Alkane Resources in bid to supply aerospace industry

Alkane Resources has revealed it is in talks with major aerospace firms about supplying a crucial rare earth element used in jet engine manufacture.

The Australian miner gained mining approval for its Dubbo Zirconia Project in December last year, with a lease granted by the NSW Department of Industry, Resources and Energy for the mining of zirconium, niobium, tantalum, yttrium and other rare earth elements.

Of key interest to the aerospace field is the element hafnium, which Alkane Resources managing director Ian Chalmers said was the subject of meetings with Boeing, Airbus and Rolls Royce.

"Our metals are essential for modern air travel, in defence and passenger applications,” he said.

"Hafnium in particular is in very limited supply around the world but there are many applications for it.

"What we would supply is a very small but very important part of (aerospace companies') business.”

Alkane has sought funding and offtake agreements with the aircraft manufacturers in order to develop the $1 billion processing plant at the Toongi site.

Chalmers said hafnium was a “very strategic metal”, used to increase heat resistance in jet engines.

"For instance, adding 1 to 2 per cent of it to an alloy can raise the operating temperature from 1400 to 2000 degrees Celsius," he said.

"So for the same amount of the fuel they can get more energy and speed and burn that fuel more efficiently.

"It helps minimise emissions, and that in itself is a real driver for hafnium.”

Chalmers said the element also had uses in the security and defence industries, which companies would not talk about.