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Why Forrest is so keen on rare earths

Forrest rare earths

Fortescue Metals Group chair Andrew Forrest has made his interest in rare earths clear, but why has this group of critical minerals garnered so much of his attention?

In announcing Fortescue’s “best-ever” half-year result, Forrest highlighted the “rare insight” the company has into the renewable energy transition.

Through Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), the iron ore miner understands the raw materials needed for green energy technologies first-hand.

“We have … a very rare insight, I think, for a mining company, into what’s happening in the green energy revolution because we speak to everybody and we own businesses, like electrolyser facilities, very large battery facilities which are amongst the most advanced prototypes in the world,” Forrest said during Fortescue’s December quarterly investor call.

“It’s showing us where we need to go, what we need to focus on.”

FFI subsidiary WAE Technologies recently completed and delivered the “largest battery of its kind” to be installed in a prototype zero-emission battery-electric haul truck which Fortescue has been developing with Liebherr.

The battery has arrived at Fortescue’s workshop in Perth and will be installed into the truck before being transported to the company’s iron ore mines in the Pilbara for “world-leading testing” this year.

Given rare earths are a key element in creating permanent magnets in renewable batteries such as FFI’s recent prototype, Forrest said he “is very interested in rare earths”.

“I think there are abundant sources of rare earths which have not yet been brought to the market,” he said.

Forrest’s rare earths interest is playing out through his private company Wyloo Metals, where the mining magnate made a $150 million cornerstone investment into rare earths aspirant Hastings Technology Metals in 2022.

This saw Wyloo establish equity interest in Hastings of 12.5 per cent or greater and enabled Hastings to acquire a 22.1 per cent equity interest in TSX-listed Neo Performance Materials, a leading global rare earths processing and advanced permanent magnets producer.

Hastings is developing its Yangibana rare earths project in Western Australia, where the company hopes to produce up to 15,000 tonnes of mixed rare earths carbonate (MREC) per annum.

Fortescue achieved its highest-ever December quarterly iron ore shipments of 49.4 million tonnes leading to a record 96.9 million tonnes of iron ore shipped in the second half of 2022.

“Our company has never performed better,” Forrest said. “Not on mining, not on exploration, not (on) green hydrogen, not on green energy development ever. This is a record quarter. It’s a record half and it’s getting stronger from here.”

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