The Queensland government are investigating how to unlock $4 billion worth of mineral resources in the state’s North West minerals province.
Speaking at the annual ‘Digging Deeper’ seminar, Andrew Cripps, minister for natural resources and mines today said there is significant potential for developing commercially-viable deposits of rare earth elements.
“Rare earth elements in the North West are commonly found in conjunction with copper, gold and uranium mineralisation,” Cripps said.
Unlocking these resources would prove to be an extremely lucrative project for the Queensland government.
“Based on current world prices, the value of this resource is approximately $4 billion, with a potential royalty value for the State of more than $100 million,” he said.
Cripps added that there is a growing market for rare earth elements which are used in a growing number of new technologies.
“Rare earth elements are used in many new technologies, including magnets in electric cars, rechargeable batteries, phosphors in flat screen televisions, and as an additive in glass to improve the refractive index in cameras and solar panels.
“The exploration sector is showing great interest in rare earth elements in the region as technologies are now being developed to separate rare earths more efficiently from a range of mineralisation types.”
One potential hot spot for development is the former Mary Kathleen uranium mine which was closed in 1982 after the uranium resource was exhausted.
“There is approximately 7 million tonnes of ore tailings which is stored on the Mary Kathleen site in a purpose-built tailings dam structure.
“These tailings are estimated to contain approximately 3 per cent total rare earth oxides which makes it one of the largest rare earth deposits in Australia,” Cripps said.
The Geological Survey of Queensland is currently assessing development options at the Mary Kathleen site which is currently under a restricted area (RA 232) for potential future development and is also managed by the government under the Abandoned Mine Lands Program.
“That means exploration and production tenures over the tailings dam area at Mary Kathleen are prohibited while the restricted area is in place.
“My department is considering a number of site safety and environmental issues as part of its assessment of the economic potential of future development of the rare earths resource at Mary Kathleen.
“These issues need to be resolved prior to any future decision to release land from RA 232, and this work will be completed over the next 6 months,” Cripps concluded.
Last week Australian Mining reported rare earth miner Lynas Corporation took delivery of approximately 100 containers of rare earths concentrate at its new Malaysian plant, despite ongoing legal battles and protests.
Earlier this year the Western Australian Government announced they would impose a 2.5 per cent royalty on rare earths production as part of an amendment to its mining regulations, a change that would make Lynas liable for around $17 million in royalties a year.