Published on Thursday August 04 2011 (AEST)
A mine that will tap into the richest known deposit of rare earths in the world has been officially opened in Western Australia's Goldfields region by Premier Colin Barnett.
The Mt Weld mine, about 35km south of Laverton, is a $100 million Lynas Corporation project developed over the past 10 years.
The ore will be concentrated at Mount Weld before export to Lynas' advanced materials processing plant in Kuantan, Malaysia, and then sold globally.
Mr Barnett opened the mine on Thursday, saying it was the first significant rare earth mine opened outside of China for many years and added important new capacity to WA's already diverse resources sector.
"As well as directly employing up to 90 people at its full capacity, the mine is expected to contribute at least $17 million in annual royalty payments to the state," he said in a statement.
Rare earths is the term used for 15 metallic elements found within a "cocktail" of elements that need to be separated for commercial use.
They are used in advanced materials, batteries and electronic devices such as computers, high definition televisions, mobile phones and audio devices.
They are also used in advanced electricity generation and control technologies, including hybrid car technologies.
China currently supplies about 95 per cent of the global rare earths market, but limits its supply to the rest of the world.
Based on estimates, Lynas could be supplying about eight per cent of the world market in 2012 and about 14 per cent in 2013.