Blackstone Minerals has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Vietnam Rare Earths (VTRE) and critical metals producer Australian Strategic Materials (ASM) to develop a fully integrated rare earth mine-to-metals value chain in Vietnam.

According to the three-way MoU, Blackstone will collaborate with VTRE and ASM on initiatives to sign further binding agreements.

Blackstone will work with VTRE to assess existing licensed concessions of rare earth elements (REEs) and apply to secure the mining licences, if appropriate, under a joint venture arrangement. The companies’ immediate focus will be a mining licence for the Dong Pao Deposits.

VTRE will also be provided access to Blackstone’s laboratory and piloting facilities at the Ta Khoa Nickel Project at Ban Phuc Nickel Mines.

ASM will provide technical assistance to carry out a pilot flotation programme for the beneficiation of REE concentrates from the Dong Pao deposit.

Furthermore, the three companies will explore a commercial model to support a fully integrated mine-to-metals rare earth business.

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VTRE, which owns and operates Vietnam’s only midstream rare earths refinery, is seeking a partner to develop upstream mining and processing capabilities.

Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Andrew Goledzinowski said: “This agreement leverages Australia’s world-leading regulatory frameworks for mining and resources, and Vietnam’s abundant labour supply and strong manufacturing base.”

Blackstone Minerals managing director Scott Williamson said the three companies will advance discussions for establishing a ‘world leading’ fully integrated rare earths business.

Vietnam is said to hold the world’s largest REE reserves outside of China. Most of these resources are located in north-west Vietnam in close proximity to Son La Province, where Blackstone’s Ta Khoa Nickel Project is located.