private.

The future of rare earths in Australia

Lynas remains the primary producer in Australia, but as recently as 2019, Dabid Grabau, who is senior investment specialist for resources and energy at Austrade, boasted that Australia has “anywhere between four and six potential or near shovel-ready projects covering large parts of the country, spanning from Western Australia across New South Wales.”

Companies with projects in the pipeline are operators like Australian Strategic Metals (ASX:ASM), which is developing the Dubbo project in Central New South Wales, Arafura Resources (ASX:ARU,OTC Pink:ARAFF) with the Nolans project in the Northern Territory and both Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU) with Browns Range and Hastings Technology Metals (ASX:HAS) with the Yanginana project in Western Australia.

Given that all the above projects are in the exploration and development stages, it goes without saying that if they come to fruition, rare earths in Australia will be a bright sector to pay attention to. It’s economics 101 to buy a product from a diverse range of suppliers, and as buyers around the world seek alternatives to China, Australia will be front and centre as an enticing option.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, currently hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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Winsome Resources CEO Chris Evans said, “Canada and the US are working feverishly to develop an internal battery materials supply chain and we think we're going to play a critical role in that.”

Winsome Resources CEO Chris Evans: Sustainable Hardrock Lithium Opportunities in Quebec youtu.be


Winsome Resources (ASX:WR1) CEO Chris Evans joined the Investing News Network to discuss the company and its Cancet lithium project in Quebec, Canada.

"We listed on the ASX on November 30, 2021," he explained. "We're lithium focused but based in Canada, and we've been pretty successful in the last six months — our share price has done well. I think I've been putting this down to the success factors which we possess as a company, including the fact that we're into lithium at a moment with high demand. Any mining company that's associated with lithium has tended to do well.

“Our assets are in Quebec, a fantastic mining jurisdiction for all sorts of reasons. Also, being listed on the ASX — Australian investors tend to like early stage plays a bit better. They've certainly woken up to the electric vehicle and lithium revolution that's occurring in the world. And it's a pleasure having the assets in Canada.”


Next, Evans got into specifics about the company's flagship project. “The Cancet project is our flagship, in the James Bay region of Quebec. All our projects are hard-rock lithium; that's digging the rocks out of the ground and concentrating the lithium in them. Then it gets converted into the final product, which is lithium carbonate or hydroxide, that then goes into electric vehicle batteries,” he explained.

“Cancet’s had about 5,500 metres of drilling done on it historically, so we know that there's a great deposit of lithium at fantastic grades. It outcrops on the surface, the lithium-containing spodumene from the pegmatite rock, where we have 3.7 percent lithium oxide over a 17 metre interval from the surface at our most successful drill hole. We just completed 2,000 metres of drilling ourselves, increasing our knowledge of the orebody that's there, and also looking for extensions to the orebody. We've got 395 claims, and our drilling and exploration is only over about 15 of the claims. So we've got a lot further to look here and a lot more to develop.”

As for supply location, and the company's relationship with the international market, Evans said, “We think it's fantastic for us, and our shareholders, that we have assets in Quebec. Roughly 50 percent of the world's hard-rock lithium comes from Australia, where it’s mined and concentrated. The problem is that final conversion into lithium carbonate or hydroxide all occurs at the moment in China ... lithium is on the critical minerals list in Canada, the US and Australia, and Canada and the US are working feverishly to develop an internal battery materials supply chain. We think we're going to play a critical role in that.”

Elaborating on the sustainability industry that drives the battery revolution, he said, “(Nearly) all power in Quebec is generated by hydroelectricity and renewable forms of electricity. That’s very important, because the mining and concentration process for lithium products traditionally produces a large carbon footprint, because it's energy intensive. The EU, from 2024, has mandated that all batteries are labeled with the carbon footprint of all the materials that are contained within them. Then, by about 2026, there's specific targets that batteries have to meet in order to be sold in the EU. If you don't have a renewable source of energy to produce your lithium products that go into those batteries, it's going to severely restrict your markets — and that's another bonus for us being in Quebec.”

Evans said that Winsome Resources’ approach is to develop a mine itself, rather than selling or partnering. “We will approach this as if we are going to be developing the Cancet project, and producing lithium ourselves, in four or so years. And I think that'll best serve our shareholders.” With regards to other ways the company could benefit investors, Evans said, “Being listed on the ASX, and having access to a lot of capital, I think there's a great opportunity for us to acquire other projects in Canada. We're about to start our summer exploration. And we're on the lookout for a new project. So I think the good news is really to come.”

Watch the full interview of Winsome Resources CEO Chris Evans above.

Disclaimer: This interview is sponsored by Winsome Resources (ASX:WR1). This interview provides information that was sourced by the Investing News Network (INN) and approved by Winsome Resources in order to help investors learn more about the company. Winsome Resources is a client of INN. The company’s campaign fees pay for INN to create and update this interview.

INN does not provide investment advice and the information on this profile should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security. INN does not endorse or recommend the business, products, services or securities of any company profiled.

The information contained here is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of securities. Readers should conduct their own research for all information publicly available concerning the company. Prior to making any investment decision, it is recommended that readers consult directly with Winsome Resources and seek advice from a qualified investment advisor.

This interview may contain forward-looking statements including but not limited to comments regarding the timing and content of upcoming work programs, receipt of property titles, etc. Forward-looking statements address future events and conditions and therefore involve inherent risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from those currently anticipated in such statements. The issuer relies upon litigation protection for forward-looking statements. Investing in companies comes with uncertainties as market values can fluctuate.

WR1:AU

Where are the silver mines in Australia? You might be surprised to learn that the country is home to one of the world’s top primary silver producers.

Mining is a big part of Australia’s history, and it continues to shape the country’s economy and position in the world today. The nation is one of the world’s top producers and exporters of resources, with coal, uranium, copper and gold being some of its best-known commodities.

Australia is also a key producer of silver — it was the world’s fifth-largest producer of the metal in 2021, tied with Russia, putting out 1,300 MT. Interestingly, most of Australia's silver is produced from silver-bearing galena, but some is also produced from copper and gold mining.

Refined silver comes mainly from the Port Pirie lead smelter and refinery in South Australia, though silver is also refined at gold refineries in Perth, Kalgoorlie and Melbourne.


But where are the silver mines in Australia, exactly? While it’s interesting to know what types of deposits the precious metal is found in, many investors want to know what companies are producing silver and where their mines are located geographically. Read on to find the answers to those questions.

Where are the silver mines in Australia?

Silver has played a role in Australia since the mid-1800s — Wheal Gawler, Australia’s first metal mine, was a silver-lead mine developed in South Australia in the 1840s. And that’s not Australia’s only early silver-mining operation — the Broken Hill deposit in New South Wales and the Mount Isa deposit in Queensland are two other early Australian silver discoveries.

Broken Hill, a lead-zinc-silver deposit, was discovered in 1883 by German immigrant Charles Rasp, and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company was born in 1885; it ultimately merged in 2001 with another mining giant, Billiton, to form BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP,NYSE:BHP,LSE:BLT). BHP Billiton is no longer involved with Broken Hill, but ore is still being extracted there today. Perilya now runs the southern and northern operations.

For its part, Mount Isa was discovered in 1923 by John Campbell Miles, and like Broken Hill is still producing today. It was acquired by Glencore (LSE:GLEN) in 2013 and in addition to silver is also a producer of zinc.

These major early Australian silver discoveries are not the country’s only sources of silver. Other silver mines in Australia include Cannington, one of the world’s top primary silver producers. It’s a fly-in, fly-out mining and processing operation that is owned by South32 (ASX:S32,LSE:S32), a diversified resource company spun out from BHP Billiton in 2015. Cannington also produces lead and zinc.

Australia holds the McArthur River mine as well, which opened in 1995 and is owned by Glencore subsidiary McArthur River Mining. The mine is one of the world’s largest zinc-lead-silver mines, and is located in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Glencore’s 2021 annual report claims total silver production reached 31.519 million ounces for the year, representing a 4 percent drop from 2020. That includes 625,000 ounces from McArthur River.

The Century mine, which previously belonged to MMG (HKEX:1208), shut its doors at the end of 2015, but was a major producer of zinc (and silver) until that time. It was reopened in mid-2018 by New Century Resources (ASX:NCZ) and the company says it now has an estimated annual production capacity of 264,000 tonnes of zinc and 3 million ounces of silver.

Independence Group (ASX:IGO) also produces silver, along with copper and zinc, at its Jaguar operation in Western Australia. Gold producer Silver Lake Resources (ASX:SLR) owns some projects with silver reserves as well. As you can see, there are and have been many silver mines in Australia.

Future silver mines in Australia?

In addition to being home to a slew of large silver mines, Australia also plays host to many companies that are exploring and developing silver projects. Below are a few that have made recent progress.

Please let us know in the comments if we’ve forgotten to mention any Australia-focused silver companies. All companies listed had market caps of at least AU$5 million on May 19, 2022.

Argent Minerals (ASX:ARD) — Argent Minerals’ main asset is its 100-percent-owned Kempfield polymetallic project in New South Wales. In May 2018, the company announced an updated resource estimate for the asset — its silver equivalent contained metal now stands at an estimated 100 million silver equivalent ounces at 120 g/t silver equivalent; that’s approximately double the previous estimate.

In total the company has three projects, with all of them being in New South Wales.

Investigator Resources (ASX:IVR) — Investigator Resources is advancing silver, copper and gold deposits in South Australia. Currently its properties include the Peterlumbo/Paris silver project, the Eyre Peninsula and Stuart Shelf projects and the Northern Yorke Peninsula projects.

The total resource for Paris stands at an estimated 18.8 million tonnes at 88 g/t silver and 0.52 percent lead for 53.1 million ounces of contained silver and 97,600 tonnes of contained lead (at a cut off of 30 g/t silver). The indicated component is 12.7 million tonnes of silver (95 g/t) and represents 73 percent of the total estimated resource ounces.

Horizon Minerals (ASX:HRZ) — Horizon Minerals owns the Nimbus silver-zinc project in Western Australia. Nimbus has a high-grade silver-zinc resource estimate of 255,898 tonnes at 773 g/t silver and 13 percent zinc; the total Nimbus resource stands at 1.21 million tonnes at 52 g/t silver, 0.9 percent zinc and 0.2 g/t gold.

Silver Mines (ASX:SVL) bills itself as a leading Australian silver exploration company, and has spent a considerable amount of time acquiring Australian silver projects. Those include Malachite Resources’ (ASX:MAR) Conrad project and Kingsgate Consolidated’s (ASX:KCN) Bowdens silver project.

While the company’s main focus has been on the Webbs silver project in New South Wales, the Bowdens project represents the largest undeveloped silver project in Australia, and Silver Mines is working to get the project through the feasibility, environmental impact statement and permitting stages.

In a 2018 report, the feasibility study demonstrated an average silver production of 3.4 million tonnes per annum for the project, with 5.4 million during the first three years of operation. Estimations also included 6,900 tonnes of zinc and 5,100 tonnes of lead.

This is an updated version of an article first published by the Investing News Network in 2018.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ryan Sero, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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