Iluka managing director Tom O’Leary spoke about the company’s rare earths dreams for Australia at its Annual General Meeting.
“Right now, countries are racing to win their share of the green economy; and Iluka is determined to be a flag-bearer for the possibilities that these economic and geopolitical shifts present to Australia,” O’Leary said.
“Rare earths are among the essential building blocks of an electrified, lower carbon economy. We cannot decarbonise without them, which is why a secure, sustainable supply chain is a global priority. Given the rapid pace at which demand is set to increase over the coming decades, the supply of magnet rare earths is also only set to grow in importance.”
China is responsible for the production of roughly 80 to 90 per cent of the world’s magnet rare earths, a fact which some nations, such as the US and Australia, consider a crisis of national sovereignty.
“We should remember that the world’s path to net zero cannot be traversed successfully without China arriving at the same destination,” O’Leary said.
“But Australia has its own ambitions for carbon reduction and industrial advancement. We should not be wholly dependent on others to achieve them, nor should those ambitions be constrained by geopolitical tensions or a lack of national commitment.”
“The Australian Government has been a leader – partnering with Iluka to build one of few rare earth oxide refineries globally, here in Western Australia. Commissioning of the Eneabba refinery is scheduled for 2025,” O’Leary said.
“Insofar as rare earths are concerned, our ambition should not be limited to being the quarry of others; refining, metallising and eventually magnetising these key products for ourselves and our international partners that need them is a rational and, with appropriate policy settings and commitment, an achievable ambition.”