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Brazil Vale discovers rare earths in Amazon
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Wednesday, 05 Oct 2011
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Brazilian miner Vale SA has discovered deposits of rare earth minerals at its giant Salobo copper mine project at Carajas in Para state, similar to quality at some Australian deposits.

Mr Roberto Cerrini Villas Boas researcher with Brazil's Minerals Technology Center which is linked to the country's Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry said that Vale, which was invited earlier this year by Mr Dilma Rousseff president of Brazil to explore the possibility of producing rare earths is now prospecting the area in the Brazilian Amazon for the metals used in microchips and oil refining.

Mr Mathias Heider of Brazil's National Mining Department said that interest has soared globally in developing new rare earth mining projects since May, when China, the world's biggest producer, decided to restrict exports to build a strategic stockpile of the minerals to ensure domestic supplies. Brazil has potentially good reserves of rare earths.

Mr Murilo Ferreira CEO of Vale said recently that Vale would speed up studies on the possibility of producing rare earths in Brazil. Vale representatives said last week at the Brazilian Mining Institute's biannual congress that the company had discovered safe radioactive elements at the Salobo site that could be classified as rare earth minerals.

Rare Earths is a generic term that includes minerals such as scandium, lanthanum and yttrium. Some are typically produced as byproducts of minerals such as copper, bauxite and niobium.

Salobo in which Vale is investing around USD 2.33 billion is one of Vale's biggest copper projects. It is scheduled to start producing copper in 2012 with production of 100,000 tonnes copper in its Phase I and a doubling of that capacity by 2014. Salobo has similar rare earth potential to Australia's Olympic Dam multi mineral deposit.

The Cetem and DNPM officials said that while mining of uranium, used in nuclear reactors is currently restricted to companies linked to the Brazilian government, it is unlikely the government will extend these restrictions to rare earths mining, due to the need to speed up production projects.

Today companies request rights to prospect for rare earths in the same way that they request rights for any other minerals. The government already views rare earths as a question of priority because China dominates the market.

Global prices for heavy rare metals doubled in the two weeks after the Chinese introduced export controls in May, before later easing back. Brazilian, Chinese and Japanese companies are currently all researching the possibility of producing rare earths in Brazil.

(Sourced from online.wsj.com)

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