Vietnam plans to auction rights to largest rare earth mine

Vietnam has said it is looking to up its output to two million tons per year by 2030.

Vietnam plans to auction the rights to exploit its largest rare earth mine, a project partner said Thursday, as the country looks to compete with China in a sector crucial to high-tech devices.

A tender for the mining of the Dong Pao mine, in northern Lai Chau province, is being planned by Australian mining company Blackstone Minerals, according to Luu Anh Tuan, director of Vietnam Rare Earth JSC (VTRE), another partner in the project.

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“Any party that succeeds in the auction will be able to exploit the mine and we will use the ore from this mine for production,” he told AFP.

The plan comes after a trip last month by US President Joe Biden to the Southeast Asian country during which the two nations agreed to strengthen cooperation to help Hanoi quantify and develop its rare earth resources.

The United States has said Vietnam — with the world’s second-largest deposits of rare earths after China — has a key role to play as it looks to source less from China after supply chain shocks rocked the global economy in recent years.

Vietnam has said it is looking to up its output to two million tons per year by 2030.

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Last year its output shot up to 4,300 tons, from just 400 tons in 2021, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

China is by far the world’s largest producer.

In 2014 the ministry of natural resources and environment gave permission for a Vietnamese firm, Lai Chau Rare Earth Joint Stock Company, and a Japanese partner to exploit the Dong Pao mine but the project failed to get off the ground due to difficulties in tech and financing, state media said.

Rare earths are a group of 17 heavy metals that are abundant in the Earth’s crust across the globe.

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But mining the metals requires heavy chemical use that results in huge amounts of toxic waste and has caused several environmental disasters, making many countries wary of shouldering the heavy financial costs for production.

Each of the rare earths is used in industry and found in a variety of everyday and high-tech devices, from light bulbs to guided missiles.

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