Monday, 13 June 2011

03: WHAT IS RARE EARTH?

A future element? Fictional rare earth element known as 'Unobtainium' as dipicted in the movie 'Avatar'.

"Rare Earth Minerals" are 17 elements located on the periodic table and essential to the production of high-tech gadgets like smart-phones, flat screen televisions, catalytic converters, low-energy light bulbs, wind turbines, and laser devices just to name a few.

The name is a little deceiving because rare earth elements are not exactly "rare." Deposits of most of the elements can be found all across the globe including the continental North America. This term is an archaic name dating back to 1787 when the elements were first discovered. But depending on how one would look at the situation, rare earth elements are very rare indeed and making headlines in world news because 97 percent of the market is controlled by China who recently announced they will cut exports by 70 percent.

If these elements are common throughout the world, why does the U.S. Military pay China for imports to build missiles and radars? First of all, mining for rare earth elements has numerous negative effects on the environment and creates radioactive waste as a byproduct. In the 1980's America led the market in rare elements until 1990 when China flooded the market with super cheap elements mined at huge environmental costs. In 2002 Mountain Pass California, the largest and last of the U.S. element mines was shut down.


Rare earth elements (Clockwise from top right): Gadolinium, Praseodymium, Cerium, Lanthanum, Neodymium, Samarium.

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that developing a domestic supply could take up to 15 years. In an effort to speed up that process a bill has been proposed that would offer federal loan guarantees to mining companies. Analysts expect that Molycorp of the U.S. and Lynas of Australia could bring 60,000 tons to the market by 2015. But what happens until then? Prices of the most sought after elements have spiked and some dealers are reporting that Neodymium (used in computers and lasers) is now impossible to find outside of China.

Finding high concentrations of elements can be problematic to mining operations and start-up costs are in the hundreds of millions. There is also a risk that China could flood the market again with super cheap elements.


Where rare earth elements (Lathanides) are found within the Periodic Table.


RARE EARTH PROCESSING FACTS

• The rare earth elements are in high demand in modern
technologies –NiMH batteries, rare earth magnets,
automotive catalysts, lasers, LCD tv/monitor, fibre optic, high
index glass, colouring agents…

• These elements together with small amount of Thorium &
Uranium exist naturally in compounds of phosphates, oxides,
fluorides and others,

• Depending on the components of the compounds, they are
mined as carbonatite, monazite,bastnaesite,and other ores.

10 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Why? Give me your reason and not the reasoning of Fuziah.. Please, We laugh at her videos, Shes crazy woman. Who ever listens to her are of very low intellect.

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  2. would you kill the earth for a modern world or save the earth ? trying to make better gadgets and machines wont do anything for mankind. We are happy before and happy now. Whats the point with technology? So what if i got a plasma cannon? What if i got a super radio to see the whole universe? I have all this but to kill earth? Mankind will die either way, we are not robots.

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  3. Human beings are selfish. The world is consumed at a rate that nobody can ever imagine. Our future generations will suffer!

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  4. Lynas's waste product is actually thorium, a safe radioactive material and is known for it's safety benefits and there a lot of projects in the world that tries to make nuclear power from thorium because of it's safety benefits, so is it bad? You guys should do more research about it before making comments, and not to follow blindly what non-experts say, as said by Che Rosli, You want to know about oil palm, do not ask the rubber expert.

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    Replies
    1. So you mean that radioactivity is safe? Even thorium is safe by comparison with other radioactive substances, it still have to carry out in dry isolated area, not in Kuantan. And name me a place that is dry in soil and air humidity and isolated in Malaysia. You are the one who should do more deep-in research before making silly comment, and not to follow what so-called experts said.

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    2. Oh real intelligent. Not follow what experts say? You are an idiot.

      The whole world is radioactive to some extent. I can guarantee that the cement used to build the wall of the unit right next to you is more radioactive that the LAMP waste. If you are scared of radiation you had better move out of your unit because you are absorbing radiation right this minute. Go - go quick.

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    3. Fr0z3n Thi3F, you are the type of people who falls into propaganda easily. According to the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency, levels of radiation exposure to the public is around 0.002 mSv/year in Malaysia. And this amount is just similar to the average values in normal rocks and soil worldwide (and in Malaysia). So please read on your facts before spitting out nonsense. And I've heard that inbreeding makes a person dumb.

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    4. Trololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololololol

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  5. Ironically these rare-earth material is also the stuff required to slow global warming (eg: the excessive weather we are currently having). Hi-tech industries require this material to produce cleaner/"greener" product (eg: energy efficient LED TV, and electric motor (for car: eg Prius by Toyota Japan), and energy saving light bulb and computers). -There's no way to stop global-warming now but all nation across the world are trying to do everything they can do to slow it down, and this material is important part of it.

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