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China role in REE and role of other REE producers

Nuria Jay
 


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Uranium is one of the crucial elements prominently serving the world in its safe, clean and trustworthy energy. Uranium is abundantly found in rare earths deposits.

Currently China is the leading supplier of this unconventional resource. It caused a sudden commercial pressure in other countries to develop and establish such production utilizing their available deposits and some of the countries have significant uranium deposits. Besides uranium, rare earth elements are as important as uranium. Rare earth elements (REE) are of seventeen types in which fifteen are contigunous lanthanoids and the rest two - scandium and yttrium are lighter.

Yttrium and scandium are considered rare earth elements as they have similar chemical properties and found in the same ore deposits where other REE’s are found. Though, these metals are not rare. Because of non-economic exploitable nature of and are not found in concentrated form, REE’s are considered as rare earth metals. These metals are difficult to extract as these elements are found together.

Cerium earths includes cerium, scandium, gadolinium, neodymium, lanthanum, , praseodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, and yttrium earths includes holmium, yttrium, lutetium, terbium, dysprosium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, gadolinium and europium. 80% of world’s total production of REE is from China since 1998 and mostly from the inner Mongolia. Most of the heavy REE such as dysprosium come from China. The current supply of yttrium is associated from southern China.

In 2010, China had announced to hold back exports of REE from the 35,000 t. It also ban exports of terbium and dysprosium. This led to produce these REE’s outside China and Molycorp's Mountain Pass mine in California, Mount Weld in Western Australia, Nolans Bore in Central Australia and Kvanefjeld in Greenland are the examples of mining projects outside China. Nolans Bore in Central Australia and Kvanefjeld in Greenland have significant uranium content with the rare earth oxides.

In April 2011, under the National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC), China's Ministry of Industry & Information Technology positioned a production quota for REO of 93,800 tonnes. It also set REO smelting quota of 90,400 tonnes.

It had been decided that before mid 2012, no new mining licenses will be issued for the establishment of any Minerals and Energy Companies. According to the Ministry of Industry & Information Technology, no extra production ahead of the quotas will be permissible.

Minerals and Energy Companies outside China have proven their importance and playing a crucial role in world’s total production of REE and uranium.

Greenland Mining Services and Energy Ltd. is known for the production of Rare Earth Metals and producing uranium from its available uranium deposits.

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