|Tungsten rods with evaporated crystals. Photo: Alchemist-hp|
Australia and the US' respective geoscience agencies have inked a formal agreement on critical minerals supply in an effort to weaken China's stranglehold on rare earths essential for modern technologies.
The supply of critical minerals has been creeping up the priority list of both the US and Australian governments in recent years as they grow wary of China's control over most parts of their supply chains.
Rare earth elements are a series of metals used in modern electronics and defence equipment but much of their mining and processing occurs in China, which has in the past choked supply during periods of geopolitical tension.
On Tuesday, Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan announced an agreement had been signed between Geoscience Australia and the United States Geological Survey, which will now assess each country’s resource potential and develop new supply.
"Growing global demand for critical minerals means there is huge scope for Australia to develop secure and stable supply chains to meet the growing demand for critical minerals in key economies such as the US," he said.
“The US has a need for critical minerals and Australia’s abundant supplies makes us a reliable and secure international supplier of a wide range of those, including rare earth elements."
The agreement follows on from an informal agreement between the agencies signed 12 months ago and will feed into the federal government's critical minerals strategy released earlier this year.
West Australian rare earth miners such as Northern Minerals and Lynas Corporation, which runs the biggest rare earths mine outside of China, joined government delegations to the US to discuss critical mineral supply.
Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA chief executive Paul Everingham said the agreement could underpin the next wave of WA’s resources sector development.
“This partnership has the potential to lead to the development of new rare earths mines in Western Australia and further trade between the two countries,” he said.
“It recognises that Australia, the US, and much of the western world, does not have reliable supplies of the key minerals used in the technologies that are likely to shape our world over the coming decades."
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Warren Pearce said the agreement would unlock greater geological knowledge of the two countries.
The above story is based on materials provided by USGS.