Rare earth producer Lynas to prioritise US military supplies

NEW YORK • The world's largest rare earth producer outside China will prioritise the United States military's needs when it starts production at its upcoming plant in Texas, the firm's chief executive has said.

While rare earths' defence applications are limited compared to commercial uses, the military has been successful in creating "viable supply chains" across the industry, making it a high priority, Lynas Corp's Amanda Lacaze said in an interview in Chicago on Thursday.

Rare earths - a group of 17 vital elements used in missile systems, electric vehicles, computer screens and other technological devices - have been thrown into the limelight after China signalled that it may restrict shipments to the US.

Negotiations for supply to the US Department of Defence and Defence Logistics Agency gave Lynas the confidence to enter into a joint venture with Blue Line Corp to build the only separation plant for heavy rare earths outside China, Ms Lacaze said.

The US has stressed the urgency of ensuring its supply is not cut off, with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross promising on Tuesday "unprecedented action" to secure the nation's access to the raw material.

According to the US Geological Survey, the country relies on China for 80 per cent of its rare earth imports. China produced about 71 per cent of the world's output last year.

According to the US Geological Survey, the country relies on China for 80 per cent of its rare earth imports.

China produced about 71 per cent of the world's output last year.

Lynas' Texas plant will have the capacity to produce at least 1,088.6 tonnes of so-called SEG oxide, a group of heavy rare earth elements, Ms Lacaze said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2019, with the headline 'Rare earth producer Lynas to prioritise US military supplies'. Print Edition | Subscribe