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.
Many investors are jumping on the battery metals bandwagon....but importantly, what will these batteries drive?: Motors in hybrid cars and electric vehicles. These motors contain rare earth permanent magnets (REPMs aka NdFeB magnets) - specifically containing the rare earth elements (REE) neodymium (Nd) & praseodymium (Pr) - a standard EV has 3 kg of REPM per car, which equates to about 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/generators, 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 promised literally “the earth” only to fail due to lower REE prices and challenging deposit characteristics (despite lauding high grade/high tonnages) and/or logistical remoteness. 2019 has seen a steady increase in price of 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.
Despite the old adage, for REE Grade & Tonnage is NOT king. It helps of course, but Mineralogy is the true king. Many "giant", drilled like Swiss-cheese, REE projects are stalled because the REE cannot be efficiently won from their resource. Why? Tiny ore grain size, complex mineral deportment and difficult to separate associations.
The key to a successful REE project:
- Deposit composition - high grade, but as 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 mineral with proven metallurgy.
- 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, and minimal and controlled environmental impact.