Chinese interests suspected of a covert attempt to take control of Northern Minerals are now targeting the executive chairman of the rate earths hopeful. Northern Minerals has disclosed that Yuxaio Fund has used its 9.8 per cent stake in the group to requisition a shareholders meeting to dump Nicholas Curtis from the board and open up the company’s books. The move comes just three months after Northern Minerals asked the Foreign Investment Review Board to investigate whether Yuxaio and an associated Chinese-based businessman standing for election at the annual general meeting were buying up shares in breach of a federal ban. Yuxaio, which has nominated Wu Tao to the Northern Minerals board, was prohibited in February by Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers from increasing its stake to 19.9 per cent. Northern Minerals believes Yuxaio is controlled by Mr Wu. Backed by Iluka Resources, the Perth-based group is pursuing a development of its Browns Range project in WA’s Tanami Desert. The project is one of a number in Australia seen reducing the world’s reliance on China for critical minerals. Northern Minerals said on Tuesday that Yuxaio had requisitioned a general meeting to seek Mr Curtis’ ouster and authorise an inspection of the books “to review the legality and compliance of Nicholas Curtis’s conduct in the performance of his duties as a director and an officer”. The ASX-listed junior linked the move to “the recent request for the nomination of Mr Wu Tao by Yuxiao Fundi to the board of the company”. Northern Minerals said last month that given the federal ban, “it would be appropriate for Yuxiao Fund to apply to FIRB to seek approval for Mr Wu’s appointment”. “Accordingly, the directors considered it appropriate, and in the best interests of the company, for these matters (and also certain recent share buying activities by certain other persons who may have links to Mr Wu and/or Yuxiao Fund) to be referred for consideration by FIRB so as to ensure no breaches of the prohibition order.” The AGM has been delayed three months until February to allow FIRB to complete its investigations. Browns Creek would supply rare earths to Iluka’s federally-backed refinery being developed at Eneabba. The facility, the first of its type in Australia, would produce rare earth oxides praseodymium, dysprosium, neodymium and terbium, which are in demand for use in electric vehicles, clean energy and the defence sector. The February ban on Yuxaio reflects the Federal Government’s tougher scrutiny of any deals by Chinese parties in Australia’s critical minerals.