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    Automotive industry to see insufficient supply of heavy rare earth
    ----Interview with Mark Tory
    Northern Minerals Limited
    Located in Weiyuan, Sichuan, Chengyu Vanadium Titanium Technology Co., Ltd (previously called Weiyuan Steel) is the biggest subsidiary of Tranvic Group and the biggest construction steel producer in Southwest China. Its annual output for steel and vanadium reaches around 7.0 million tons and 15,000t respectively. The company's construction steel output could reach nearly 6.0 million tons per year.

    Asian Metal: Thanks for accepting the interview of Asian Metal, Mark! Would you please introduce the latest update of your Browns Range project?

    Mark: Thanks for the opportunity to update you on Northern Minerals. We are currently undertaking exploration drilling programs looking to increase our existing resource. We are currently constructing an ore sorter at the front end of the pilot plant and continue test work on the existing pilot plant. We have begun a feasibility study in relation to a full scale beneficiation plant at site that we hope to complete before the end of the year. We are also continuing to explore various separation strategies for our carbonate.

    Asian Metal: What do you see as the most obvious advantage of Browns Range project?

    Mark: The most obvious advantage in the mix of rare earths in that Browns Range is dominant in the heavies with the majority of revenue from Dysprosium and Terbium. Also the quality of our resource and the ability to beneficiate the ore from a 0.8% grade of TREO to a 30% TREO concentrate.

    Asian Metal: Would you please introduce your development plan in the coming years?

    Mark: As mentioned we have started a feasibility study to look at building a full scale beneficiation plant at site to produce a concentrate. We plan to finish this feasibility study by the end of the year with a decision to invest late this year or early next year. We would hope to start construction of the full scale beneficiation plant early next year to be completed in 2023 for commissioning and cashflow.

    Asian Metal: Could you please introduce when you would finish the installation and what’s effect this will bring after you finishing the installation?

    Mark: We have been delayed by rain through the wet season – but have most of the construction completed and just waiting delivery of the electrical system. We are hoping this will be installed and commissioned next month in April. Once finished, we will begin the test work of the existing stockpiles we have from Wolverine and Gambit West. The ore sorter is supposed to double our heavy rare earth concentrate production.

    Asian Metal: Majority of participants hold pessimistic attitudes about dysprosium and terbium oxide demand outlook because they are key strategic resources, would you please share your opinion regarding demand prospect?

    Mark: I have a very optimistic view in relation to demand for dysprosium and terbium. The demand will be increasing as a result of the increasing demand of electric vehicle. The issue will be on the supply side which is why Northern Minerals is placed very well to meet the supply side issues.

    Asian Metal: As the most important application field, electric vehicle industry attracts extensive attention worldwide. May I know who do you think about the development outlook of electric vehicle market in the coming year?

    Mark: I believe the demand for electric vehicle will continue to grow over the coming years. Most countries are moving to greening themselves and are stopping the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles over the next few years. The production of EV’s has been increasing year on year, and I see this trend continuing in 2021. In China, Great Wall Motors increased production by 152% compared to February 2020 and BYD’s NEV sales up by 207.3% in Jan – Feb. This will be globally with all countries moving to electrification of the motor vehicle industry.

    Asian Metal: What do you see as the long-term development prospect of electric vehicle industry?

    Mark: Long term it is going to continue to grow. I see continuously increasing demand of electric vehicle till 2030. The issue will be on the supply side in relation to permanent magnets and rare earths in particular heavy rare earths. Many countries globally are moving toward greener energy and are looking to ban the sales of petrol and diesel new cars. For example the UK had a policy that there would be no new sales of diesel or petrol vehicles by 2040, which they brought back to 2035 and late last year they have brought this timing back to 2030.

    Asian Metal: Mainstream export prices of Chinese dysprosium oxide 99.5%min and terbium oxide 99.99%min hovered at USD443-448/kg and USD1,310-1,315/kg FOB China over the past week. Would you please introduce your prediction of dysprosium and terbium oxide price trends in the coming two months?

    Mark: I think given my answers in the previous questions, demand is going to continue to increase, supply will be short so I see the price continuing to increase over the coming months. We have seen dysprosium continue to increase to around US$450 / kg today. There has generally been a link between the price of terbium and dysprosium, but this link was broken during 2020 when terbium rose at a higher rate than dysprosium. I see dysprosium catching up with terbium remaining relatively stable and over the next 2 months Dysprosium to go over US$500 / kg.

    Asian Metal: Thanks for your time. Wish you every success in your business.

    Mark: Thanks!
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