MELBOURNE • Australia is advancing separate talks with the United States, Japan and South Korea over the development of local rare-earth mining projects in an effort to bolster production outside China, which dominates the output of the materials.
Rare earths, a group of 17 elements needed in components for missile systems and consumer electronics, had been flagged as a potential weapon in the US-China trade war, focusing attention on work to develop new sources of supply.
"There is a good case for worldwide cooperation here to diversify the supply of these minerals," Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan said yesterday in an interview with Sky News television. "The concentration of all these markets could cause a risk to the security and affordability of the supply of these critical minerals."
Australian officials have held new talks with their US counterparts and are considering how best to help projects win access to financing and to secure long-term supply deals, he said.
Similar discussions were held last month in Japan and South Korea, Mr Canavan added.
US President Donald Trump in July ordered the Defence Department to spur production of a range of rare-earth magnets used in military hardware amid concerns that China could restrict exports of the products.
US Geological Survey scientists have also visited projects in Australia in the past year, including Northern Minerals' Browns Range development.
Lynas, the largest supplier of rare earths outside China, said in August it had held talks with the US Defence Department and the Defence Logistics Agency. The company, with a mine in Australia and processing plant in Malaysia, is considering plans for a facility in Texas.