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Rare earth elements.

Heavy rare earth producers are enjoying significant price gains brought about by global trade tensions between the United States and China.

This has increased the commercial viability of the Northern Minerals’ Browns Range project in Western Australia, which is heavily influenced by dysprosium and terbium prices.

During 2020, the dysprosium price increased by 22 per cent from the start of the calendar year, according to data from Asian Metal.

On January 2, Asian Metal reported a dysprosium price of $US244 ($328.97) per kilogram which had risen to $US297 per kilogram by December 4.

The terbium price is also at its highest levels since 2012, representing a massive 93 per cent increase during 2020.

On December 4, terbium was trading at a daily mid-range price of $US958 per kilogram, significantly higher than its starting price of $US497 on January 2.

“The accelerated price increases in 2020 are likely linked to increasing trade tensions between the United States and China, which remains the dominant producer globally of heavy rare earths,” Northern Minerals chief executive officer Mark Tory explained.

“In addition to global trade volatility, the disruption caused by COVID-19 will potentially act as a catalyst around the world for countries to focus on investment in more sustainable infrastructure projects, including renewable energy capacity, as part of their economic recovery initiatives.

“We are also seeing an acceleration of government policy settings around the world to further incentivise the purchase of electric and hybrid drivetrain vehicles, while at the same time, disincentivise the purchase of new diesel and petrol-engine vehicles.”

One of these incentives was the Western Australian Government announcing the state’s first ever electric vehicle strategy, a move welcomed by Northern Minerals.

The $21 million electric vehicle fund included a commitment to building one of the largest electric vehicle charging networks in the world from Perth to Kununurra.