As consumers continue its mad obsession for the latest technological innovations, geek inventors will likewise continue to demand having in their possession a number of rare earth metals ( REM ).
REM can be found in many devices that people use every day, including computer memory, DVD's, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, car catalytic converters, magnets and fluorescent lighting, among others. And with the world's second-economy controlling the global production and supply of the world's REM, miners are forced to remain on the lookout for REM sites outside China.
George Bauk, managing director of Northern Minerals, said a number of resource companies have been closely monitoring the shire of Halls Creek in outback Western Australia after it was discovered the area abounds in REM.
Northern Minerals's early exploration in the area gave a discovery of high grades of the rare earths yttrium and dysprosium. Yttrium is used in lasers, microwave filters and fluorescent lights, while dysprosium is for rare earth magnets commonly found in hybrid cars and mobile phones.
"Globally, the supply of dysprosium is forecast to be short, and that's because at the moment there's only one real source and that's inside China," Bauk told ABC News.
China holds more than 30 per cent of total world reserves. Nearly all the world's processing facilities are found in China. However, the Asian country had said the lifespan of its REM only has a 12 year life left, according to Bauk.
The Halls Creek show "enormous potential" as an alternative source, Bauk said.
"We're very excited about the fact that over 50 per cent of the value of our Browns Range project is dysprosium, so it's a great future and outlook for us.. At the same time, Halls Creek gives world the opportunity to look for sources of dysprosium and yttrium outside of China," he said.
Geologists from the U.S. Geological Survey had earlier said global demand for REM will exceed the available world supply until at least 2015.
Bauk said Northern Minerals expects to start mining its Browns Range project by 2015.
Dysprosium currently sells at $2,000 a kilogram while yttrium, at $140 a kilogram.
Other companies with identified sources of rare earths in the Halls Creek region include Kimberley Rare Earths and Hastings Rare Metals Limited.
Global demand for REM has increased by more than 50 per cent in the last decade, and is forecast to keep rising. Still, "geological scarcity in absolute terms is unlikely to be a concern," according to a briefing note published by the Geological Society of London.
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