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Source: Stephen Codrington
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14 January 2021
THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF RARE EARTHS
Construction at the Yangibana rare-earths project in WA is expected to commence in mid-2021. Yangibana will join Mt Weld (also in WA) as one of the few significant rare-earths operations outside China.
Rare earths, first discovered in Sweden in the late 1700s, are not particularly rare in the earth’s crust. However, they are difficult to exploit economically. And although they have a range of industrial uses, they are not well-known in everyday life.
This is changing, with the emergence of several rare-earth elements (there are 17 in all) as key components of high-technology products such as of electric vehicles, wind turbines, mobile phones and computer hard drives. The US, Australia, Japan, Germany and some other developed countries are treating rare earths as “strategic minerals”, promoting their development so as to lessen dependence in this sector on China.
The image shows oxides in powdered form of several rare earths, including neodymium and praseodymium, which are used in permanent magnets and will dominate production from Yangibana. The proponent for this project (Hastings Technology Metals) believes that, by the late 2020s, the magnets in electric vehicles will account for over 40% of demand for these two rare earths.