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Australia's Northern Minerals raises A$30m for rare earths expansion

[MELBOURNE] Australian rare earths developer Northern Minerals said on Monday it has raised A$30 million (S$28.8 million) from shareholders to fund expansion at its Browns Range project after trade tensions refocused interest in the industry.

The developer has received commitments from Australian and overseas investors for the rights issue to fund further exploration, an ore sorting machine, and an examination of whether it can move more production onshore, it said in a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange.

Northern Minerals is among Australia's most advanced development projects for rare earths, a group of 17 minerals critical to high tech industries and defence.

The industry had been suffering from a lack of investment until trade tensions this year stoked demand for supply from outside of top producer China after China's state media implied it could curb exports to the United States.

"The programme expansion and acceleration is a result of significantly increased levels of interest in the company and the Browns Range Project from a number of parties, including potential customers, investors and government bodies in Australia and the US," the company said.

The price of dysprosium, used in industrial magnets, had rise by about 55 per cent in 2019, it added.

Although China contains only a third of the world's rare earth reserves, it accounts for 80 percent of US imports of the minerals.