Rare Earth Elements (REEs) have applications in various technologies and industries: computers, electronics, health care, clean energy, national defense, transportation, and so on. Due to their exclusive luminescent, electrochemical, and magnetic properties, these elements allow implementation and execution of many technologies with reduced emission, energy consumption, and weight, thereby giving them superior speed, efficiency, thermal stability, durability, etc. Rare earth-enabled technologies and products also help maintain high living standards and boost the worldwide economic growth.
New Resource Technologies for REEs
Led by the G.U.B. Ingenieur AG, a group of German companies and science institutes have developed new mining technology for REEs, which are the most critical technology metals for high-tech industries. Via the project Rare Earth Metallurgy (SEM²), engineers and scientists from Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony have developed new and innovative technologies for the resourceful mining and processing of REEs.
Critical technology metals such as europium, neodymium, yttrium, and terbium contain vital elements used in the production of high-tech and electronic products, rechargeable batteries for military devices & renewable energy technologies, and high-efficiency magnets. Over the past few years, these essential raw materials have been imported from China. Ion Adsorption Clay (IAC’s) deposits, the major source of REEs, are mined in southern China through the surface- and mountain-top mining, causing harsh ecological damages, including soil erosion, groundwater contamination, loss of complete ecosystems.
The “SEM²” group works on optimizing biological and chemical extraction procedures and creates new ways for resource technologies and extraction of REEs from IAC’s. This project is based on the engineering experience and scientific competencies of Helmholtz-Centrum Dresden-Rossendorf, G.U.B. Ingenieur AG, IPK Gatersleben, and GMBU e.V.
New and optimized mining technologies, like in-situ bioleaching , signify ecologically sustainable substitutes for the extraction of critical technology metals. Almost about 200 comparable REEs-rich laterite deposits exist in various regions worldwide, for instance, Laos, Madagascar, Brazil, Suriname, etc. As a result, any alternative and optimized mining technology for IACs will provide a number of substitute sources of critical technology metals. This will eventually result reduce criticality in the REEs supply.
The global REEs market is likely to grow at a decent CAGR of 12.4 % reaching USD 10.9 billion from 2016 to 2024. Increasing demand for metal catalysts, like cerium, are said to augment the industry growth during the next 8 years. In addition, the emerging market for permanent magnets is also projected to particularly increase the neodymium demands. The major players in the REEs are Great Western Mineral Group Ltd.; Molycorp Inc.; Lynas Corporation Ltd.; and Rare Earths Ltd.
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