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Turkey found 700 million tons of rare earth resources! Will it affect China's status as a major rare earth country?
Update Time : 2022-07-29 View : 1128

Turkey is hot again these days! The key word is rare earth.


Yes, according to the Turkish Daily, Turkey has discovered a new rare earth mining area, and it claims that the reserves of the mining area are enough for the world to use for 1000 years. The quoted data is "amazing", saying that there are about 700 million tons of rare earth in this discovery.
Of course, in the case of global resource constraints, it is also a happy thing to have this discovery. Which country is unhappy? So it can be understood, but whether this data is accurate is unknown.
After all, the data was revealed by Turkey itself, and the true situation remains to be further confirmed. However, Turkey has given itself the title of a country with rare earth resources second only to China and ranking second in the world.
It is estimated that many people do not know what rare earths are or what they can be used for? Make a little science popularization here.
What is rare earth?
Rare earth is also known as the land of Almighty, and also known as the "vitamin of modern industry". Although the total reserves of rare earth that have been found on the earth are not large, its value in industry, especially heavy industry, is very prominent. The modern military industry, metallurgy industry, glass ceramics industry and various new materials may need to use rare earth resources.
Therefore, rare earth has always been a hot commodity, but due to the fact that the proven reserves of rare earth resources in the world are really small, at the same time, the mining technology requirements are too strict, the extraction is difficult and the extraction amount is limited, so rare earth can generally be sold at a good price.
Although rare earth has the word "soil", it is not a concept with loess, black soil and red soil that are common in our life. That is to say, rare earth is not soil, but a collective name of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table of elements, scandium, yttrium and lanthanides.
After understanding the concept of "rare earth", there are two very important concepts to understand. One is rare earth ore reserves, and the other is rare earth reserves. The former is doped with a large amount of impurities. In addition to extracting a small amount of rare earth oxide, most of the rest are worthless ores. As long as a rare earth mining area is found in China, it can be measured in billions, The latter mainly calculates the rare earth oxide, that is, the most valuable part extracted from the rare earth ore.
According to the latest report released by the U.S. Geological Survey in January 2022, calculated by rare earth oxides, the world's total proven rare earth reserves are about 120 million tons. The world's top four countries with rare earth resource reserves account for 90% of the world's total reserves, of which China has a monopoly of about 44 million tons, ranking first in the world, with about 98% concentrated in Bayan Obo, Inner Mongolia, Liangshan, Sichuan Weishan Lake in Shandong and Ganzhou in Jiangxi are the seven provinces in the south.
At the same time, China is also one of the countries with the largest exploitation of rare earth resources in the world. For example, in the total world rare earth production of 280000 tons in 2021, China's exploitation accounted for about 168000 tons.
If the 697 million tons of rare earth reserves data released by Turkey is accurate, according to the statistical caliber of rare earth oxides, it is about 38 million tons, which is no problem to rank second in the world. However, it may also refresh the data of the world's total rare earth reserves. According to the Research Report of Everbright Securities, the world's rare earth consumption will reach 35000 tons by 2023.
Reserves are mostly on the one hand, and the key depends on the actual situation of mining. There are not many kinds of rare earth ores with industrial or commercial mining value in the world, which are mainly divided into ion leaching ore, yttrium phosphate ore, monazite, bastnaesite and so on. Among them, ion leaching ore is almost unique in China, and its biggest advantage is that the mining cost is low and the elements are complete, and the content of rare earth oxide is about 0.3%~0.5%.
The rare earth ores in other countries in the world are mainly the last three listed above. The biggest advantage is that they have relatively high rare earth oxide content and high commercial development value, but the biggest disadvantage is that the development cost is extremely high, because these rare earth ores are often mixed with some other miscellaneous rocks. In order to extract rare earth oxides, the rocks must be separated, polished, broken, and then dissolved in strong acid, A series of operations such as precipitation can finally obtain relatively concentrated rare earth coarse ore.
In addition to having a very mature industrial production chain and extraction technology, the whole process also needs to pay attention to a very fatal problem, that is, rare earth often appears at the same time with some more harmful radioactive elements.
If it is not handled well, it will not only damage the surrounding environment, but also affect the safety of production personnel. The cost of this series of operations will certainly not come down, so many rare earth industries abroad have closed down, and the United States would rather lose money than lose money, so it spends money to import rare earth from abroad every year.
Will Turkey's discovery of a huge amount of rare earth resources affect China's rare earth industry?
Before that, China supplied about 90% of the world's rare earth resources, almost the only one, and also produced about 70% of the world's rare earth magnetic materials.
In addition to having rich rare earth resources, China's rare earth extraction technology, which is at the forefront of the world, has also made great contributions to the development of China's rare earth industry.
You know, at the beginning of the discovery of rare earth in China, the West has been technically stuck in our neck. Due to the lack of mature rare earth extraction technology, many important rare earth mining areas have been mined as iron ore, and a large number of rare earth resources mined have been sold at the price of cabbage, which has indeed caused a waste of a large number of rare earth resources.
In fact, this problem not only plagued China at that time, but also the western countries with more advanced technology in the world were unable to extract rare earth with high precision. The separation of praseodymium and neodymium in rare earth even became a worldwide problem.
However, in the 1970s, the team led by academician Xu Guangxian developed a set of rare earth cascade extraction theory and process, which broke this world problem. This technology can improve the purity of rare earth after praseodymium and neodymium separation to 99.99% of the world record, and China's technology in rare earth extraction is also maturing, not only mature, but even at the forefront of the world.
In the short term, this discovery of Turkey will not have any impact on China's rare earth industry. If there is one, it is only a psychological impact. China imported about 76000 tons of Rare Earth last year, some of which were used for processing, and then sold at a more appropriate price. One of the reasons for this is for environmental protection. After all, the over exploitation of this stuff is too polluting to the environment, and many places have implemented a production restriction license system.
In terms of reserves and output, China has always ranked first in the world in recent years. The exploitation of rare earth resources is a difficult project integrating environment, capital, market and technology. Some countries have money but no technology, while some countries have technology but no money, which will make the exploitation of rare earth resources into a very embarrassing situation. In addition, China also has perfect upstream and downstream supporting facilities and mature industrial chain, which are outstanding advantages, China has always been in the leading position in the world in the exploration and exploitation of rare earth resources.
Since the discovery of a large amount of rare earth ores, Turkey claims that it will produce 570000 tons of rare earth ores annually in the future, and can process about 10000 tons of rare earth resources. If everything is true and according to the actual production level of Turkey, the content of rare earth oxide in these rare earth ores is about 1.7%. In short, it still has a certain commercial mining value, provided that the cost is not included, if the cost is included, Turkey may not be able to bear it (unless, of course, the United States is willing to cooperate with Turkey).
In addition, it is not clear what kind of rare earth mineral resources are found in Turkey this time, including which rare earth elements. Further exploration is needed. If they are relatively worthless light rare earth, the commercial value of rare earth mining will be greatly reduced.
However, in terms of rare earth extraction technology, China has opened a level gap with the world for more than ten years. As long as we get stuck in the technical level, for Turkey, if I have a rare earth mine now, I will be close to technology. As long as I get technical support, I can finally get attractive profits. This is not afraid that Turkey will not cooperate with us, and cooperation itself may be a win-win thing, so this impact must be analyzed as appropriate.

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