by CASSANDRA KYLE – CANWEST NEWS SERVICE – Published: Sep 12, 2009
Great Western Minerals Group Ltd. will be the first company outside of China to produce heavy rare earth minerals, a metals market consultant and analyst predicted at the company’s annual meeting this week.
What’s more, said Jack Lifton, GWMG will be selling those heavy rare earths to China by 2015.The country, which dominates the market, is set to consume all the rare earths it produces by around 2012 or 2013, opening the door for export opportunities to the world’s most populous nation.
“The fact is, there’s so little produced and it’s so desirable that I can tell you without reservation that the minute they start producing(rare earths), Chinese buyers will be there bidding on it,” Lifton said about GWMG.
“This is in a sense comical, everybody is worried about, ‘The Chinese are going to cut us off,’ but the Chinese are worried about their supply being inadequate.”
Lifton, who does not work for GWMG but follows the company closely, says the company’s interest in Rare Earth Extraction Co. Ltd.’s (Rareco) Steenkampskraal mine in South Africa is one of the reasons it is so valuable. GWMG has the right to acquire exclusive access to 100 per cent of the rare earth elements mined at the site, one of which is expected to come into production within about 24 months.
Rare earths are used in a variety of day-to-day applications such as television and computer screens. They’re also key components of new magnet technology and hybrid car batteries.
“Rare earths are not going to be substituted because rare earths are the substitute,” Lifton said of the growing green market in which rare earths are beginning to play a more dominant role.
“The periodic table, folks, is now closed. No more entrance. We’re stuck with what we’ve got.”
Rare earths are so important to the future of green vehicles that Toyota Tsusho Corp – the Toyota Group’s sole trading company – has signed a letter of intent with GWMG to cooperate on two of the company’s most promising heavy rare earth element exploration properties: Douglas River in Saskatchewan and Benjamin River in New Brunswick.
TTC representatives are visiting Saskatoon next week to meet with GWMG executives and tour the properties in question, said the company’s president and CEO, Jim Engdahl. Hopes are high the two parties will extend their relationship, he said.
“It will be our intention to complete a joint venture with them to develop these properties,” Engdahl said. “They’re junior properties, but they’re very promising in the heavy rare earths sector.”
Despite the attention some of the company’s properties have been receiving of late, GWMG still looks at its Hoidas Lake property in northern Saskatchewan as its flagship project in the province. Engdahl said metallurgical testing on samples from the property are underway and as soon as issues surrounding the elemental makeup of the site are resolved, production could start in three to four years after all the testing is complete.
Although GWMG is making headlines in recent weeks, the past year was difficult for the company as it struggled, like so many others, in conditions imposed by the global economic slowdown.
“It was an exceptionally tough year because of the financial situation, but we’re getting money poked at us from all over North America, if not the world, right now from investment bankers, hedge funds wanting to invest in us now,” Engdahl said. “So it’s substantially changed our view of the world in the last few months.”
Copyright © 2009 The Calgary Herald