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Avalon Rare Metals draws investor interest at Mining Indaba, says rare earth demand outlook positive


Canadian junior mineral exploration and development company Avalon Rare Metals (TSX: AVL) said it has drawn considerable investor interest at the Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, South Africa, where it was one of the only two exhibiting companies involved in the rare metals industry.

The interest in the company was sparked after a speech by independent analyst Jack Lifton, who offered a bullish outlook for rare metals demand to the attendees, which featured European, American and Asian financiers, investment bankers, analysts and other investment specialists with 4,000 participants in total. The growing awareness of the importance of rare metals in green technology also weighed in, with South Africa currently looking to develop both renewable energy sources and nuclear energy due to the lack of its own hydrocarbons, Avalon said.

The rare metal thorium, which is considered as a potential nuclear fuel, was in focus at the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy technical conference, which was also held in Cape Town and attended by president and chief executive of Avalon, Don Bubar.

There is currently renewed interest in the thorium-LREE (light rare earth element) mineral monazite, which can be found in heavy mineral sands deposits in Africa such as the giant Richards Bay titanium deposit. Richards Bay Minerals’ Richard Selby said that previous attempts to recover monazite as a by-product of titanium production were a failure, expressing doubt that it would be feasible to recover the mineral from these deposits. The conference also featured reports on the current research on the recovery of zirconium form these deposits for use in zircaloy, which is used as cladding to contain nuclear fuel.

Zirconium will also be a by-product of rare earth production from Avalon’s Nechalacho deposit, which will also produce gadolinium that could potentially be used in magnetic refrigeration, a new technology which could boost the demand for this previously little-used heavy rare earth after its commercialization, expected to occur in one to two years.

Other demand drivers for rare earth (neo) magnets such as gadolinium include renewable energy technologies such as wind, tidal power and run-of-river hydro power, and the emergence of electric bicycles in Asia that are replacing traditional pedal bicycles Sales are forecast to grow to 30 million per year in China alone with a resultant estimated demand for 9,000 tonnes per annum of neo magnets.

Avalon’s primary asset is the 100%-owned Nechalacho Deposit at Thor Lake in the Northwest Territory where the company has already defined an indicated mineral resource of 4.4 million tonnes of 1.97% total rare earth oxides (TREO) and 25.4% of heavy rare earths (HREO).

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