Bollocks

Rare earth metals are not rare in nature, but rarely are they concentrated in amounts that make extraction and processing economically feasible.

Mixed rare earths concentrate is trivially cheap. a few thousand $ per tonne. So, that’s not something that’s difficult to produce. A price somewhere between lead and copper, around aluminium, that’s not a problem.

The individual rare earths can be expensive. And the process from mixed concentrate to individual can cost $20,000 a tonne in processing costs.

That means that it’s not the concentrations in nature that matter. Because getting to a 100% RE concentrate is, as demonstrated, cheap. It’s the separation tech that is the chokepoint…..

5 thoughts on “Bollocks”

  1. I’d argue that it’s the fuss about the thorium associated with rare earths that’s the problem. The Chinese, correctly in my opinion, don’t consider the thorium wastes worth worrying about, so they can cheaply produce hugh quantities of rare earth minerals.

  2. One of the big questions is what to do with the Thorium that inevitably comes out of it? Stacking it in the desert should be an option. There are areas that haven’t moved for millions of years. Of course it is a political issue, not a technical one.

  3. It used to be the job (and one of the skills) of journalists, particularly technical journalists, to have a ‘little black book’ (or, if USian, maybe a Rolodex) of people they could contact to fact check items before leaping into print. It seems this skill has been lost, somewhere. Nobody expects you to know everything, but if you don’t know, check.

    I know, I’m getting old 🙂

  4. I think you are violently agreeing with the article there Tim: “concentrated in amounts that make extraction and processing economically feasible” is a somewhat convoluted and inelegant way of trying to say the extraction is generally expensive…

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