REPORT: Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton Closer to Developing the Largest Copper Mine in U.S.
Lawmakers in Arizona have revived a bill that would allow Rio Tinto (LSE:RIO) and BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) to jointly build a massive copper mine (the biggest in the United States) in southeast Arizona.
The controversial bill – H.R. 687 Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013 -would authorize a subsidiary of Rio Tinto to acquire 2,400 acres of the federally protected Tonto National Forest in southeast Arizona in exchange for 5,000 acres in parcels scattered around the state.
Lawmakers added the land-swap bill late Tuesday night into the 1,600-page National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense appropriation legislation that must be passed each year.
The Resolution Copper project, which is a 55 percent owned by Rio Tinto and 45 percent owned by BHP, could start as early as 2020 if everything goes according to plan. However, legal hurdles and opposition could derail the massive project.
The massive underground copper mine has been fiercely opposed by southwestern nations like the San Carlos Apache Tribe and Sierra Club in the past, who fear the mine would devastate the water and land on Oak Flats – part of the Apaches’ ancestral territory.
“This land swap has faced a long and bumpy road in Congress,” Caitlin Webber, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst said.
“Finally being tucked into this must-pass bill is the closest it’s been to enactment,” she added.
If the Resolution Copper project does come to fruition, it is expected to create 3,700 direct and indirect jobs and bring more than $6 billion in economic benefits to the state over its 66-year life span.
Lynas revenue jumps 21% as rare earth prices jump
Australian miner Lynas Rare Earths posted a 20.6% rise in revenue in the March quarter as selling prices for the key metals it mines hit record highs amid strong demand, particularly for neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr).
NdPr is used in magnets for electric vehicles and windfarms, in consumer goods like smartphones, and in military equipment such as jet engines and missile guidance systems.
The company said it plans to maintain production at 75% however, as it seeks to continue to meet covid-19 safety protocols and grapples with shipping difficulties. Shares in Lynas fell 6.1% after the results.
“They have faced a few logistics issues, and it would be good to know when they are going to start lifting their utilisation rates a bit,” said portfolio manager Andy Forster of Argo Investments in Sydney.
“Pricing has been pretty strong although it may have peeled back a bit recently. I still think the medium, long-term outlook is pretty good for their suite of products.”
Lynas post ed revenue of A$110mn ($85.37mn) for the three months to the end of March, up from A$91.2mn a year earlier as prices soared.
It said its full product range garnered average selling prices of A$35.5/kg during the March quarter, up from $23.7 in the first half of the financial year. “While the persistence of the covid crisis, especially in Europe, calls for careful forecasts for our business ahead, we see the rare earth market recovering very quickly,” said Lynas, the world’s largest rare earths producer outside China.
Freight demand has spiked during the pandemic, while the blockage of the Suez Canal in March delayed a shipment to April.
Lynas’ output of 4,463 tonnes of rare earth oxide (REO) during the quarter was marginally lower than 4,465 tonnes from a year earlier.