Northern Minerals saga heats up after suspected Chinese cyber attack following FIRB selldown order

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
2 Min Read
A cybercriminal group, believed to be from China, has claimed responsibility on the dark web for an attack that allegedly resulted in the theft of company data, including sensitive shareholder and employee information.
A cybercriminal group, believed to be from China, has claimed responsibility on the dark web for an attack that allegedly resulted in the theft of company data, including sensitive shareholder and employee information. Credit: Broome Advertiser/Broome Advertiser

Just a day after Treasurer Jim Chalmers ordered Chinese investors to sell their stakes in Northern Minerals the strategically important rare earths aspirant has been attacked by suspected Chinese cybercriminals.

A cybercriminal group, believed to be from China, has claimed responsibility on the dark web for an attack that allegedly resulted in the theft of company data, including sensitive shareholder and employee information.

The West Perth-based Northern Minerals is yet to formally comment on the matter while the office for Home Affairs minister Clare O’Neil said it is investigating the incident.

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To add another layer of intrigue to the saga shares in Northern Minerals on Tuesday finished 19.4 per cent higher at 4.3¢ each, despite no news being announced by the company.

On Monday Mr Chalmers ordered a mysterious Chinese businessman and associates to sell down their stakes in Northern Minerals, as Australia looks to keep its critical minerals out of the Middle Kingdom’s reach.

Five entities were given 60 days to dump 10.4 per cent of the company’s stock, equating to about 613.6 million shares, under orders issued by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

A spokesman for Mr Chalmers has said the orders were designed to protect Australia’s national interest “and ensure compliance with our foreign investment framework”.

“Australia operates a robust and non-discriminatory foreign investment framework, and will take further action if required to protect our national interest in relation to this matter,” he said.

Northern Minerals flagged its suspicions about the purchase of those shares last year and the board requested FIRB investigate. That move was spearheaded by the executive chairman at the time — Nick Curtis.

Mr Curtis “resigned” from the role last week to become a “strategic advisor” to the company.

The share price rise on Tuesday is peculiar given Northern Minerals’ stock finished flat on Monday — the day of the FIRB news.

No fresh announcements have since been made by the company.

Northern Minerals is working to establish itself as a key part of the country’s rare earth supply chain through its Browns Range project, 145km south of Halls Creek in the East Kimberley.

Rare earths are mineral elements that have national defence applications as an input to create high-tech magnets and lasers.

More to come ...

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