Private Mining Of Rare Earth Metals
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has urged the government to encourage private mining in the sector and diversify supply sources to reduce India’s dependence on Chinese imports of rare earth minerals.
- Even though India has 6% of the world’s rare earth reserves, it only produces 1% of the world’s supply, and China supplies most of its requirements for these minerals.
- As a crucial component of the Deep Ocean Mission, CII suggested establishing a professional “India Rare Earths Mission,” similar to the India Semiconductor Mission.
- Further, the industry group has proposed including rare earth minerals in the “Make in India” campaign, citing China’s “Made in China 2025” initiative, which focuses on new materials like rare earth mineral-based permanent magnets.
What are Rare Earth Metals?
- They are a collection of seventeen metal parts that include fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table and scandium and yttrium which have similar chemical and physical properties to the lanthanides.
- They are referred to as “rare earth” because it was initially difficult to technologically extract them from their oxide forms. They are found in a wide variety of minerals, but typically in low concentrations, making them economical to refine.
- These minerals are utilised in numerous modern technologies, such as consumer electronics, computers and networks, communications, health care, national defence, clean energy technologies, and others, due to their distinctive magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties.
- The 17 Rare Earths are cerium (Ce), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), holmium (Ho), lanthanum (La), lutetium (Lu), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), scandium (Sc), terbium (Tb), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), and yttrium (Y).
When China produced 90% of the rare earths the world needs
- Over time, China has gained global dominance over rare earths; at one point, it even produced 90% of what the world needed.
- However, at present, only 60% of it is produced by other nations, including the Quad (India, Japan, Australia, and the United States).
- Production units in Australia and the United States, in addition to smaller units in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, have emerged since 2010, when China stopped shipping Rare Earths to Japan, the United States, and Europe.
Current Rare Earths Policy in India
- The Department of Atomic Energy and the Bureau of Mines has carried out exploration in India. IREL (India) Limited, formerly known as Indian Rare Earths Limited, is a Public Sector Undertaking under the Department of Atomic Energy.
- In the past, some minor private players carried out mining and processing.
- Government corporations like IREL have been granted a monopoly in India over the primary mineral that contains REEs: monazite beach sand, found in many coastal states.
- The goal of IREL is to supply the Department of Energy with monazite-derived thorium.
Source: India Times
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