US Congress tries to stop reliance on China for rare earths
The measures introduced in the bill would offer tax incentives to American companies engaged in mining, reclaiming and recycling rare earths - critical minerals and metals - from deposits at domestic sites. The bill was drawn up by the Republican Lance Gooden and Democrat Vicente Gonzalez, both of whom represent the state of Texas.
The new bill is Congress’s latest move to place a more local emphasis on industrial supply chains, rather than import materials from China and other competing economies. Rare earths are an important part of the national defence effort, and are vital components in a range of other priority industries, from electric vehicles to renewable energy. There has been concern in the United States that China may begin to limit the volume of rare earths that it exports to America, in light of the simmering trade war between the two nations.
In a telephone interview with Bloomberg, Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth, which is currently developing the Round Top Mountain deposit in Texas, commented: “The tax incentive seeks to level the playing field with regard to the subsidies China provides from mine to magnet. It would significantly improve the bottom line of any domestic rare earth project.”
In another interview with Bloomberg, Jim Litinsky, the CEO of MP Materials - currently the only American mining company involved in the exploration of rare minerals - said that the new bill “lowers the cost of capital, which is the goal because China has lowered the cost of capital for their sector, and our sector needs to be able to compete. It’s probably the one thing I’ve seen everyone get behind”.
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.