Turkey has just disclosed the second-largest reserve of rare earths – but its value is still up in the air


By James Rogers

The site in the central Anatolia region contains 694 million tons of rare earth reserves, according to a statement from Turkey’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.

The world’s second largest reserve of rare earths has been discovered in Turkey, officials say, but experts warn that turning rare earth deposits into financial success is easier said than done.

The site in the central Anatolia region contains 694 million tons of rare earth reserves, according to a statement from Turkey’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. The world’s largest rare earth field is an 800 million tonne site in China, officials added.

Rare earth elements are used in a host of industries, from consumer technology to automotive and aviation.

Of the 17 rare earth elements, 10 will be produced at the site, according to Fatih Dönmez, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources. “We will process 570,000 tonnes of ore per year,” he said in a translated statement. Some 10,000 tons of rare earth oxide will be obtained from the processed ore, Dönmez added. On Friday, the minister tweeted that the construction of a pilot plant, which will process 1,200 tonnes of rare earths per year, will be completed later this year.

Experts, however, say that despite their name, rare earths are not that rare.

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“There are plenty of rare earths on the planet, there is no shortage,” said Lewis Black, CEO of tungsten mining company Almonty Industries Inc..

“Rare earths are not rare,” Christopher Ecclestone, mining strategist at Hallgarten & Company, told MarketWatch, noting that large deposits are not unheard of. “It all depends on the grade, the mineralogy and finally the percentages of heavy or light [according to their atomic weights] and/or magnetic metals,” he added.

“The old adage that ‘quality is king’ in mining still holds true,” said Jon Hykawy, President of Stormcrow Capital. “If this Turkish find is gigantic but very low quality, well, we usually call material like this ‘dirt’ – it means the same to miners as it does to everyone else.”

If rare earths can be obtained inexpensively, they can be very useful, according to Hykawy. “Magnets made with a combination of neodymium or praseodymium (both rare earths), iron and boron (neither of which are rare earths) are, compared to pure iron magnets, incredibly strong,” said he explained, adding that magnets can be useful in drones and other products. “The smaller and more powerful the magnet, the smaller and more powerful the electric motor – so it impacts everything from consumer electronics and home appliances to automobiles.”

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But experts warn that dealing with rare earth elements is no easy task. “With a material like gold, if you find a good deposit, your path is well understood,” Hykawy told MarketWatch. “You mine the ore, mine the gold and then you sell it because the customers are making their way to your doorstep – with rare earths your path is a bit more difficult.”

After ore extraction, minerals containing rare earths must be concentrated. “Then you dissolve the rare earths out of the minerals and into solution,” Hykawy added. “Then you extract the rare earths as oxides, but due to a quirk of nature, all the rare earths tend to behave like chemicals, so you end up with a mess of all the rare earths mixed together.”

The rare earths must then be separated from each other. “But to turn them into things like magnets, I have to take some of the oxides and turn them back into metals,” Hykawy explained. “It’s not just about pouring metal into a mold and then you’re done.”

Black of Almonty Industries agrees that processing rare earths presents a unique set of challenges. “There are a lot of heavy chemicals in refining, after extraction,” he said. “You have to handle this very carefully.”

However, it can be achieved. Black cited the Mountain Pass mine in California, which is owned by MP Materials Corp. (MP), and the Lynas Rare Earths Ltd. deposit. of Lynas Mount Weld in Australia as “fantastic projects”.

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The significance of the discovery in Turkey will depend on its ability to become economic, according to Luisa Moreno, managing partner of Tahuti Global. “Size isn’t everything,” she told MarketWatch, highlighting the challenges facing Greenland Minerals Ltd.’s rare earths project. in Kvanefjed in Greenland. Last year, Greenland’s parliament banned uranium mining, according to Mining.com, a move that blocked development of the massive rare earths project.

Despite the difficulties associated with obtaining rare earths, Moreno highlights the wide range of applications of the elements. “The VE [electric vehicle] The market will need large quantities of rare-earth magnets,” she explained. “Rare earths are essential for the defense industry and are widely used in medical applications (such as MRI machines), as fertilizers, as phosphor materials for lighting applications and displays, in emission control ( for example, catalytic converters), are essential for oil refinery, etc.”

According to Ryan Castilloux, Managing Director and Founder of Adamas Intelligence, if Turkey succeeds in bringing the vast field of rare earths into production, it could help reduce the West’s reliance on rare earths from China. “Europe and North America have fallen so far behind on this issue that it will take several ‘Turkeys’ to wean themselves off China,” he added.

In his statement, Dönmez predicts that 72,000 tons of barite, 70,000 tons of fluorite and 250 tons of thorium will be mined from the site in central Anatolia. Barite is used in oil and gas exploration and in the healthcare industry, while fluorite is used in steelmaking. Thorium is promoted as a fuel for the nuclear power industry.

-James Rogers

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswire

07-08-22 1619ET

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