Canadian firm mulls rare earths project in South Africa

24 February 2011 16:46  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Canadian mining firm Great Western Minerals is considering a rare earths separation project in South Africa, it said on Thursday.

Great Western said the facility, at Steenkampskraal near Pretoria, would process and separate mixed rare earth chloride.

The company said it was in “advanced discussions” with potential partners, but it would not disclose names or comment on capacities, start-up date, or financial details.

The project would, if realised, be part of Great Western’s strategy to become a fully-integrated rare earths producer, CEO Jim Engdahl said.

“Great Western’s management remains confident about the long term pricing strength of the rare earths market,” Engdahl added.

In related news, EU, US and German officials have voiced concerns about tight supplies and high prices of rare earths.

Earlier this month, the EU Commission proposed a series of measures to protect EU member states against the volatility in commodity prices and to secure access of raw materials, including rare earths.

Also in February, a German chemical industry group said high prices and tight supplies of rare earths and other key metals and materials posed a threat to producers’ growth prospects.

Meanwhile, in the US, the Department of Energy (DOE) has warned that a broad range of advanced energy technology developments as well as conventional petroleum refining could be disrupted by a looming shortage of rare earths.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Great Western Minerals is described as a rare earths processor, with focus on specialty alloys used in the battery, magnet and aerospace industries. It holds a 70.2% stake in Rare Earth Extraction Co. Limited, the owner of a mine at Steenkampskraal.

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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