Northern Minerals Limited, a heavy rare earths (HREs) producer based in West Perth, Australia, has entered into an offtake agreement with thyssenkrupp Materials Trading GmbH, Essen, Germany. The new agreement is for 100% of offtake from the Browns Range Pilot Plant Project, located in northern Western Australia, and replaces the company’s previous agreement with China’s Liangyugang Zeyu New Materials Sales Co. Ltd, terminated earlier this month.
The agreement includes flexibility for the company to supply HREs as separated products in future, as well as covering the intention of the two companies to work together on the implementation of separating technologies at Browns Range and on potential future expansions of the project. The agreement commences immediately, with all current stockpiled product included, as well as future product.
Rare earths are an important resource as a number of industries – in particular the automotive industry – seek to produce products which are smaller, lighter and more efficient, and are a key component in the manufacture of clean energy and high end technology solutions. Currently, China controls 90% of the global rare earths market, due to the high concentration of rare earth deposits within its borders, but has in the past restricted the supply of rare earths for strategic and political reasons.
In addition, the prices of Chinese rare earths are currently rising due to the stricter enforcement of its mining laws and a global surge in the demand for hybrid and electric vehicles. With its exploration of rare earth deposits located at Browns Range, Northern Minerals believes that it has the potential to become the first significant producer of the rare earth element dysprosium outside of China. Dysprosium’s primary use is in alloys for neodymium-based magnets, which are used in motors and generators such as those in hybrid and electric vehicles and wind turbines.
Wolfgang Schnittker, CEO of thyssenkrupp Materials Trading, commented, “Northern Minerals Limited is one of the few suppliers of rare earths outside China, so we are really looking forward to a successful collaboration between the companies. As the exclusive marketer of these high-quality products we have the opportunity to strengthen our customer relationships long-term and expand our positioning in this field.”
George Bauk, Northern Minerals’ Managing Director and CEO, stated, “The new offtake agreement with a global player such as thyssenkrupp is a significant endorsement of Browns Range and the company. The continued shift of new car sales to electric vehicles is gaining traction, with all major car makers introducing EV variants of existing models over the coming years. With this shift, both car and component makers are accelerating plans to invest further down the production chain in order to secure surety of supply.”