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Rare Earth Elements Mining in India



  Feb 24, 2024

Rare Earth Elements Mining in India



What are Rare Earth Elements (REE)?

Rare Earth Elements (REE) are a group of 17 elements in the periodic table that are vital for various high-tech and renewable energy technologies. They are divided into Light Rare Earth Elements (LREE) and Heavy Rare Earth Elements (HREE).

Where are India's REE resources located?

India's REE resources are primarily found in the coastal beach placer sands of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and inland placers in parts of Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu.

What challenges does India face in REE mining?

The challenges include:

The lean grade of the ore and its association with radioactivity, making extraction complex and expensive.

The absence of extractable quantities of HREE.

Lack of industrial-scale facilities for processing intermediate products like alloys and magnets.

Environmental and regulatory constraints such as Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) regulations, mangroves, forests, and inhabited areas.
 

What REE is India able to extract to a high purity level?

India has developed the capability to extract Neodymium and Praseodymium to up to 99.9% purity levels. These elements are critical for the production of RE permanent magnets used in various energy-saving applications.

Why is the development of intermediate product facilities important for India?

Developing facilities for intermediate products like alloys and magnets is crucial because REEs are minor components in these products. Establishing such facilities would enable India to move up the value chain from just extracting and refining REEs to producing high-value end products, thereby enhancing the country's industrial and technological capabilities.

What is the role of foreign collaboration in India's REE sector?

Foreign collaboration plays a significant role in India's REE sector. For instance, Toyotsu Rare Earths India Limited, a subsidiary of Toyota Tsusho Corporation, Japan, is engaged in the refining of rare earths by sourcing rare earth concentrate from Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL). Such collaborations help in technology transfer and can potentially address some of the challenges faced by India in the REE sector.

How does the usage of REEs in value terms primarily manifest?

More than 80% of the usage of REEs in value terms is in the manufacturing of RE permanent magnets. These magnets require Magnetic REEs like Neodymium, Praseodymium, Dysprosium, and Terbium, which are crucial for energy transition initiatives.


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