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Seeking to secure reliable supplies of rare earths for the country's growing industrial demand, South Korea is negotiating to open concessions in South African mines.
South Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy said that the nation is seeking a formal agreement to participate in South Africa's Zandkopsdrift mine, Yonhap news agency reported.
The Zandkopsdrift project is estimated to have one of the largest rare earth deposits in the world. Industry sources said that once production begins at Zandkopsdrift, located in the Western Cape province, within the next three years, the mine could produce up to 20,000 tons of rare earth elements (REEs) per year.
A Ministry of Knowledge Economy official said, "A preliminary pact has been reached with a binding agreement being sought for late this year or early 2012 at the latest," adding that as South Korea is seeking a 30 percent stake in Zandkopsdrift, the country will be entitled to around 6,000 tons of rare earth elements annually, close to twice the 3,287 tons South Korea imported in 2010. The official added that South Korea will continue to buy rare earth elements from China, which currently supplies 60 percent of its demand, as well as seeking fresh deposits in places such as Australia and Vietnam. Earlier this year South Korea imported several tons of REEs from a newly opened American-backed mining project in Mongolia.
By. Charles Kennedy, Deputy Editor OilPrice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com