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The attenuate earths are a accumulation of 17 elements absolute Scandium, Yttrium, and the Lanthanides. The Lanthanides are a accumulation of 15 (Cerium, Dysprosium, Erbium, Europium, Gadolinium, Holmium, Lanthanum, Lutetium, Neodymium, Praseodymium, Samarium, Terbium, Thorium, Thulium, Ytterbium) chemically agnate elements with diminutive numbers 57 through 71, inclusive.
Yttrium, diminutive cardinal 39, isn’t a lanthanide but is included in the attenuate earths because it generally occurs with them in attributes – it has agnate actinic properties. Scandium, diminutive cardinal 21 is additionally included in the accumulation although it usually occurs abandoned in accessory amounts.
The best abounding attenuate apple elements (REE) are anniversary begin in the earth’s band in amounts according to nickel, copper, zinc, molybdenum, or advance – Cerium is the 25th best abounding aspect of the 78 accepted elements in the Earth’s crust. Alike the two diminutive abounding REEs (Thulium, Lutetium) are about 200 times added accepted than gold. Overall Rees accept an affluence greater than argent and agnate amounts to chestnut and lead.
The “rare” in attenuate apple elements came from balked 19th aeon chemists who absitively they were aberrant afterwards aggravating to abstract these chemically accompanying elements. REES are additionally actual adamantine to acquisition in bread-and-butter concentrations.
The Lanthanides are disconnected into ablaze attenuate elements, LREE, and abundant attenuate apple elements, HREE. Ablaze REE’s are fabricated up of the aboriginal seven elements of the lanthanide alternation – Lanthanum (La, diminutive cardinal 57), Cerium (Ce, diminutive cardinal 58), Praseodymium (Pr, diminutive cardinal 59), Neodymium (Nd, diminutive cardinal 60) Promethium (Pm, diminutive cardinal 61) and Samarium (Sm, diminutive cardinal 62).
HREEs are fabricated up of the college diminutive numbered elements – Europium (EU, diminutive cardinal 63), Gadolinium (Gd, diminutive cardinal 64), Terbium (TB, diminutive cardinal 65), Dysprosium (Dy, diminutive cardinal 66), Holmium (Ho, diminutive cardinal 67), Erbium (Er, diminutive cardinal 68), Thulium (Tm, diminutive cardinal 69), Ytterbium (Yb, diminutive cardinal 70) and Lutetium (Lu, diminutive cardinal 71).
The arch bread-and-butter sources of LREE are the minerals bastnasite and monazite. In best attenuate apple deposits, the aboriginal four REE – La, Ce, Pr, and Nd – aggregate 80 to 99 percent of the total.
Deposits of bastnäsite in China and the United States represent the better allotment of the world’s Attenuate Apple bread-and-butter resources.
The added better allotment of the world’s LREE Attenuate Apple bread-and-butter assets is monazite. Monazite contains beneath La, added Nd and some HREE with usually animated levels of thorium compared to bastnasite.
Ion-adsorbed REE in clays from South China accommodate the aggregate of HREE to the bazaar place.
Many REE applications are awful specific and substitutes are inferior or unknown:
China mines REEs from bastnäsite ore in the ambit of Gansu and Sichuan. In Inner Mongolia REEs are acquired as a by-product from adamant making.
HREE extraction, based on ion assimilation clays, occurs in the states of Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangxi and Jiangsu. These clays accept actual low cerium agreeable and as a aftereffect the added REES, in accurate the HREEs, comprise a abundant aloft allotment of the ore than is about begin elsewhere.
Currently Chinese ion assimilation ore is the basic antecedent for HREE and assets are not published. There may be the achievability of advertent new ion assimilation deposits in Southeast Asia, about aerial costs for labor, abridgement of basement and ecology restrictions may cede these new deposits big-ticket aback aggressive in the bazaar abode with Chinese output.
China has 36 to 53 percent of the world’s REE deposits (industry abstracts differ) and food 97 percent (this cardinal is constant) of the all-around appeal for attenuate apple elements. The low bulk and able assembly from China’s ample deposits affected the cease of about every attenuate apple abundance alfresco of China.
Tighter banned on assembly and bargain consign quotas are actuality put in abode to ensure China has the all-important accumulation for its own abstruse and bread-and-butter needs – in 2006 aggregate abandoned to 48,000 tonnes. In 2007 aggregate abandoned to 43,574 tonnes, in 2008 aggregate abandoned to 40,987 tonnes and in 2009 to 33,300 tonnes. In 2010 China abandoned its anniversary REE consign allocation by 37% and again appear an added 35% bead in its H1 2011 consign quota.
In a coursing to defended jobs, and admission to avant-garde technologies, the Chinese accept affected manufacturers defective admission to REEs to achieve their accessories in China. These manufacturers charge either cut aback assembly or body their factories/products in China – afresh aloft producers of the allurement actual Neodymium-Iron-Boron accept transferred their operations to China.
Demand for Attenuate Earths is forecasted to abound at 8-11% per year amid 2011 and 2014. Abounding experts are admiration that the Chinese, and those end users who confused to China for aegis of supply, will be internally arresting best of the countries attenuate apple assembly by about 2014.
Forecast demand, source: IMCOA presentation
Rare apple appeal is apprenticed by several all-around macroeconomic trends:
The accomplished appeal advance is accepted for magnets and metal alloys – amalgam and electric cartage forth with wind turbines (also Aerial Speed Rail) will attempt for the basic abstracts and there are no substitutions for the REEs acclimated in these applications. An added use of activity able beaming lights and growing appeal for LCDs, PDPs will admission the use of phosphors.
The French Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières ante aerial tech metals as critical, or not, based on three criteria:
It’s actual accessible REEs are analytical metals and that the west is activity to charge a secure, continued appellation accumulation of Attenuate Apple Elements absolutely absolute of Chinese control.
There are a lot of inferior companies in this amplitude aggressive for broker attention.
“Wilderness of Mirrors” is a byword coined by the 1950s era counter-intelligence arch John Foster Dulles to call the intelligence game. In particular, the byword refers to the adversity of amid bamboozlement from truth.
One of the world’s foremost REE geologists and mineralogists Anthony “Tony” Marianno says anniversary REE deposit, bold a favorable political altitude and acceptable logistics, will charge assertive altitude present:
isolation and closing recovery
Dudley Kingsnorth of Industrial Minerals Aggregation of Australia (IMCOA) outlines the all-important achieve to booty a REE drop all the way to production:
There are cogent barriers to admission into the Attenuate Earths market:
There’s a adage apropos the chase for bread-and-butter quantities of attenuate earths:
“You are not adorable for a REE deposit, you are adorable for a Bastnaesite deposit.” ~ anon
Practically all ablaze REE are extracted from bastnaesite and monazite, while the abundant REE comes from xenotime and ionic clays. The action of extracting REE from these four minerals has not afflicted over the aftermost two decades. Aback you analysis these four minerals actinic compositions you will see they are not complex. The added complex, the harder it is to abstract what you appetite and get the ultra aerial abstention oxides, metals, alloys and powders required.
Mineralogy is mineral composition, metallurgy the action of extraction. Complicated mineralogy can beggarly complex, expensive, adeptness intensive, time arresting metallurgy.
Bastnaesite: REE CO3F, LREE dominant.
Monazite: REE PO4, LREE dominant.
South China Clays: Ion-adsorbed REE Y in Clays
Xenotime: Y,HREE PO4, HREE dominant, one of the best sources for Y and HREE. Usually begin in baby quantities associated with monazite.
Ancylite: (Ce) SrREE(CO3)2(OH)·H2O, LREE dominant.
Eudialyte: Na15Ca6(Fe2 ,Mn2 )3Zr3(Si,Nb)(Si25,O73)(O,OH,H2O)3(CL,OH)2, HREE dominant, name acquired from the Greek byword – “well decomposable” alluding to its accessible solubility in acid. Colloidal silica makes it difficult to abstract the REEs but Eudialyte ores are amid the best able sources of attenuate apple mineral raw material.
Britholite: (REE,Y,Ca)5(SiO4,PO4)3(OH,F), a phosphate so should be able to able it.
Allanite: (Ce) (Ce,Ca,Y)2(Al,Fe2 ,Fe3 )3(SiO4)3(OH), LREE ascendant but with low quantities of REE Y compared to bastnasite. Adverse in nature.
Zircon: ZrSiO4, Zircon is generally the aloft abundant mineral in bank bank and river placers. It is additionally a byproduct of Sn, Ti and Au mining. Strong adverse attributes and attrition to actinic dissolution. Zircon is the basic raw actual bare for value-added zirconium chemicals production.
Loparite (Ce) (REE,Na,Ca) (Ti, Nb,Ta)O3 Alkaline ablaze massif
Uraninite: REE and Y – Released as attenuated elements in rafinates from uraninite
Fergusonite is a mineral absolute a circuitous oxide of assorted attenuate apple elements. Fergusonite occurs in abounding geologic environments and has adorable chemistry. Unfortunately it isn’t begin in accommodating quantities.
Mining REEs is adequately aboveboard but amid and extracting a audible REE takes a abundant accord of time, accomplishment and expertise.
Rare Apple Ore: the ore is arena up application crushers and alternating cutting mills, alluring breach (bastnaesite and monazite – are awful magnetic, they can be afar from non-magnetic algae in the ore through again electromagnetic separation) and floatation gives you the everyman bulk bankable artefact in the Attenuate Apple accumulation alternation – the concentrated ore. The milling equipment; crushers, cutting mills, abutment devices, and magnetic, gravity, and electrostatic separators all accept to be configured in a way that apparel the blazon of ore actuality mined – no two ores acknowledge the aforementioned way.
Concentrated ore: chemically abstract the adulterated attenuate earths from the concentrated ore (cons) by actinic processing. The cons accept to abide actinic analysis to acquiesce added breach and advance of the REEs. This action – alleged arise – includes techniques like roasting, alkali or abrasive fusion, aerial temperature sulphidation, and acerbic leaching which acquiesce the REEs aural a apply to be dissolved. This separates the adulterated attenuate earths from any added metals that may be present in the ore. The aftereffect will be still adulterated calm attenuate earths.
Rare Apple Oxide (REO): the aloft bulk in REE processing lies in the assembly of aerial abstention REOs and metals – but it isn’t easy. A REE refinery uses ion barter and/or multi-stage bread-and-butter abstraction technology to abstracted and absolve the REEs. Solvent-extraction processes absorb re-immersing candy ore into altered actinic solutions in adjustment to abstracted abandoned elements. The elements are so abutting to anniversary added in acceding of diminutive weight that anniversary of these processes absorb assorted stages to complete the breach process. In some cases it requires several hundred tanks of altered solutions to abstracted one attenuate apple aspect – HREEs are the hardest, best time arresting to separate.
The acceding of REOs can additionally alter abundantly – they can and generally are advised to accommodated the blueprint laid out by the end artefact users – a REO that apparel one manufacturers needs may not clothing another’s.
In this authors assessment a few inferior REE miners will be able to aftermath oxides but the artefact will not be added than 98% authentic and command, as of April 11th 2011, US$38kg. The bulk to admission the abstention to the 99.999% appropriate by best end users – and the abstruse knowhow and operational adeptness – will be aloft the capabilities of about every inferior miner. The 98% oxide will still accept to be beatific for added refining.
Very few REE miners will anytime get paid for bearing a 98% oxide (Molycorp does, their boilerplate bulk for a kilogram of oxide artefact in the aboriginal analysis of 2011 was US$38) let abandoned a 99.999% authentic oxide (average LREE oxide bulk US$197kg June 11th) – it seems actual acceptable that best REE juniors will end up affairs a adulterated attenuate apple band-aid – a apply commensurable (place in the accumulation chain) to what a inferior chestnut miner would sell.
Others added up the REE bulk added accumulation alternation will about-face the apply into aerial abstention attenuate apple oxides and abide the action of authoritative the aerial abstention metals, alloys and powders.
Demand is growing for attenuate apple metals.
A accepted address for bearing metals from REOs is metallothermic reduction. The oxides are broadcast in a molten, calcium chloride ablution forth with sodium metal. The sodium reacts with the calcium chloride to aftermath calcium metal, which reduces the oxides to attenuate apple metals.
Sorption is a aggregate of the two processes – absorption, in which a actuality diffuses into a aqueous or solid to anatomy a solution, and adsorption, in which a gas or aqueous accumulates on the apparent of addition actuality to anatomy a diminutive or diminutive film.
Other abstraction technologies include; exhaustion distillation, mercury admix oxidation-reduction, high-performance centrifugal allotment chromatoagraphy and Sl-octyl phenyloxy acerb acerbic treatment.
The continuing miniaturization of cyberbanking accessories – such as deejay drives and micro motors – is accessible because of the adeptness of attenuate apple magnets to amalgamate aerial alluring backbone with a baby admeasurement and weight.
Magnetic powders are produced by processing specific combinations of elements that aftereffect in audible alluring and concrete characteristics. These powders are the primary actual acclimated in the achieve of attenuate apple abiding magnets. The basic elements captivated in the achieve of Neo and samarium-cobalt abiding magnets are; neodymium, samarium, some dysprosium and praseodymium.
Neodymium is adulterated with adamant and boron as able-bodied as added elements (like cobalt). In adjustment to aftermath neo crumb for the achieve of affirmed (highly shapeable) Neo magnets, the admixture is broiled and again rapidly caked to aftermath Neo powders with the adapted characteristics.
The breeze of electrical signals on every printed base lath acclimated in cyberbanking accessories is adapted and controlled by the use of dielectric chips accepted as multi band bowl capacitors (“MLCC’s”). Abounding use attenuate apple formulas absolute lanthanum and neodymium of aerial abstention and with absolutely engineered concrete properties.
All the aloft circuitous metallurgical technologies accept taken decades to evolve, the methods of achieve and compositions of metals, alloys and powders acclimated are all proprietary methods developed over years of balloon and absurdity – they are not accepted knowledge, absolutely the opposite, they are deeply captivated secrets that actual few know. Abridgement of admission to proprietary admonition about circuitous concrete and actinic processes will acutely bind companies from aggressive the bulk added chain.
This columnist believes no inferior REE miners will be able to aftermath a attenuate apple abiding allurement – or the aerial abstention metals, alloys and powders acclimated in accomplishment aerial tech devices.
When I appraise a REE junior’s activity I appetite to see one mineral hosting as abundant of the REE as possible, not three or more. I appetite that mineralization ample grained and non-interlocking and I appetite road, abuse and admission to the adeptness filigree close.
Each drop will accept its own altered mineralogy – this has to be determined. A aggregation has to apply its accretion efforts on the REE’s – whether LREE or HREE – that are activity to be accessible to balance in an bargain apprehensible circuit, they accept to assignment with what attributes has accustomed them in adjustment to be aggressive in the market. Watch for how abounding altered types of minerals the REE are hosted in.
When we allocution about a cutting or crushing ambit the acceding Bond Equation and Assignment Base appear into play. The appellation Bond Equation measures assignment done or assignment that has to be done while the Assignment Base is authentic as the adeptness burning all-important to achieve the work.
If REE host minerals accept ample audible grains (the aloft the atom the easier the abstraction of REE) and actual little intergrowth (there’s consistently some) the REE is accessible to abstract and there is actual little crushing involved. The bulk of assignment bare to be done, the Bond Equation, and the bulk of adeptness needed, the Assignment Index, is actual low. Some deposits host mineralization whose atom admeasurement is abstinent in millimeters, low Bond Equation = low Assignment Base = lower adeptness consumption. Therefore electrical adeptness and added associated costs (maintenance and replacement) are low – adeptness burning costs for cutting and crushing are aloft costs for miners, abnormally deposits far off the filigree acute agent to achieve electricity.
If mineralization is abate grained and interlocked it is actual adamantine to abstract the REE. In this book the Bond Equation is actual aerial because of all the assignment all-important – some deposits ore has to be ashamed bottomward to the micron akin (dust) for REE extraction. The Assignment Index, the adeptness appropriate to bullwork and drove to so accomplished a artefact is immense.
An acutely aerial Assignment Base to adapt ore can achieve or breach a deposits economics, abnormally aback poor basement is advised – no abuse or alley for transport, no admission to the adeptness filigree and a aerial Assignment Base are all abeyant drop killers aback it comes to aggressive in the bazaar place.
Silica (Si) does not deliquesce in acerbic calmly and actuality beach is actual adamantine on cutting and crushing equipment. Silica will absolutely abrasion on brawl mills and that adds contaminants.
Company metallurgical letters can appearance up to 98% boilerplate accretion ante for all REES listed in their appraisal tables – but this is lab testing, ashamed to dust, broiled and acerbic leached for hours times three – we could get that affectionate of accretion from the city out in advanced of my abode if it had any REE in it. In 2010 SRK Consulting advised 18 years of anniversary achievement abstracts and six months of operational abstracts amid 2001 and 2002 (after accomplishing of improvements) from Molycorps absolute mill. The boilerplate accretion amount was 63%. SRK appropriate that a comminute accretion of 70% is accessible aback the comminute is operated on a abiding base and with added improvements.
We’re told the bulk of the ore is based on – converting the abandoned REE percentages to oxide, times the accepted affairs bulk per kilogram, add them all together. The botheration is the aggregation will never get paid 98% oxide prices for all those altered REEs – let abandoned get paid for a 99.999% authentic oxide which is the bulk abounding are using.
Does a aggregation accept aerial levels of uranium or low levels of thorium in it’s deposit? If you’ve got thorium area does it address to? If its recovered as thorite you can abstract and accord with it alone – it doesn’t accept to go into a tailings pond. Look actual carefully at the assignment tables companies broadcast on their websites. Ratios of thorium against REEs usually abide connected – if you see a fasten in thorium levels you will about consistently see a fasten in REE levels. If there’s a fasten in thorium afterwards a fasten in REEs again your thorium ability be recovered as thorite.
How radioactive is the concentrated ore and waste? Will the aggregation be classified as mining radioactive actual if it gets that far? Over a assertive rad calculation in British Columbia – in abounding added places as able-bodied – and you alpha arena in a accomplished altered ballpark as far as mining and the ambiance are concerned.
A few analyst letters accept been appear that say the REE bazaar will be saturated aural a few years because of a huge admission in assembly accepted from new mines advancing on stream. As of yet none of these mines are on beck – some accept been activity into assembly abutting year for the aftermost several years – and are today still adopting money for “production”, still haven’t done a basic bread-and-butter abstraction (PEA), a pre-feasibility or achievability studies, accept no bread-and-butter reserves, accept no permits and accept appear no astute estimates of mining costs or alike a metallurgical report.
Many of the deposits actuality counted on for abreast and mid-term accumulation artlessly don’t, in this authors opinion, accept the mineralogy and/or the all-important abutting by basement to attempt in the market.
The approaching for some of our inferior company’s REE deposits (the ones with the appropriate mineralogy and that are of acceptable tonnage) will be end users accepting off booty agreements or affairs a company’s REE drop absolute to accept aegis of supply.
Spending 200 or added actor dollars for absolute buying of a deposit, or accomplishing a cardinal costs to get the drop into assembly for an off booty acceding is actual little money upfront to booty so abundant aegis of accumulation accident off the table for a aloft aerial tech accomplishment aggregation or a bulk added attenuate earths producer.
The opportunities in the inferior REE area are significant. But the inferior citizenry is absolutely ample – there are actually hundreds of stocks to accept from that appetite your dollars.
There is a abrupt acquirements ambit and there are austere risks – abundant rewards appear duke in duke with abundant risk. You charge be able to do your own due activity and bare the opportunities.
You charge be able to appraise these opportunities, pay approved assimilation to your portfolio, administer the accident and booty albatross for your own decisions.
Fish, in their anthology “Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors” sang:
I accumulate a acuity in a wilderness of mirrors
Where annihilation actuality is anytime what it seems
Is the REE inferior ability sector, with its immense opportunity, on your alarm screen?
If not, maybe it should be.
Richard Mills owns no shares of any companies mentioned in this address and none are advertisers on his armpit aheadoftheherd.com
Richard (Rick) Millswww.aheadoftheherd.com
Richard lives with his ancestors on a 160 acre agronomical in arctic British Columbia. He invests in the ability and biotechnology/pharmaceutical sectors and is the buyer of Aheadoftheherd.com. His accessories accept been appear on over 400 websites, including: SafeHaven.com, WallStreetJournal, USAToday, NationalPost, Lewrockwell, MontrealGazette, VancouverSun, CBSnews, HuffingtonPost, Beforeitsnews, Londonthenews, Wealthwire, CalgaryHerald, Forbes, Dallasnews, SGTreport, Vantagewire, Indiatimes, Ninemsn, Ibtimes, Businessweek, HongKongHerald, Moneytalks, SeekingAlpha, BusinessInsider, Investing.com and the Association of Mining Analysts.
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