i3 - July/August 2018 - 17

discoveries (before the Minamitori Island lode) represented a fivefold
increase in potential supply between 2010 and 2015.
Despite these pockets of REEs around the world, the Minamitori Island
cache is already being lauded for its location, despite the hard-to-retrieve
factors. Explorations have found REEs in the seabeds spanning about 965
square miles and scientists estimate there is enough to fill global supply needs
for 780 years worth of yttrium, 620 years of europium, 420 years of terbium
and 730 years of dysprosium.
In their initial report, Japanese scientists described the mud's "advantages," such as high REE content (especially for heavy rare earth elements
such as europium and lutetium), plus a paucity of radioactive elements (such
as uranium and thorium) and with relatively "easy extraction and recovery."

GETTING INTO THE MUD

In their Nature journal report on "The Tremendous Potential of Deep-Sea
Mud" of REE mining, the 16 Japanese scientists on the research team

In the years ahead, as actual extraction
of the Minamitori Island lode gets
underway, other REE suppliers will be
pushing ahead. For example, Australia's
Lynas Corp. processes more than 5,000
tons of neodymium and praseodynium
annually, most of which is sold to
Japanese manufacturers who use them
to manufacture computer hard disc
drives, headphones, and increasingly,
green tech for magnets in motors for
electric vehicles.
REE research and processing projects
are also underway in Russia, Brazil,
Burundi and Tanzania, all aimed at production within ten years. Analysts expect
that the Minamitori bonanza is just one
part - albeit a major one - of the continuing REE "Eureka" moment. 

Russia 18

proposed mining and processing techniques that "can
effectively enhance the economic value" of their find by
"selectively recovering the host material." They
described a mineral processing system using a
hydrocyclone separator, "which would be an applicable technology on an industrial scale."
"Because the amount of the resource is enormous, improving the ore grade will greatly
enhance the economic value of the mud," according to the report. "A decrease in mud weight and
volume will directly lead to reductions in smelting costs. Moreover, if a hydrocyclone can be
operated in situ on the deep sea floor, it would be
possible to reduce lifting costs, which would further contribute to improving the economic efficiency of any development project."
Another value of the Japanese and other new REE
discoveries is that the current recycling rate is low for
devices containing rare earths, often because the trace
amounts actually used in end products make it costly to
retrieve and reuse them. Advances in recycling technologies have boosted expectations that more REEs can be
retrieved from electronic waste, such as fl uorescent
lamps, magnets and batteries.
C TA . t e c h / i 3

South
Africa
9.6
Brazil 22

India 6.9

lia 3.4
Austra
d 1.5
Greenlan

Vietnam 22

USA 1.5
Malaysia 0.03
China 44

RARE EARTH RESERVES BY COUNTRY
2017 (millions of metric tons) Prior to discovery of Japanese reserves
JULY/AUGUST 2018

17


https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-23948-5 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-23948-5 http://www.CTA.tech

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - July/August 2018

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i3 - July/August 2018 - Cover1
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