Iluka steps up rare earths diversification plans

Credit: David Broadway Photography/Iluka Resources

Iluka Resources has been endorsed by the Australian Government to commence a feasibility study into a rare earths refinery at the Eneabba operation in Western Australia.

In a letter from the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan, and the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt, emphasis was put on the study’s alignment with the government’s critical minerals strategy.

“We welcome Iluka’s revised proposal to develop an integrated rare earth oxide production facility in Eneabba,” the letter stated.

“We look forward to the outcome of Iluka’s feasibility study and the independent due diligence process.

“The Morrison Government is focused on growing Australia’s critical minerals sector capturing more value from our resources by moving into downstream processing and diversifying global supply chains.”

Earlier this May, the government underlined its intent to diversify supply chains with a $20 million investment in a Global Resources Strategy.

The strategy will look to build on the reliable and resourceful reputation Australia has developed in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the letter, Iluka’s managing director Tom O’Leary said the plans for development were tempting but weren’t a sure thing.

“The Eneabba refinery represents an exciting opportunity for the company, consistent with our longstanding plans to diversify into rare earths,” O’Leary said.

“It is not an opportunity without risk, nor one we will pursue at any cost, particularly given the projected returns from our phase two monazite business.”

Iluka has continued discussions with Export Finance Australia (EFA) to organise substantial financial support for the refinery project, and the EFA and Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (CMFO) have acknowledged the positive alignment of the project with government priorities.

The letter was forthright in its support of Iluka seeking further financial support.

“The government will continue to work with proponents of critical minerals and rare earths projects, including those that could supply concentrates to the Eneabba refinery, to consider options for support,” the letter stated.

“We encourage you to continue engaging with EFA and the CMFO to progress your project.

O’Leary was pleased to receive such genuine support from the government on the refinery project.

“I have been impressed with the quality of engagement Iluka is receiving on these matters and the letter from Ministers Pitt and Tehan is a further, important and confidence building step in this regard,” O’Leary said.

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