USE THIS ONEThe US Department of Defense on Monday (1 February) said it has awarded US$30.4 million to Australia’s Lynas Rare Earths to build a facility in the US for processing rare earths, which are minerals that are used to make weapons, electronics and other goods. The move is seen as a way for the US to pivot away from reliance on China for the minerals. China is the world’s largest producer of rare earth minerals and has threatened to stop their export to the United States.

Lynas’s Australian concentration plant is located at Mt Weld, Western Australia. (PHOTO: Lynas)

The Pentagon’s award will fund construction of a facility to process so-called light rare earths, the most-common type of rare earths, commonly found in consumer goods such as cellular phones. Upon completion of this project, if successful, Lynas will produce approximately 25 percent of the worlds’ supply of rare earth element oxides, the Defense Department said in announcing the award.

Lynas Chief Executive Amanda Lacaze. (PHOTO: Lynas)

Lynas Chief Executive Amanda Lacaze said the company was pleased to have been selected, adding the plant “will ensure the US has a secure domestic source of high quality separated light rare earth materials.”

This is the second award Lynas has received from the Pentagon. Last year, the company and Texas-based Blue Line Corp received funding for production of so-called heavy rare earths, a less-common type of the minerals used in weaponry. Both facilities are planned for Hondo, Texas, about 45 miles (72 km) west of San Antonio.

This award aligns with the US government’s strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals under Executive Order 13817 and follows a series of rare earth element actions the Department of Defense has taken in recent years to ensure supply and strengthen defence supply chains. Specific actions include stockpiling, implementing Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations Supplement (DFARS) rules to transition defence supply chains to non-Chinese sources of rare earth element magnets, launching engineering studies with the Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program focused on re-establishing domestic heavy rare earth element processing, partnering with industry to re-establish domestic neodymium-iron-boron magnet production, and leveraging Small Business Innovation and Research and Rapid Innovation Funds to accelerate the development of new rare earth element processing technologies, the Defense Department said.

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Matthew Driskill is the web editor of Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter and the Editor of Asian Aviation. He is based in Singapore. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.

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