Archive for the ‘RARE EARTHS’ Category

US miner on the hunt for rare earths in the Cook Islands

Friday, October 14th, 2016


Rising demand for hard-to-find rare earths (REEs) needed for high tech gadgets, green energy and batteries used by hybrid vehicles continues to push mining companies to scour the ocean floors.

The latest of them is Ocean Minerals LLC, a deep sea mining firm based in Houston, Texas, which announced Wednesday that it has inked an agreement with the Cook Islands government for exclusive prospecting and exploration rights around the country’s seabed.

According to Ocean Minerals, a recent study of alternative sources of REEs conducted by Houston-based Deep Reach Technology, indicates there are potential new sources of rare earth elements and scandium in the South Pacific Ocean’s area.

The firm believes it has reserved “the most promising areas,” containing important concentrations of heavy REEs and scandium. The later, when added in small quantities to aluminum, creates a metal alloy extremely light, strong, corrosion resistant, heat tolerant, and weldable.

Texas-based Ocean Minerals LLC believes it has reserved “the most promising areas,” containing important concentrations of heavy REEs and scandium.The use of such an alloy in automobiles and aircraft could yield fuel savings while protecting lives, the company said in the statement.

The announcement comes on the heels of a 15-year contract between India and the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which grants New Delhi exclusive rights to explore for Polymetallic Sulphides (PMS) in the Indian Ocean.

From 2001 to 2014 the United Nations’ ISA issued over 30 exploration permits for the Pacific, Mid-Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Since then, more and more companies have been applying for rights to scour the oceans’ floors.

The heightened interest pushed ISA to update its proposed regulatory framework for deep-sea mining in 2014, which translated into allowing private firms to apply for minerals as well as oil and gas extraction licenses beginning this year.

Scientists have expressed their concern about the potential impacts of deep-sea mining in unique and fragile ecosystems. Through the MIDAS project, a group made up of researchers, industry actors, NGOs and legal experts from 32 organizations across Europe, they are currently gathering data to determine what damage, if any, might be done by mining and so inform regulators of what needs to be put in place to protect the deep sea environment.

The Cook Islands are a chain of 15 islands about 4,800 km south of Hawaii and about 3,200 km northeast of New Zealand. Ocean Minerals’ rights are in the island nation’s exclusive economic zone, or the 200-nautical-mile zone extending from a country’s shores that gives it rights to undersea activity.


Henry Sapiecha

USA remains just about fully dependent on China rare earths

Friday, October 14th, 2016


A new report BMI Research says the Chinese government will continue to ramp up rare earth metal exports in a bid to regain control of rare earth pricing policy. The country produces more than 85% of the global supply of the 17 elements.

A surge in exports from China  since a ruling by the WTO deemed the country’s export quotas illegal and particularly after the lifting of exports tariffs in May, caused a further slide in prices which have been declining rapidly from peaks reached in 2011.

Among the hardest hit have been dysprosium and cerium, which saw prices fall from $65,865 a tonne and $883 a tonne, respectively in May 2015, to $37,524 a tonne and $685 a tonne by September 2016 , respectively according to BMI.

China’s policy of consolidating domestic producers and processors while encouraging exports saw the sole US producer of rare earths Molycorp fall into bankruptcy in July last year. While Australia’s Lynas has withered the storm, projects in Greenland, which has the potential to rival China’s biggest production centres, Russia, India and elsewhere have struggled to gain traction amid the low price environment.

As a result the US will continue to be beholden to China for more than 90% of its rare earth imports.

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Henry Sapiecha

Seven rare earth minerals that run our world-Infographic shows it all here

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

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USA company begins recovering rare earths from old electronics

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

These old electronics may contain rare earths.image

U.S. Rare Earths Inc. (OTCBB: UREE) is ready to begin recovering the coveted elements from old electronics thanks to a new recycling technology developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI).

The novel method assists in the recycling, recovery and extraction process of rare earth minerals, used as ingredients in magnets, batteries, catalytic converters and high-tech products. It is also said to be the first commercially licensed technology developed through the CMI.

According to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the recycling of critical materials from electronic waste has been limited by processing technologies that were inefficient, costly and environmentally hazardous. But its membrane solvent extraction system is supposed to eliminate many of those difficulties.

U.S. Rare Earths says it will be applying the new extraction method at the Last Chance northern facility, from where it expects to retrieve up to 2,500 short tons of metallurgical sample material, believed to have high occurrences of rare earth mineralization.

The company also said it intends to separate REEs from its approximately 25,000 acres of mining claims in Idaho, Montana and Colorado.


Henry Sapiecha

New variety of almost extinct mineral found in England

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Vein of Blue John in Treak Cliff Cavern (Image from Wikimedia Commons)image

A vein of a legendary semi-precious mineral was discovered this week in Derbyshire, England, about 150 years after the last discovery.

The vein of Blue John Stone — which is only found in the Peak District — has been named the Ridley Vein after miner Gary Ridley, who discovered it by accident, while testing a new stone chainsaw.

He told The Independent he could not “believe his eyes” when he came across the Blue John, a form of fluorite.

The stone was fashionable during the Regency period in the early 1800s and graced the tables of Buckingham Palace and Chatsworth House


Historically there have been 14 distinct veins of Blue John, with the Ridley Vein now entering the record books as variant No 15.

The last Blue John vein was discovered in the XIX century, but in 2013 a team rediscovered a “lost vein” that was first found in 1945.


Henry Sapiecha

Chile about to be China’s next competitor in the rare earths mineral market

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

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The rare earths industry is about to experience a clean-versus-dirty battle until now only seen among fuel producers, as a Chilean company is stepping up efforts to grab some of that market in a much greener way than China, the world’s top producer of such elements.

Mineria Activa’s project aims to develop the market for rare earths in the copper producing country, based on a recent survey that showed there are major concentrations of elements such as neodymium and dysprosium, south of capital Santiago. What’s even better: those deposits are quite similar to the ones found in southern China.

The firm’s project, named Biolantánidos, will dig out the clay, put it through a tank-leaching process with biodegradable chemicals and return it cleaned to the ground, replanting pine and eucalyptus trees. In China, operators pump ammonium sulfate into the ground and wait for the chemical to seep out with the minerals.

“It may be laborious,” Arturo Albornoz, who heads the project told Bloomberg, but he believes that soon firms such as ThyssenKrupp AG, Apple Inc. and Tomahawk cruise missile maker Raytheon Co. will choose to pay a bit more for supplies extracted in a way that doesn’t destroy the planet. “It’s our big bet on green mining,” he added.

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Currently China continues to dominate the rare earth market, producing about 90% of the elements that are vital in the creation of a big variety of electronic technologies including lithium car batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, flat-screen television, compact fluorescent light bulbs, petroleum-to-gasoline catalytic cracking, and military defence components such as missile guidance systems.

Crumbling monopoly

The Asian giant did not always enjoy a virtual monopoly on REE production. The majority of the 17 rare earth elements were sourced from placer deposits in India and Brazil in the late 1940s.

During the 1950s, South Africa mined the majority of the world’s REEs from large veins of rare earth-bearing monazite.

From the 1960s to 1980s, rare earths were supplied mainly from the US, mostly from the massive Mountain Pass mine in California, which was eventually mothballed in 2002.

China then took over the industry completely, producing more than 95% of the world’s REEs centred in Inner Mongolia and also becoming the top consumer ahead of Japan and South Korea.

Worries about Beijing’s monopoly of production sent prices for all rare earths into the stratosphere from 2008 onwards with some REEs going up in price twenty-fold or more.


China applied export quotas and raised export tariffs on rare earths in 2010 to protect natural resources, ending the export restrictions in 2015 and scrapping the tariffs from May 1, in line with a ruling from the WTO.

Despite the quotas and tariffs removal, rare earth companies, especially smaller ones, will continue suffering this year, analysts agree, as prices for some of the elements have dropped significantly in recent years.

The challenging environment doesn’t seem to bother the Chilean firm, which expects that its project, still in a pilot stage, will start producing rare earths by the end of 2016.


Henry Sapiecha

CHART: Beijing has finally turned around rare earth prices

Friday, March 13th, 2015

CHART: Beijing has finally turned around rare earth prices

Beijing has a new strategy to tighten its grip on the rare earth supply chain. And it’s working.

Beijing has finally turned around rare earth pricesChina produces nearly 90% of the world’s rare earths and its downstream industry consumes 70% of the 17 elements used in a variety of hi-tech industries including renewable energy, medical devices and defence.

Customs data show export volumes grew 27.3% in 2014 to 28,000 tonnes but the average export price of REE products plummeted to only 83,000 yuan ($13,000) per tonne. That’s a decrease of 47.8% from the year before and the third year in a row of sharp declines.

Following a World Trade Organization ruling, China is abolishing its decade-old export quota system for rare earths and is due to lift export tariffs of 20%-plus in May.

This liberalization should translate into further price declines, but Beijing has found other ways to tighten its grip on the industry.

The price surge at the start of the decade resulted in widespread demand destruction and substitution causing long term damage to the industry

The country is consolidating the industry under six large organizations led by the newly-named China North Rare Earth Group. The Inner Mongolia-based company operates the Bayan Obo iron ore mine and before the 2010 price surge after Beijing reduced export quotes, produced half the world’s REEs as a by-product.

Apart from combining mine output China North Rare Earth and the five groups are being vertically integrated to help modernize the country’s mostly low-tech rare earth separation and refining businesses.

Long the scourge of the industry, China is also intensifying efforts to shut down small-scale illegal REE mining and is enforcing strict new environmental policies as part of its broader war on pollution.

Details are still sketchy, but the export quota system could be replaced by production control licences based on adherence to environmental standards (so-called “green permits”) while export tariffs could make way for a value added tax and export certificates.

China’s State Bureau of Material Reserve is also embarking on a new round of REE stockpiling, while the Baotou Rare Earth Products Exchange launched in March should encourage private sector stockpiling a la Fanya Metal Exchange.

These measures are pushing up the cost of production which is already being reflected in the price.

The Association of China Rare Earth Industry price index (a rolling 20-day average of REE prices across the industry) this week racked up gains of 13% since the end of last year.

Some light REEs including the work horses of the industry cerium and lanthumum continue to fall while terbium and dysprosium have soared recently so it’s not a broad-based rally just yet.

Neither is it a return to he crazy days of 2010 – 2011 by any stretch, nor the mid-2013 rally (which turned out to be a dead cat bounce). But a turnaround nonetheless.

The price surge at the start of the decade resulted in widespread demand destruction and substitution causing long term damage to everyone from rare earth explorers to magnet manufacturers.

A steady – if unspectacular – build-up in price may be just what the industry needs.


Henry Sapiecha

American mining junior finds rare earth deposit on old gold concession

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

American junior finds rare earth deposit on old gold concessions

Rare earth prices are on an uptrend in 2015 as market participants hold a widely held upbeat outlook for China’s rare earth industry.

New World Gold Corporation (OTC Pink: NWGC), a gold mining and milling junior with existing operations in Ecuador and Peru, may diversify its business after discovering a rare earth deposit in one of its old gold concessions.

While the Florida-based company has not disclosed the location of the finding it says that since the discovery several companies, including a Chinese group, have approached them with offers.

Independent analysis results indicate that the rare earth mineral discovered is Antimony. Preliminary testing results indicate that there are significant economic reserves present on the concession.

Since discovery of the antimony deposit, the Company has had significant interest in the deposit. The Company is negotiating with several companies including a Chinese group to option and then develop the deposit. The British Geological Survey reported in 2005, The Peoples Republic of China was the top producer of antimony with approximately 84% of the worlds share followed at a distance by South Africa and Bolivia. Roskill Consulting estimates that primary production of Antimony shows that in 2010, China held 76.75% of the world’s supply of antimony followed by Russia with 4.14%. Antimony was identified as one of 12 critical raw materials for the EU in a report published in 2011, primarily due to this lack of supply outside China.

Processed antimony is used as an alloy to strengthen tin and steel. Antimony compounds contain fire retardants found in many commercial and domestic products like stoves and refrigerators. There is an emerging application for the use of antimony in microelectronics


Henry Sapiecha

Fish sperm a ‘key ingredient’ to recycling rare earth elements

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Fish sperm a ‘key ingredient’ to recycling rare earth elements

Salmon sperm is considered industrial waste from fishery industries, so it would be a cheap and green alternative to current rare earth extraction methods. (Image by Sekar B. |

Japanese scientists have developed a process that uses salmon sperm, also known as milt, to mine and reprocess rare earth elements (REEs) from ore and materials such as magnets and electronic waste.

Currently the extraction REEs is costly and potentially environmentally damaging. But the new method proposed by the University of Tokyo team, published in the journal PLOS One, could provide a clean and cost effective alternative.

Yoshio Takahashi and his colleagues were studying the absorption of REEs by bacteria cells when they found that the phosphate site plays an important role in the binding of metal ions, which let them to consider the possibility of DNA (which also has a phosphate site) being used to extract REEs in water.

To test their theory, the researchers used powdered milt and a solution containing the primary metals used in neodymium magnets—neodymium, dysprosium, and trivalent iron. When mixed together, the ions in the metal were attracted to the phosphate in the salmon semen.

This isn’t the first time fish sperm – or rather the DNA contained within — has been used in unusual ways.
This isn’t the first time fish sperm – or rather the DNA contained within — has been used in unusual ways. Among the strangest are fireproof coatings and templates for mass-producing silver nanoparticles.

Takahashi acknowledges that, while there isn’t much money in recovering REE from scrap magnets, the salmon-milt process might be better suited for extracting and recycling other elements on a large scale.


Henry Sapiecha

Evironmental Protection Agency grants Kimberley rare earth mine approval in Western Australia

Monday, August 18th, 2014

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A rare earth elements mine in the Kimberley has been recommended for conditional environmental approval.

Northern Minerals’ flagship venture the Browns Range Project, which is about 160 kilometres south-east of Halls Creek, received the Environmental Protection Authority’s recommendation on Monday.

The mine straddles the West Australian and Northern Territory border on the Browns Range Dome and is expected to produce 279,000 kgs of dysprosium a year over its 10-year mine life.

A Northern Minerals spokeswoman said production was targeted to begin in 2016.

EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the agency recommended several conditions for the mine, including the development of a significant fauna conservation plan before any ground-disturbing activities began.

The EPA’s report will be open for appeal until September 1.


Henry Sapiecha