FREE RARE EARTH ELEMENTS It may be entangled in a legal dispute with businessman Roberto Ongpin, but Norwegian-based Intex Resources ASA is trying to take the initiative by winning plus points with the public. The company, which operates Mindoro Nickel Mining, says that it can produce much-coveted rare earth elements (REEs) for the country for—get this—free. The announcement came on the heels of reports that the Philippines was dead-set on exploring REEs to take advantage of China’s move to cut REE production for the global market. REEs are a group of elements used in a wide range of everyday products including hard drives, Ipods, wind turbines, hybrid cars, fiber optics and energy- efficient fluorescent bulbs, among others. Their properties, notably as lightweight magnets, make them key to the miniaturization of electronics and the growth of green technologies. Last year, the country’s plan to produce REEs was stalled after Beijing reneged on earlier commitments to help Manila despite several “reminders” by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). This followed a dispute between Manila and Beijing over the Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines is conducting its own exploration surveys in Nueva Vizcaya and Palawan, where rare earth deposits were found to be close to copper-gold mines. The MGB said the Aquino government has earmarked P20 million for the development of REEs. Intex chief Jon Steen Petersen says that REEs like the element scandium can be produced by Mindoro Nickel without additional mining costs, as a byproduct that can provide 100 tons of scandium a year and similar amounts of other REEs. This may open up new opportunities as the supply of scandium today is constrained by its prohibitive price of $150 a gram. As the mining and transport costs are already paid by other metals, scandium and REEs come as a bonus, in addition to the fertilizer and other premiums that Mindoro Nickel already is offering. This makes economic sense and can also put the Philippines on the map as a major producer of scandium and REEs. Interesting proposition. Now, will the government take the offer? That’s the million-dollar question.
Intex Resources Philippines Inc. 2014