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(Reuters) - Rare earth producer Lynas Corp <LYC.AX> said on Monday it signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to begin initial design work for its heavy rare earth separation facility in Texas that the Pentagon is providing initial funding for.
The 'Phase 1' funding forms part of a concerted effort by Washington to reduce the United States' reliance on China as the world's largest producer of the strategic minerals used to make missiles, cell phones to a ranger of other high-tech equipment.
Lynas, the largest rare earth producer outside China, expects to finish the planning and design work for the facility in fiscal 2021.
The facility will process heavy rare earths sourced from Lynas' flagship Mt Weld mine in Western Australia, which the company says will then become the "only source of separated Heavy Rare Earths outside China."
(Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)