'Guaranteed Supply' Of Rare Earth Is Vital - Australian Defence Minister
With threats of Chinese retaliation from trade wars, Australian defence minister Linda Reynolds touted Australia's ability to meet any supply disruptions.
Reynolds made the comments at the Indo-Pacific Conference held in Perth on Monday.
"I've been deeply engaged on this issue, because here in Western Australia and for generally across Australia we have at least 40 per cent of the known reserves of tech metal, whether it's lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, but also most of the rare earth that our current technology in our lifestyle today relies on," said Reynolds.
She said that she had discussed the issue "at length" with her counterparts in the U.S. and U.K.
"[What] we want to do is make sure that we have a guaranteed supply, so it's not just the IBMs and the Apple's and your model companies to produce leading edge technologies who need access to this, but it's also our Defence firm, and a lot of our Defence equipment and capability actually uses rare earths in its production.
"The key issue for us and why we've now elevated this and Americans and others have, is that we ensure continuity and guarantee of supply of these rare earths and tech metals, as they're now called, is an issue of national importance."
China dominates rare earth production and is responsible for about 90% of the world's supply. A deepening trade war could see China play its rare earth card and curtail exports.
Australian rare earth miner Lynas, which is listed on the ASX and has a mine Western Australia and a processing plant in Malaysia, touted its independence.
"We are truly independent from China," CEO Amanda Lacaze told the Argus U.S. Specialty Metals conference in Chicago in an interview with Reuters this spring. "We aim to remain a leader in the rare earths market. There will be significant growth outside China so long as customers are confident in supply."