What Are Rare Earth Metals?

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15 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 9 μήνες)

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What Are Rare Earth Metals?



The “broadness” of the term varies
. Indisputably they include the 15 elements of
the lanthanide series, and
commercially/
generally
/traditionally also the two elements

yttrium and scandium
, which are transition metals and are
called rare earth metals
because they are found with them
. The
se 17 elements

are termed rare earth metals
because of how they were discovered
and the early difficulty of separating them,
though
they are quite common in the earth’s crust, with the most comm
on rare earth metals more
common than lead or silver.


Sometimes the 15 elements of the Actinide Series will be included, but are
generally not for commercial purposes

since they

are radioactive
. They

include Uranium
and Plutonium.


What Are Their Uses?


S
ome of the most important uses are magnets in electric motors
,

metal for batteries
in

hybrid cars, generators
for
wind turbines
, lasers.


“The range of applications in which they are used is extraordinarily wide, from the
everyday (automotive catalysts and

petroleum cracking catalysts, flints for lighters,
pigments for glass and ceramics and compounds for polishing glass) to the highly
specialized (miniature nuclear batteries, lasers repeaters, superconductors and miniature
magnets).


REM are now especially

important, and used extensively, in the defense industry. Some
of their specific defense applications include: anti
-
missile defense, aircraft parts,
communications systems, electronic countermeasures, jet engines, rockets, underwater
mine detection, missi
le guidance systems and space
-
based satellite power.


USGS figures

for 2006 indicate that the three main uses of REM in the U.S. were:
automotive catalytic conv
erters (25%), petroleum refining catalysts (22%) and
metallurgical additives and alloys (20%).




What is the Status of Production and Trade

(2007)


From 2003
-
2006, China accounted for some 94% of
the US’s

REM
-
related
imports.

For its part, China produces
97% of the World’s REMs, with domestic
consumption eating up over half of its production

From having been a major producer (and consumer) of REM (from the Mountain
Pass mine in the Mojave Desert, Calif. the richest deposit in the world) until the mid
-
80s,
the U.S. now no longer mines
any

REM. Basically China was just too cheap. Separation
activities have restarted at Mountain Pass, but actual mining operations have not restarted.


Future locations for mining include Australia, South Africa, Brazil,
Malaysia
, Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka, with India and Malaysia already producing.









































3 Good Articles (Especially the last one)






RPT
-
FACTBOX
-
Race for rare earth metals shifts away from China

Tue Sep 8, 2009 5:08pm EDT





Sept 8 (Reuters)
-

The race to find rare earth metals, used in hybrid cars, laser equipment
and a diverse range of other technologies, is shifting to Canada, Brazil and South Africa
as Canadian explorers look for sources that would loosen China's lock on
supplies.


Concerns are mounting that Beijing could further restrict rare earth exports and even
impose an outright ban on shipments of some key metals.


Here are few interesting facts about rare earth metals:


* China produces about 97 percent of world's
rare earth metals.


* The country wants to use its resources mainly for its domestic consumption while
getting global companies to set up high
-
tech operations in its regions such as Inner
Mongolia.


* In late 1990s, Chinese companies expanded their mining
operations, leading to the
country's control of most of the world's rare earth production.


* China regulates its exports with quotas and duties. Since 2004, exports from China
have shrunk by about 10 percent each year. Analysts say the export quotas for t
his
year could range between 32,000 tonnes to 34,000 tonnes.


* Demand for rare earth metals is likely to increase between 10 percent and 20
percent each year, on back of growing demand for metals such as neodymium, used
to make hybrid electric vehicles an
d generators for wind turbines. (Reporting by
Ashutosh Joshi in Bangalore)




Shortage of Rare Metals for Hybrids Is Overblown

Fri Sep 4, 2009 11:57am EDT


http://www.reuters.com/article/mnGreenAutos/idUS162779749320090904

By Bradley Berman


China is tight
ening grip on its rare earth metals, which may derail production of hybrid
and electric cars, according to The New York Times and Bloomberg.
Hybrid cars use
rare metals, especially neodymium for magnets in electric motors, and lanthanum in
nickel metal hyd
ride batteries.


Prabhakar Patil, CEO of battery
-
maker Compact Power and former chief engineer of
Ford's hybrid program, sees the rare earth supply concern as "not very high," when
compared to other factors that could limit production of hybrids and electr
ic cars.
Patil
believes that if supplies or prices for rare earth metals become an issue, car
companies will work around a shortage by using induction motors and power
electronics.

He admits that there will be a penalty in terms of size, cost, and efficien
cy of
motors. "But it is not a show stopper," Patil told HybridCars.com.


Officials from Toyota, by far the biggest manufacturer of hybrid cars, believe rare earth
materials are a concern, but not a major or immediate one. "This is something that we
have t
o address as more manufacturing of electric vehicles and hybrids come on line,"
said Jana Hartline Toyota's environmental communication manager, in an interview with
HybridCars.com. "Does that mean next week? No. It becomes a legitimate thing to
consider w
hen you talk about production in the order of millions over several years."


Recent media reports also described the process of mining the rare earth metals as
damaging to the environment. Hartline said, "Mining in any way, shape or form is never
an enviro
nmentally friendly process. That's the nature of the beast." She said that Toyota
is continually looking for sourcing and manufacturing processes that are less damaging to
the environment.


Planning Required


Jack Lifton, an independent Michigan
-
based stra
tegic metals expert, believes there could
be "a gap" in hybrid and electric car production in the future
-
but only if new North
American production of rare earth metals does not come on board as expected, and auto
engineers fail to plan for a shift to magne
ts and motors that require fewer or no rare earth
metals.


A mineral facility in Mountain Pass, Calif.
-
owned by Molycorp Mineral
-
is the
richest rare earth deposit in the world, said Lifton. Molycorp and other North
American mining companies stopped produci
ng decades ago, when China started
supplying the metals at a cheaper price.

If Molycorp, and other Canada
-
based mining
concerns, go back into production as planned, within three to four years, hybrid and
electric car production will "not only be on track,
it could be done in the United States,"
said Lifton. Currently, nearly all hybrid components, such as batteries and motors, are
manufactured in Asia.


There is a window of approximately five years, according to Lifton, before China's
planned use of neodymi
um for a range of products, especially wind turbines, could cut
off automakers. At that point, "the electrification of motor cars will probably go on hold,
but not for Toyota," Lifton told HybridCars.com. "
Toyota has been stockpiling.
They've been buying.
They've invested in a mine. Toyota will probably be okay."

He
believes that Honda and Ford are also making necessary preparations, but that all other
carmakers will have a difficult time with supplies needed for powerful motors required
for hybrid and elec
tric cars. "If you didn't develop raw materials sourcing already, you're
done," said Lifton.


Reprinted with permission from HybridCars.com



Rare Earth Metals Not So Rare but
Valuable

by: Hard Assets Investor
November 04, 2008

The rare earth metals are,

in fact, not that rare.

The most commonly occurring rare earth metals
-

cerium, lanthanum, neodymium and
yttrium
-

are actually more common in the Earth's crust than lead. And even silver.

While cerium, the most abundant rare earth metal, is more prevalen
t (60 parts per million
(ppm)) than copper, even lutetium (0.5 ppm) and thulium (0.5 ppm), the least abundant,
are to be found in the Earth's crust in greater quantities than antimony, bismuth, cadmium
and thallium. (The outlier is promethium, which, it ap
pears, is not to be found in the
Earth's crust, and which is only used in compound form, of which, to date, some
30 have
been prepared
.)

Abundance of Elements In The Earth's Crust


Note
: Abundance (atom fraction) of the chemical elements in Earth's upper continental
crust as a function of atomic number.

Many of the elements are clas
sified into (partially overlapping) categories: (1) rock
-
forming elements (major elements in green field and minor elements in light green field);
(2) rare earth elements (lanthanides, La
-
Lu, and Y; labeled in blue); (3) major industrial
metals (global pro
duction > ~3x107 kg/year; labeled in bold); (4) precious metals (italic);
and (5) the nine rarest "metals"
-

the six platinum group elements plus Au, Re, and Te (a
metalloid).

Source: USGS


So, why are they called the "rare earth" metals? Probably from the

uncommon oxide
-
type minerals, or earths, from which they were originally extracted. The corollary to their
abundance is, however, the fact that, to date, their "
discovered minable concentrations are
less common than for most other ores
."

What Are The Rare Earth Metals?

The rare earth metals (aka, REM, rare earth elements [REE] or, sometimes, just rare
earths) are a group of 15 chemically similar elements (groupe
d separately in the periodic
table) known as lanthanides. Commercially, the rare earth grouping usually also includes
scandium and yttrium, both of which are actually elements above lanthanum in the
periodic table.


In more physical terms, these metals range in color from shiny silver to iron gray. As the
USGS

describes them, they "are typically soft, malleable, ductile and usually reactive,
especially at elevated temperatures or when finely divided." At the lower end, cerium has
a melting point of 798° C and, at the upper, lutetium has a melting

point of 1,663° C.

It will come as no surprise that the unique properties (catalytic, chemical, electrical,
metallurgical, nuclear, magnetic and optical) of the REM, and, in particular, both their
specificity and versatility, have led to their being used
for a wide variety of purposes.

From relative obscurity, they are now important economically, environmentally and
technologically.


What Are They Used for?

The range of applications in which they are used is extraordinarily wide, from the
everyday (automot
ive catalysts and petroleum cracking catalysts, flints for lighters,
pigments for glass and ceramics and compounds for polishing glass) to the highly
specialized (miniature nuclear batteries, lasers repeaters, superconductors and miniature
magnets).


The R
are Earths And Some Of Their End Uses

Name

Symbol

Some End Uses

Cerium

Ce

Catalysts, Ceramics, Glasses, Misch Metal*, Phosphors and
Polishing Powders

Dysprosium




Ce牡浩c猬⁐桯獰桯牳⁡湤⁎畣汥l爠䅰灬楣A瑩潮o

䕲扩畭




Ce牡浩c猬⁇污獳⁄ye猬sl灴pca氠li
扥牳Ⱐia獥牳ra湤n乵N汥l爠
Applications

Europium


Eu

Phosphors

Gadolinium


Gd

Ceramics, Glasses, Optical and Magnetic Detection and Medical
Image Visualization

Holmium


Ho

Ceramics, Lasers and Nuclear Applications

Lanthanum

La

Automotive Catalysts, Ceram
ics, Glasses, Phosphors and
Pigments

Lutetium


Lu

Single Crystal Scintillators

Neodymium

Nd

Catalysts, IR Filters, Lasers, Permanent Magnets and Pigments

Praseodymium

Pr

Ceramics, Glasses and Pigments

Promethium

Pm

Phosphors and Miniature Nuclear Batte
ries and Measuring
Devices

Samarium

Sm

Microwave Filters, Nuclear Applications and Permanent
Magnets

Scandium

Sc

Aerospace, Baseball Bats, Nuclear Applications, Lighting and
Semiconductors

Terbium


Tb

Phosphors

Thulium


Tm

Electron Beam Tubes and Medic
al Image Visualization

Ytterbium


Yb

Chemical Industry and Metallurgy

Yttrium


Y

Capacitors, Phosphors (CRT and Lamp), Radars and
Superconductors

Groups:
yttrium

and
lanthanide
(
Scandium

falls into neither category)




Heavy REM

* Misch Metal is an allo
y of rare earth metals used not only for lighter flints, but also,
probably more importantly, in purifying steel by removing oxygen and sulfur.

Separately, or as compounds, various rare earth metals are used also in the production
of superalloys.

REM are n
ow especially important, and used extensively, in the defense industry. Some
of their specific defense applications include: anti
-
missile defense, aircraft parts,
communications systems, electronic countermeasures, jet engines, rockets, underwater
mine det
ection, missile guidance systems and space
-
based satellite power.

USGS figures

for 2006 indicate that the three main uses of REM in the U.S. were:
automotive ca
talytic converters (25%), petroleum refining catalysts (22%) and
metallurgical additives and alloys (20%).


Source: USGS

In many of these

applications, the REM are used in the form of low
-
cost compounds. As
oxides, they are used extensively in the ceramics and glass industries and, in addition, for
various metallurgical uses. Indeed, it has been estimated that only 25% of mined REM
-
bearing
materials are actually processed to extract individual metals.

The REM most commonly used as separated metals are: cerium, europium, gadolinium,
neodymium, samarium and terbium.

Rare Earth Metals Supply

From having been a major producer (and consumer) of R
EM (from the Mountain Pass
mine in the Mojave Desert, Calif.) until the mid
-
80s, the U.S. now no longer mines
any

REM. The world's major producer is China (particularly from its Bayan Obo mining
operation in Inner Mongolia), with considerably lesser amount
s coming from Brazil,
India and Russia. Since 2000, domestic REM consumption in China (which now accounts
for over half of the country's overall REM products) has exceeded that of the U.S.

Global Rare Earth Metal Oxide Production
-

1950
-
2006 (‘000s Tonnes)


Source:
Russian Journal of Non
-
Ferrous Metals

(from U
SGS)

While REM deposits in China and the U.S. are primarily to be found in the mineral
bastnäsite (80
-
90% of all raw materials produced), elsewhere
-

and in particular in
Australia, Brazil, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand
-

they are
u
sually to be found in the mineral monazite. (There are also monazite resources both in
China and the U.S.) Mining monazite can, however, be a little tricky, as the ore tends to
contain the radioactive elements thorium (see
Cobalt: More Than Just Blue
) and radium.

In addition, there are also REM
-
containing ion
-
absorption ores in the south of China.
Importantly, these last contain around 80% of the world's known
resources of the less
-
widespread heavy, yttrium group, metals.

World Mine Production (Tonnes)

Country

2006

2007

China

119,000

120,000

India

2,700

2,700

Brazil

730

730

Malaysia

200

200

Thailand

-

-

Australia

-

-

U.S.

-

-

Other Countries

NA

NA

Total

(rounded)

123,000

124,000

Source: USGS

Although it mines no REM of its own, in 2007, the U.S. remained a major importer,
exporter and consumer. From 2003
-
2006, China accounted for some 94% of its REM
-
related imports.

While not yet actually recommencing m
ining operations (for environmental, regulatory
and market reasons), toward the end of 2007, Molycorp Inc. (wholly
-
owned by Chevron)
resumed operating its rare earth separation plant at Mountain Pass. The company
continues to sell bastnäsite concentrates a
nd REM intermediaries, together with refined
products, from its existing mine stocks. Permits to recommence mining are still pending.

Rare Earth Metals Demand

Domestic demand in the U.S., as well as the demand for REM globally, remained strong
in 2007, and

have continued so in 2008. This has been true both for mixed rare earth
compounds and the metals and their alloys. According to the
USGS
: "The trend is for a
c
ontinued increase in the use of rare earths in many applications, especially automotive
catalytic converters, permanent magnets, and rechargeable batteries."

Forecast Growth Of Rare Earth Metals Usage

Element

Application

Consumption

(Tonnes p.a. of REO)

Gr
owth
Rate

(% p.a)





2006

2012



Ce, La, Nd, Pr

Battery Alloy

17,000

43,000

17

Dy, Nd, Pr, Sm, Tb

Magnets

20,500

42,000

13

Eu, Tb, Y

Phosphors

8,500

14,000

9



Ceramics

5,500

9,000

9



Others

8,000

13,000

8

Ce, Nd, La

Catalysts

21,500

32,000

7

Ce,

La, Pr

Polishing Powder

14,000

21,000

7

Ce, Er, Gd, La, Nd, Yb

Glass Additives

13,000

14,000

1



Total

108,000

188,000

10

REO = rare earth oxide

Source: Roskill HK Rare Earth Conference, November 2007

The prices of most REM rose in 2007, and with the e
xception of neodymium and
praseodymium (both metal and oxides) and terbium (oxide), the prices of most REM
(metals and oxides) have either remained the same, or continued to rise in 2008.



Price
-

US$/Kg

Name

Oxide

Metal



End
-
2007

End
-
Oct 2008

End
-
2007

End
-
Oct 2008

Cerium

3.60

3.80

7.10

10.50

Dysprosium

94.00

118.00

125.00

153.00

Erbium

35.00

35.00

N/A

N/A

Europium

368.00

525.00

560.00

700.00

Gadolinium

N/A

N/A

25.00

28.00

Lanthanum

4.60

8.00

6.00

13.00

Lutetium

550.00

550.00

N/A

N/A

Neodymium

3
0.00

20.00

40.00

29.00

Praseodymium

28.00

20.00

37.00

29.00

Samarium

4.40

4.40

14.00

26.00

Terbium

633.00

621.00

750.00

793.00

Ytterbium

55.00

55.00

N/A

N/A

Yttrium

12.00

12.00

29.00

42.00

Misch Metal (48% Ce)

6.00

8.00

Misch Metal (25% La)

12.00

14
.00

Source:
Tianjiao International

With such strong domestic demand for REM in China, there are now controls on
production and exports (tariffs and quotas). And in some places, because of
environmental concerns, amon
g other things, there are both mining restrictions and
mining quotas.

According to
Roskill
's 2007 report on the
economics

of rare earths and yttrium, this has
"
broug
ht fundamental change to the global industry, taking it from oversupply to demand
shortages
."

Indeed, in its report, Roskill envisaged that, with demand growth for rare earths forecast
at 8
-
11% per annum, and should China's strict control persist, there w
ill be a significant
need for "new non
-
Chinese capacity in the next 3 to 4 years."

2007
-

Supply/Demand Forecast


Source: Roskill

Opportu
nities In Rare Earths

As with the minor metals, there are no exchanges on which REM are traded. Both the
physical metals and their different oxides can, however, be bought from various specialist
rare earth companies.

It seems reasonable to assume that the
re will always be demand for rare earths metals.
While there are substitutes, these are usually not as effective. Since no REM are currently
mined in the U.S., and Molycorp is a wholly
-
owned subsidiary of
Chevron
, no

direct
investment in any significant U.S. mining operations for these metals is possible.
Looking overseas, there are, however, some opportunities for exposure.

India, unfortunately, is out, as all three rare earth production companies are government
-
owne
d.

A recent
news snippet

about the Japanese chemical group
Showa Denko

(
Bloomberg
Ticker
-

SHWDF:US
) was of particular interest on two coun
ts. Not only did it state that
the company had set up a joint venture to extract dysprosium in Vietnam, but also that it
was doing so because it wanted to secure a "stable supply" of rare earth magnetic
materials as, currently, it relies on China
-

where,
indeed, it currently has two subsidiaries
(Baotou and Ganzhou).

China

If, however, the world's largest REM producer is of interest, then, among the Chinese
companies mining REM in Bayan Obo, is the quoted
Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare
-
Earth Hi
-
Tech Co Ltd

(Baogang) (
Bloomberg Ticker
-

600111:CH
).

Quoted companies mining REM elsewhere in China include:
China Rare Earth Holdings
Ltd

(
Bloomberg Ticker
-

CREQF:US
),
Aluminum Corporation of China

(aka Chinalco)
(
Bloomberg Ticker
-

ACH:US
),
Neo Material Technologies

(
Bloomberg Ticker
-

NEM:CN
).

Recently,

however, the mines in Sichuan were shut down, and there are strict quotas in
places in Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi, where there has been severe
environmental damage.

Australia

In Australia, there are currently a number of rare earth mining projec
ts at various stages
of development.

According to an ASX announcement at the beginning of July this year, the
"Demonstration Pilot Plant" at
Alkane Resources
' (
Bloomberg Ticker
-

ALK:AU
)
Dubbo Zirconia project was
set to go 24/7 in late July, and it stated that "(l)aboratory
scale testing for recovery of the rare earth elements is scheduled to commence in July."

Arafura Resources

(
Bloomberg Ticker
-

AFAFF:US
) expec
ts the rare earths processing
plant at its Nolans Project in the country's Northern Territory to be in production in 2011.

Based on November 2005 figures, the company compared its Nolans resource with some
others around the world.


Source:
Arafura Resources Limited

At its Mount Weld project in Western Australia,
Lynas Corporation

(
Bloomberg Ticker
-

LYSCF:US
) completed its first mining "campaign" in May. Based on figures updated
in March this year, the company believes its resources at the project now amount to some
12.24 million tonnes
at 9.7% rare earth oxide, which will produce some 1,124,000 tonnes
of REO.

Canada

In addition to Neo Material Technologies out of Toronto, with its operation in China,
there are three other Canadian companies involved, to a greater or lesser extent, in REM

in Canada itself.

Avalon Ventures Ltd (
Bloomberg Ticker
-

AVL:CN
) has its Thor Lake Project near
Yellowknife in Canada's Northwest Territories with, according to the company,
"
[e]xceptio
nal enrichment in Neodymium & Heavy REE
."

VMS Ventures

(
Bloomberg Ticker
-

VMS:CN
), out of Vancouver, has its Eden Lake
Carbonatite Complex in Manitoba, where REM were discovered in 2003.

Great Western Minerals
Group (
Bloomberg Ticker
-

GWG:CN
), out of Saskatoon in
Saskatchewan, has its Hoidas Lake Rare Earth Project which, in the words of the
company, "
...is North America's most advanced Rare Earth Element (
REE
) property in
development..." and "
...has the potential to supply at least 10% of North America's
consumptio
n of REE for many years
.
"

Finally, Canada's Rare Element Resources (
Bloomberg Ticker
-

RES:CN
), has not only
gold on its Bear Lodge, Wyo., property, but also, in its words, "
significant high
-
gr
ade
rare
-
earth elements
."

For those interested in looking "downstream," there are a number of REM producers
internationally, especially in Japan. In the U.S., however, apart from Chevron's Molycorp,
both France's chemical company
Rhodia

(
Bloomberg Ticker
-

RHA:FP
), and
WR
Grace
's (
Bloomberg Ticker
-

GRA:US
) Grace Davison division are actively involved in
processing rare earths.

Afterwords

First, it has been estimated that current
global consumption of REM now accounts for
around 70
-
75% of their total production
. This leads one to believe that considerable
quantities of mined REO remain, as yet to be p
rocessed.

Second, the mineral ore resources currently mined to produce REM contain different
groups of metals, not just particular, individual, metals in isolation. So, instead of some
of these metals being by
-
products of other metals, as, say, rhenium is
of moly, and moly
is of copper, they are essentially "co
-
products"
-

mine for one and the others come free.

The corollary to this, however, is that the economics of mining on such a "volume" basis
could lead to it just not being viable to mine such ore res
ources for one or two REM
alone, especially if the other metals contained in the REO do not "pay their way." In
future, therefore, the composition of a mine's REO resources
-

as opposed just to the
volume of ore it can produce
-

may well become critical to

that mine's economic viability.

Third, even though rare earth metals are classified as critical minerals in the U.S.
National Academies' "
criticality matrix
," the U.S. Nationa
l Defense Stockpile at present
contains none.




http://www.chemicalelements.com/groups/rareearth.html

The thirty rare earth elements are composed of the lanthanide and actinide
series.

One element of the lanthanide series and most of the elements in the
actinide series are called trans
-
uranium, which means synthetic or man
-
made. All
of the rare earth metals are found in group 3 of the periodic table, and the 6th
and 7th periods. The Rar
e Earth Elements are made up of two series of elements,
the Lanthanide and Actinide Series.

The Rare Earth Elements are:

Lanthanide Series



Actinide Series



Lanthanum



Cerium



Praseodymium



Neodymium



Promethium



Samarium



Europium



Gadolinium



Terbium



Dysprosium



Holmium



Erbium



Thulium



Ytterbium



Lutetium




Actinium



Thorium



Protactinium



Uranium



Neptunium



Plutonium



Ameri
cium



Curium



Berkelium



Californium



Einsteinium



Fermium



Mendelevium



Nobelium



Lawrencium