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Intex offers rare earth elements

Norway’s Intex Resources ASA, which operates a nickel mine on Mindoro island, said Tuesday it can produce rare earth elements to the country for free. Intex Resources issued the statement on the heels of reports the Philippines was dead set on exploring REEs to take advantage of China’s move to cut on production for the global market. REEs are a group of elements that are used in a wide range of products, including hard drives, IPods, wind turbines, hybrid cars, fiber optics and energy efficient fluorescent bulbs. Their properties, notably as lightweight magnets, make them key to miniaturization of electronics and the growth of green technologies. China recognized the importance of the elements decades ago and used to supply 97 percent of REEs globally. Producing rare earth elements became a serious consideration for many countries last year when China decided to cap exports, reportedly as part of a crackdown on illegal mining of rare earth oxides and to secure greater control over pricing, thus leading to a surge in prices over the past two years, according to observers. Further limits on Chinese exports of rare earth elements also threaten to raise costs for companies in an array of industries, including cell phone makers, oil refiners and high-technology batteries. 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 Mines and Geosciences Bureau. Beijing’s move came amid a dispute between the Philippines and China over the Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. Manila and Beijing were set to sign a deal to jointly explore for rare earth elements. The Philippines is 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 the Aquino government had earmarked P20 million for REEs’ development. The amount covers the entire reconnaissance phase for the two-year preliminary survey. It said that once the three stages of exploration went well, the program might take five years. Intex chief executive Jon Steen Petersen says REEs and Scandium could be produced by the Mindoro nickel mine 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.
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