MANILA, Philippines – Norwegian-based Intex Resources ASA which operates Mindoro Nickel Mining says that it can produce rare earth elements (REEs) to the country for free.
The announcement came on the heels of reports that the Philippines is dead set on exploring for REEs to take advantage of China’s move to cut on REEs’ production to the global market.
REEs are a group of elements that are used in a wide range of products we use every day, including hard drives, IPods, wind turbines, hybrid cars, fiber optics and energy efficient fluorescent bulbs, among others. Their properties, notably as lightweight magnets, make them key to the on-going miniaturization of electronics and the growth of green technologies.
Last year, the country’s plan to produce REEs was stalled after Beijing reneged on earlier commitments to help Manila despite several “reminders” by the MGB. This came amid a dispute between Manila and Beijing over the Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. Before the dispute, Manila and Beijing were set to sign a deal to jointly explore for rare earth elements.
The Philippines is already conducting its own exploration surveys in Nueva Vizcaya and Palawan, where rare earth deposits were found to be close to copper-gold mines.
The MGB said that the Aquino government has earmarked P20 million for REEs’ development. The amount is for the entire reconnaissance phase for the two-year preliminary survey. It said that once the three stages of exploration go well, the program may take five years.
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Intex chief executive Jon Steen Petersen said REEs and Scandium can be produced by Mindoro Nickel without additional mining costs – as a by- product that could provide 100 tons of scandium per year and similar amount of REEs. This may open up the country for new opportunities as the supply of Scandium today is constrained by it prohibitive price of $150 per gram.
Petersen said: “Intex/Mindoro Nickel could produce 100 tons Scandium (and probably as much REEs) per year from the waste liquor and has already started test work in Canada with this in mind. As the mining and transport costs are already paid for by other metals Scandium and REEs come as a bonus, in addition to the fertilizer and the other premiums Mindoro Nickel already is offering. Not only does it make better economic sense but it will also put the Philippines on the map as a major producer of Scandium and REEs.”