With China cracking down on the export of rare earth minerals (REEs) most countries have been scrambling to find alternative suppliers.
Now South Korea’s state run miner KORES has signed a definitive agreement with Frontier Rare Earths Ltd in Johannesburg to ensure a steady supply of rare earths.
Frontier Rare Earths Ltd is the Toronto based miner which owns the Zandkopsdrift rare earth element mine in South Africa. The rare earth mine is located in the Namaqualand region in the west of the country. It is estimated to have 39 million tons of rare earth metals.
KORES is to buy a 10% share in the Zandkopsdrift mine for 25 million dollars. This will ensure that they have a supply of 2,000 tons of rare earth metals annually. This is 60% of the yearly domestic demand in South Korea. The total demand is for 3,300 tons of rare earths annually.
There is a fresh negotiation on between the two companies to increase the stake of KORES to 30%. This would increase the acquisition fund to 60 million dollars. The investment is to be made by a consortium of five Korean companies which include Hyundai Motor, Samsung C&T Corp., GS Caltex Corp., Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Aju Corp.
Rare earth prices have increased 12 fold since last year when China decided to crack down on illegal mining of rare earths. The severe exploitation of the rare earth metals was leading to serious ecological damage besides affecting official mining revenue. The director in charge of rare earth at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Jia Yinsong said that the crackdown on illegal producers has helped improve environmental protection and impose order on the rare earth sector.