The worldwide drive for cleaner energy, via hybrid & electric cars (EVs), wind turbines, low energy light bulbs, batteries and energy storage, and technological goods such as smartphones will only increase as all nations of the world seek energy efficiency and energy security.
Future-facing battery metals such as lithium are receiving much publicity and investment...but importantly, what will these batteries drive? Motors. They drive motors, otherwise you just have an expensive battery on wheels.
These motors typically contain the rare earth elements (REE) neodymium (Nd) & praseodymium (Pr) in what are known as rare earth permanent magnets (REPMs). A standard EV has 3 kg of REPM per car, which equates to circa 1 kg Nd per car.
All REE are subject to well-known supply chain issues yet this group of elements are vital to efficient performance in electric motors & wind generators, as well as LED/CFL lighting, and other "low-carbon" technologies.
There have been attempts to diversify the supply chain for REE since the price spikes of 2011. However, akin to the dotcom bubble of 2000, many burgeoning miners literally promised “the earth” only to fail due to lower REE prices and challenging deposit characteristics (despite lauding high grade/high tonnages) and/or logistical remoteness. The 2020s are set to see a steady growth in demand for the magnet REEs Nd & Pr, in response to major car manufactures announcing the use of REPMs in their EV and HV fleets, as well as recently rekindled security of supply pressures.
At E-Tech Metals we aren’t speculative financiers. We are, refreshingly, scientists that look at deposits via a wave of metrics. Focus on amenable mineralogy, mining mechanics, proven metallurgy and logistical accessibility to pinpoint and secure the best untapped deposits.
Grade & Tonnage is NOT king when it comes to the REE.
It helps of course, but mineralogy is the true king. Many "giant", drilled like Swiss-cheese, REE projects cannot be successfully developed because the REE cannot be efficiently won from their resource. Why? Tiny target ore grain size, complex multi-mineral REE deportment and difficult to separate associations resulting in poor recovery, undesirable by-product elements, and expensive and/or unproven beneficiation and processing flow sheets.
"That look's like a huge rare earth project in comparison!" - but ask yourself this:
Has beneficiation AND processing been proven?
The key to a successful REE project:
- Deposit composition - high grade, mono-mineralic conventional REE ore mineral, large grain size, with low Th & U content. A high proportion of magnet REEs Nd & Pr.
- Mining mechanics – well constrained deposit, easily winnable "known" ore mineral with proven beneficiation and processing flowsheet.
- Deposit accessibility - topography, proximity to road, water and electricity, transparent mining code, political stability.
Ultimately resulting in an easily winnable product at low capex and opex, with minimal and controlled environmental impact.