Lynas touts its independence from China in push for rare earths growth

CHICAGO (Reuters) - With China threatening to curb exports of rare earth minerals, Lynas Corp is making an aggressive push for fresh business across the globe and billing itself as the best option for its customers to tap diversified supplies of the specialized materials.

FILE PHOTO: Samples of rare earth minerals from left: Cerium oxide, Bastnaesite, Neodymium oxide and Lanthanum carbonate at Molycorp's Mountain Pass Rare Earth facility in Mountain Pass, California June 29, 2015. REUTERS/David Becker/File Photo

While Australia-based Lynas cannot match China’s rare earths processing capability, it is hoping that its role as the largest rare earths miner and the largest processor outside of China will help it forge new relationships and fuel expansion projects.

China last month warned it may curb exports to the United States of rare earths, a group of 17 minerals used in a plethora of military equipment and high-tech consumer electronics.

“We are truly independent from China,” Lynas Chief Executive Amanda Lacaze told the Argus U.S. Specialty Metals conference in Chicago on Thursday. “We aim to remain a leader in the rare earths market. There will be significant growth outside China so long as customers are confident in supply.”

China is home to at least 85% of the world’s capacity to process rare earth ores into material that manufacturers can use, with Lynas having about 11%, according to research firm Adamas Intelligence.

Lynas last month signed a memorandum of understanding to build a rare earth processing facility in Texas with privately held Blue Line Corp.

Blue Line executives have declined to say how much the project will cost or forecast its processing capability, and it is not expected to open for several years.

Still, Lacaze described the project as a key for Lynas to fill a “gap” in the U.S. rare earths market.

“We know that being close to our customers helps us to innovate with them,” said Lacaze, a former telecom marketing executive who became the company’s CEO in 2014.

“We never want our customers to maintain a relationship with another supplier.”

Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Phil Berlowitz