Australia’s rich minerals inventory has been a scene of successful speculation ever since the beginnings of the country’s first stock exchanges, which sprang up on the goldfields of Ballarat, Bendigo, Charters Towers and Kalgoorlie. Resources “specs” have made – and lost – a lot of money for investors in the past.
Australia mines, or hosts deposits of, just about everything mineable. In recent years, a range of less-traditional metals have been added to the country’s production, as modern usages have been opened up for the likes of lithium and graphite, on the back of their application in batteries used in electric cars and utility storage. But coming along behind them are a range of metals from the more obscure areas of Australia’s periodic table: the new-age metals, such as praseodymium and neodymium, which are used to make high-strength magnets and other products essential for a range of technologies.
The poster stock for this resurgence has been Lynas Corporation, which has brought its rare earths deposit at Mt Weld in Western Australia into production. (“Rare earths” is the term for a group of 17 metallic elements, which share many common properties.) Mt Weld is one of the largest rare earths deposits in the world, and the highest-grade rare earths mine. After a near-death experience in 2015, Lynas has almost broken through to profitability, and should mark that milestone this year.