Rare Earths: Western governments still don’t get it, Altona CEO says

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Tuesday, 10 May 2022 06:00

Samples of rare earth minerals REUTERS/David Becker

Western governments including those in the US and the UK still haven’t grasped the importance of finding non-Chinese sources of rare earths, Altona Rare Earths CEO Christian Taylor-Wilkinson tells The Africa Report.

China dominates the global supply of rare earths, a group of 17 metals needed for electric vehicles, solar panels and wind power turbines. Altona, which aims to complete a listing on the London stock exchange by the end of May, has a rare earths exploration project in Tete province in northwest Mozambique.

Taylor-Wilkinson is meeting with the UK Department of international trade this week to discuss rare earths supply chains. He points to a need for government action on the global lack of rare-earths processing capability outside China. “A whole step change is needed,” he says. “The entire chain needs to be looked at.” Lack of rare earths supply could mean a British prime minister having to tell the public that emissions reduction targets can’t be reached, he adds. “All these promises can’t be hit unless governments act.”

In the US, proposed legislation aims to bar defence contractors from purchasing rare earths from China by 2026, with the Pentagon creating a permanent stockpile of rare-earth elements. So far, the US government has been stockpiling the wrong rare earths such as cerium, which is used in glass, Taylor-Wilkinson says.

  • Cerium, which is the most abundant rare earth, will “polish the windows but not build the car.”
  • There is still a need for governments to provide education on the importance of rare earths, he says. “People still don’t know what they are. If you want to buy an electric car, it won’t get built without rare earths. Manufacturers need to have a reliable source for the next 40 years.”

London listing

Altona shares currently trade on the  European Aquis exchange for small companies. Many investors and brokers won’t consider the stock as a result, which has left liquidity lagging newsflow, Taylor-Wilkinson says. He hopes that a main market listing will lead to a revaluation of the shares.

Phase 1 assay results from the Monte Muambe project in Mozambique at the start of May showed “significant” levels of rare-earth elements. The tests showed levels of Neodymium-Praseodymium (NdPr) oxides two to three times higher than those at other viable rare earths projects, Taylor-Wilkinson says. He expects a resource estimate to be ready by April 2023.

  • Altona is currently seeking to raise 2m-3m pounds as part of its London listing. This would be used for Monte Muambe and further exploration projects.
  • About 1.7m pounds of the money is needed to complete the listing, Taylor-Wilkinson says.
  • In March, the CEO said that the company is targeting exploration in countries including Angola and Uganda, as well as an acquisition in an undisclosed location. He hopes to have added “one or two” more projects by the end of the third quarter.
  • The company is “in conversation with lots of people,” he says. “We want to have three or four projects on the go. We’ve made it clear we are not just going to sit on Monte Muambe.”

Bottom Line

Rare earth supplies from outside China are likely to command a premium over the coming decades.

 

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