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Asean Affairs    3  October  2011

Philippines looks at rare earth production

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     3  October 2011

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Another Asean country, the Philippines, is taking a look at developing the rare earth business.
The first country to take that step was Malaysia. Malaysia is moving ahead cautiously with the Lynas rare earth plant in Pahang. This plant will process rare earth using raw ore shipped to Malaysia from Australia. The Malaysians are being cautious because an earlier rare earth plant operated by Japanese industrial giant, Mitsubishi, turned into a disaster due to radiation leakage.

The payoff for Malaysia or any country entering the rare earth field is substantial. Income generated by the Lynas plant is expected to be 1 percent of Malaysia’s current gross domestic product.

The Philippines is looking at rare earths spurred on by China’s decision to cap its export of rare earths. At present, China produces 97 percent of the world’s REE, giving it a stranglehold over a range of raw materials used in electronic equipment such as mobile phones and motor vehicles. These rare ores are also used in the aviation sector.

Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said the government is pushing for the revival of Philippines-Australia bilateral agreement for the creation of an aeromagnetic survey to identify feasible mining areas.

Paje said that they hope to secure technology and funding from Australia for a planned US$5 million aeromagnetic survey of the Philippines’ mineral reserves, particularly in Luzon and Mindanao.

“We have already found potential areas to explore and these areas are also close to copper-gold mines. Notably we can say Palawan and Mindanao are the best places to start,” Jasareno said.

If the Philippines discovers rare earths and proceeds with a refinery for them it is likely to encounter protests, as there are a number of mining operations that have damaged the Philippines landscape and harmed the health of its citizens.

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