USGS signs critical minerals research agreement with Australia

November 20, 2019

GeoScience Australia and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have signed an agreement to jointly develop a better understanding of the critical minerals reserves for both countries.

The agreement will look at better quantifying the global supply potential of critical minerals such as rare earths, Australia’s Resources Minister said in a statement.

Reuters reported that U.S. and European governments are trying to broaden the supply chain of critical minerals including rare earths, which China dominates. But developers say the governments are too slow to make funds available.

“The U.S. 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,” Australia’s Minister for Resources Matt Canavan said.

The announcement builds on an initial agreement signed a year ago. Australian rare earths developer Northern Minerals will be part of the country’s delegation to Washington, it said in a stock exchange filing.

The research agreement will focus on mapping potential critical mineral resources and prioritize developing big data to understand supply-and-demand scenarios for developing the critical minerals pipeline, the statement said.

The announcement did not mention funding for specific mining projects.

There are expectations that the United States may finance some critical mineral projects after President Donald Trump in July authorized U.S. Department of Defense funding to be directed to resources or technology “essential to the national defense” to shore up domestic supplies.

Australia’s Lynas, the world’s biggest rare earths producer outside of China, signed a preliminary deal in May to build a heavy rare earths processing plant in Texas.

No final decision has been made on that plant and Lynas has also signed an initial deal to help build up a downstream industry near its existing facility in Malaysia.


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