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China mission boost for Avalon
Avalon Rare Metals Inc. benefiting from Council of the Federation mission to China as part of NWT delegation

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE
Avalon Rare Metals Inc. president and CEO Don Bubar whisked into meetings with top players in the rare earths industry in China last week, with some serious backup.

NNSL photo/graphic

Don Bubar, president and CEO of Avalon Rare Metals Inc., said accompanying Premier Bob McLeod on a trade mission to China has been opportune for the rare earths business. - NNSL file photo

Invited to attend the 2012 Council of the Federation mission to China as part of Premier Bob McLeod's Northwest Territories delegation, Bubar believes meetings that have taken place in the first days of the Sept. 13 to 20 mission may play a role in possibly advancing Avalon's flagship Nechalacho rare earths project at Thor Lake, approximately 100 km southeast of Yellowknife.

While some have dismissed the trip as a junket, face-to-face meetings with the Metallurgical Corporation of China and the Association of China Rare Earth Industry with the premier have been invaluable to the advancement of Nechalacho, Bubar said.

"As you know in the rare earths industry that we're in, China is the centre of the world of the rare earths business," Bubar said on day three of the trip in Beijing. "Just for those two meetings Ė that made (the mission) totally worthwhile from my perspective.

"We're starting to develop contacts in China and it was good timing to accompany the premier's delegation and do some business at the same time."

While more than 95 per cent of the world's rare earths are produced in China, there are rising concerns in the country over inadequate supplies of the heavy rare earths moving forward.

Avalon's NWT deposit is known for its high proportion of heavy rare earths, as forecasts show that europium, terbium, and dysprosium are among the rare earth metals that will be in short supply in years to come.

Major uses of these rare earth metals include high strength magnets for automobiles, computers, energy efficient motors, and efficient lighting.

Avalon is also seeking partnerships in China for technological expertise to help potentially build the Nechalacho project.

"So it was opportune to be able to meet with them personally in China," Bubar said, stressing the value of the premier's participation.

"Itís very important that they know there is support from different levels of government for the project, so having the premier participate in meetings with us yesterday was very valuable and sent a very strong positive message that the government supports this project," Bubar said. "Itís important to the Chinese leadership to see that there is government support for the project and having the premier here in China to meet some of the leadership personally was very valuable because personal relationships can often be very important."

The junior resource company likely would not have had an audience with leaders from the Chinese organizations had the premier not been a participant, Bubar added.

Larry Jacquard, president of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, also noted the importance of having the premier with Avalon in China in seeing the project going ahead.

"It adds enormous credibility and can be a contributing factor in their decision making," Jacquard said.

"We need to find these potential clients to ensure this billion-dollar investment and the creation of hundreds of jobs moves forward for the NWT."

The rare earths project can become a really important part of the economy going forward, Bubar said, and building relationships for the mineral resource industry around the world will be especially beneficial for the GNWT with devolution.

The week-long trade mission in China includes stops in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Other participating provinces and territories in the Council of Federation mission include Nova Scotia, Alberta, and the Yukon.

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