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Rare Earth Metals; New Production On Line

The date of: 2021-07-09
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Rare earth metals remain the flavour of the day amongst the battery and electric vehicle producers. 

Australian listed Vital Metals Ltd (ASX: VML) announced the commencement of rare earth production at their Nechalacho project in Canada. Ore is now being crushed, and the company remains on schedule for the first shipments. 

VML will stockpile beneficiated material for transport to the rare earth extraction plant in Saskatoon later in the year. 

The company is Canada’s first rare earth producer and only the second in North America. 

Geoff Atkins, Vital Metals’ Managing Director, told “Mining activities are over 30% complete. We will continue to ramp up crushing and ore sorting, with full production rates expected to be achieved in July. We look forward to keeping the market updated throughout the ramp-up process in what is a very significant milestone for the Company and North America.”

Our recent interview with Smartkarma’s Mio Kato identified the weak link in the decarbonisation supply chain as rare earth metals. As an example, recycled lithium costing three to six times that of newly new sourced metal. Without cost efficient recycled lithium, making the switch to EVs will be challenging on a cost and supply basis. Currently, EVs are a luxury product with or without government subsidies. 

The price of lithium is up by approximately 100 per cent this year and is forecast to continue its run. Cobalt, another critical metal, is up 56% in 2021. 

Approximately 60 per cent of cobalt production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and a third of that is controlled by the Chinese. Congo Dongfang International Mining, a subsidiary of Zhejiang Huayou, is the main conduit of Chinese investment in the DRC. China is the world’s largest producer of lithium-ion batteries and is highly aware of the supply constraints the escalating demand for electric vehicles will stimulate.

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