Australia has been pushing ahead with its goal of becoming a leading supplier of critical minerals with moves such as the recent establishment of the Critical Minerals Facilitation Office.

It has now taken another step toward its goal with the award of “Major Project Status” to Lynas Corporation’s (ASX:LYC) Mt Weld rare earths processing facility near Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

This provides the project with extra support from the Major Projects Facilitation Agency, including a single entry point for Commonwealth government approvals, project support and coordination as well as help with state and territory approvals.

The new cracking and leaching plant, which is due to be fully operational by mid-2023, will upgrade rare earths concentrate from the Mt Weld project that is currently exported to Lynas’ processing facility in Malaysia.

Mt Weld is one of the largest producers of rare earths globally with the concentrator processing 240,000 tonnes per annum of ore to produce up to 66,000 tonnes per annum of concentrate containing 26,500 tonnes of rare earths oxides.

Critical minerals are essential for high-tech, aerospace, defence, renewable energy, agricultural, automotive and telecommunications technologies.

They include rare earths such as dysprosium and terbium, which are used in the development of clean energy technologies, and minerals such as antimony and manganese.

“Modern technology runs on rare earths and other critical minerals and there is “for these resources,” Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said.

“With Australia’s rich deposits and unmatched mining expertise, we are well placed to play a dominant role in global rare earth trade.”

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said the grant of Major Project Status to Mt Weld was a recognition of how important the rare earths sector was and how crucial it was to increase Australia’s capability and capacity.

Australia and the US are poised to develop a detailed plan to support joint action when senior officials meet in Washington in late February.

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