The discovery of rare earth elements in Turkey poses a challenge to China’s stranglehold on digital technology in the West.
rare earth elements, like energy, underpin the infrastructural needs of a well-functioning modern society. They are essential to common communication devices, such as cell phones and computers, but are also essential components of many “green” technologies, such as electric cars and wind turbines.
The global rare earth market has so far been dominated by China. The Far Eastern country has the largest known reserve of rare earth elements at 800 million tons, accounting for 30% of the global market. But this balance of power over natural resources is about to change, as Turkey recently discovered the second largest reserve of rare earth elements in the world in central Anatolia, estimated at 694 million tons.
Fatih Dönmez, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources said that the drilling work had already started in 2011 and that the estimate of the size of the reserve is based on a complete analysis of the samples collected. According to Dönmez, the field is extremely close to the surface, which makes extracting the elements relatively inexpensive. Of the 17 known rare elements, Turkey will be able to extract 10 from the reserve.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announcement plans to establish “a production facility that will process the ore”. Once the production results of the trials are known, industrial facilities will be set up. “Our goal is to process 570,000 tonnes of ore per year when this facility reaches full capacity, 10,000 tonnes of rare earth oxides, 72,000 tonnes of barite, 70,000 tonnes of fluorite and 250 tonnes of thorium,” he said. said Erdogan.
According to Minister Dönmez, the aim is to use the reserves as a gateway to further establish a high-end industry in Turkey. “If you earn one unit when you sell the ore you extract without processing it, you can make it ten times more valuable when you process it into an intermediate product, and 100 times more when you process it into an end product,” Dönmez explained. . His views are clearly geared towards industrial production:
We will first produce the materials our industry needs, but we will have the ability to export more than we need. This will be one of the good examples of our new economic model focusing on investment, employment, production and export, which we frequently express in the Turkish economic model. We will have the opportunity to realize all the products of the supply chain from the first product to the final product here. Our goal is to produce high-tech value-added products in this field and offer them to our people.
For Turkey, the discovery of the reserves is good news, as the country is currently suffering from hyper-inflation which has hit the 78% mark.