The London REE Report: The Wizard of Oz


"Australia offers to be a reliable future supplier of REEs to Japan."

In a positive development yesterday, Reuters reported on Australia offering to become a reliable future supplier of rare earth elements (REEs) to Japan. Following is how The Wall Street Journal covered the development:

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd vowed Tuesday to clear the way for the long-term supply of the country's REEs to Japan amid supply worries surrounding China, the world's biggest producer of the metals.

"Australia stands ready to be a long-term, secure, reliable supplier of rare earths to the Japanese economy," Rudd told reporters following meetings with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara in Canberra.

China produces some 97% of the world's supply of REEs, used in an increasing range of electronic gadgets, electric cars, wind turbines and military equipment. It has priced out producers in other nations, including the U.S. and Australia, in the past two decades.

But Chinese officials are signaling greater efforts to tie the export of rare earth metals to tougher environmental standards. That move is forcing Japan, the world's largest user of the metals outside of China, to scramble for alternative supplies.

Last year, Canberra blocked plans by China Non-Ferrous Metal Mining (Group) Co. to invest AUD$252 million (US$249M) in Lynas Corp., an Australian miner of rare earth metals.

"The Australian government understands the strategic significance of rare earths globally," Rudd said. "We recognize that within our country we possess a range of these rare earths."

Maehara told reporters Japan is "extremely grateful" to Australia, a stable supplier of a range of resources. "We're very pleased that Australia is able to give us a long-term commitment in relation to rare earths," he said.

The question of Australia's foreign-investment plan wasn't raised in Tuesday's talks, Rudd said, amid signals Japanese companies could look to invest in Australian rare earths mines.

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