Rare Earth Elements
Rare earth elements are classified as heavy (Y, Eu, Gd, Tb, Dy, Ho, Er, Tm, Yb and Lu) and light (Sc, La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Pm and Sm) rare earth elements. This classification made according to the atomic numbers of the elements and the abundancy of elements in nature. Light rare earth elements are more abundant in earth crust. The terms of “rare” in the names of rare earth elements is due to the difficulty of processing the ores and presenting them to use, rather than the low frequency of their occurrence in nature. Some REEs have higher frequencies in nature than metals such as chromium, nickel, lead and copper.
REEs are indispensable for modern material and energy technologies. Despite the low amount of use by weight in material production, rare earth elements are considered as the vitamin of the material and the seed of the material due to the high level mechanical, magnetic, electrical and optical properties that they bring to the material. Prominent use of rare earth elements are given in the chart below.
The most vital use of rare earth elements is SmCo and NdFeB magnet production.These magnets are used in electric motors and wind turbines. Especially in new generation wind turbines, REEs are needed more.
In the future projections for REE markets, it is predicted that the increasing demand for environmentally friendly energy generation systems (wind energy, solid oxide fuel cells and electric vehicles) with the tightening of emission and environmental regulations will also increase the demand for REEs in the future. It is thought that the demand for REEs (Tb, Dy, Nd and Pr) used in magnet production will increase and there will be a supply problem in the supply of these elements starting from 2025. Another factor that increases the importance of REEs is that the production of rare earth elements (refined product production) is concentrated in China at a rate of 80%, and since the 1990s, China has used its REE reserves as a weapon in solving commercial, political and strategic problems. Most recently, in 2010, due to the conflict between China and Japan in the North China Sea, China's restriction on REE exports (with practices such as production quota, export quota, merger of manufacturing companies, resource tax, export license) caused a significant increase in REE prices.
In our country, search and technology studies in the field of RRE have accelerated recently, similar to the world. In this context, a pilot plant for the mineral processing operation of basnazite ore in Eskişehir / Beylikova by Eti Mining Operations built. Exploration studies of MTA in Malatya, Burdur and Isparta are ongoing.
In addition, Rare Earth Elements Research Institute (NATEN) was established in order to monitor and encourage research in the field of NTE in our country. NATEN started to continue their activities in the new established Türkiye Power, Nuclear and Mining Research Institute (TENMAK) since 2020.
Date of Update: 22 June 2023
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