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China has the world's largest reserves of rare earths

2020-06-12 11:47:32

China is the country with the richest rare earth reserves in the world. Rare earth is the general name of 17 metal elements of lanthanide, scandium and yttrium in the periodic table of elements. Rare earths are rare because they are rare, non-renewable, difficult to be separated, purified and processed. Meanwhile, they are widely used in agriculture, industry, military and other industries, and they are important raw materials for new material manufacturing.

Rare earths are usually divided into two groups: light rare earths, including "lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium", and heavy rare earths, including "gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, and yttrium". There are more than 250 rare earth minerals in nature. Rare earths are similar to base metals in that they also need to be mined, selected and smelted. Rare earths are special because they contain a variety of elements together and are close to each other in the periodic table. Their chemical and physical properties are similar, making it difficult to separate each metal separately.

China has the world's richest reserves of rare earths. According to the US Geological Survey in 2020, the global reserve of rare earths in 2019 is 120 million tons, of which China's reserves are 44 million tons, accounting for 37.96%. Brazil and Vietnam were the second, both with 22 million tons, accounting for 18.98% respectively. Russia and India again, with 12 million tons and 6.9 million tons respectively, accounting for 10.35% and 5.95% respectively. In addition, It is worth emphasizing that China is particularly advantageous in the reserves of medium and heavy rare earth resources, accounting for more than 90% of the world's confirmed reserves.

China's rare earth resources not only have large reserves and complete minerals, but also are widely distributed in 22 provinces and regions. At present, a large number of rare earth deposits and rock masses are mainly baotou mixed rare earth ore (mixed rare earth ore of fluorocarbon-monazite), the ion adsorption rare earth ore represented by Jiangxi, Guangdong, Guangxi and Fujian, and the fluorocarbon-cerium ore represented by Weishan in Shandong and Mianling in Sichuan. Light rare earths are mainly concentrated in Inner Mongolia, Shandong and other northern provinces and parts of Sichuan Province. The medium and heavy rare earths are mainly concentrated in Ganzhou, Jiangxi, Eastern Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Hunan and other places. Therefore, the distribution of rare earth reserves in China is characterized by "light in the north, heavy in the south", while the distribution in the north is relatively concentrated, mainly around Baotou. The southern region is more dispersed, showing a multi-province distribution, multi-province distribution.

China produces more than 60% of the world's rare earth minerals

According to Antaike, global rare earth mine production in 2019 was about 210,000 tonnes (REO), up 7.3 per cent year on year. Among them, China's output is about 132,000 tons, accounting for about 63%. China, the US, Australia and Myanmar together produce nearly 200, 000 tonnes, or about 95.5 per cent of the world's total, with very high concentrations. China's share of rare-earth production has declined as a result of a diversified global supply of rare earths.

China's production of rare earths is also increasing slightly each year as mining targets increase. In contrast, the increase in overseas rare earth mines is even more significant. At present, there are many kinds of imported mineral resources and new rare earth mining projects are increasing in the international market. These increases will basically flow into the Chinese market, including light rare earth and medium heavy rare earth, which are used as raw materials for the production of domestic rare earth smelting and separation enterprises and are not included in the rare earth smelting and separation index set by the state.

In the next two years, as some foreign rare earth mines come into production or come into operation, it is expected that the global supply of rare earth mines will continue to increase and China's share in the global rare earth market will also decline. 1) Greenland Mining Corporation's Covanewan rare earth mine, as the world's most promising rare earth mine project, is in the final stage of its license application; 2) As the largest light rare earth mine in operation outside China, Mountain Pass of the United States has room to increase production; 3) The Gakana rare earth mine under the African Burundi Rainbow Rare earth Company is expected to achieve production; 4) The Brown-Shan project of Northern Mining Company is now in the pilot plant operation stage, which will last for three years and is expected to be put into commercial production in the second half of 2021; 5) Hastings is currently working on the Yanggobonne Rare earth flagship project in Gascoyne, Western Australia, with a plan to produce 15,000 tonnes of mixed carbonate rare earth annually from 2021. It is expected that the global output of rare earth minerals will continue to grow in the future and will be slowed down in the short term due to the impact of the epidemic, but the long-term development pattern will not be changed. Domestic light rare earth minerals will face the competition from overseas light rare earth minerals.

In addition to producing large quantities of rare-earth minerals itself, China also imports them. Among them, Myanmar and the United States are the main source countries. According to the data of the General Administration of Customs, the imports of the mixed rare earth carbonate (Tariff No. : 28469048) and the unlisted rare earth oxide (Tariff No. : 28469019) are mainly from Myanmar. These two rare earth minerals are both ionized rare earth minerals and contain more medium and heavy rare earth than standard rare earth minerals. Among them, the REO content of the imported products of mixed rare earth carbonate is about 30%, and the REO content of the unlisted rare earth oxide is about 90%. In 2019, China will import about 13,000 tons of raw materials from Myanmar, equivalent to 3,896 tons of REO, about 50% less than that of the previous year. Imports of unlisted rare earth oxide amounted to about 14,000 tons, equivalent to 13,000 tons of REO, a year-on-year increase of about 77%. Myanmar's imports of ionic type rare-earth ore is the source of heavy rare earths in the domestic supply is very important, but in the middle of may, 2019, tengchong of yunnan and myanmar border crossing for sip-blc has been authorized, banning all rare earth business related products for import and export trade, ore banned the import of myanmar, resulting in the reduction in number of heavy rare earths in the domestic, terbium and dysprosium oxide oxidation heavy rare earths in the representative varieties yield a significant decline.



Compared with the import of ion-type rare earths from Myanmar, which is an important source of medium and heavy rare earths in China, the import of rare earths from the United States is an important supplement to the domestic light rare earths. The import data of rare earth metal ore (Tariff No. : 25309020) are mainly the rare earth concentrate imported from the Mountain Pass rare earth mine in the United States, with a REO content of about 55%. Mountain Pass is one of the best quality mines outside China. Its mine type is cerium fluoride mine. Since January 2018, the mine has resumed production, and all the rare earth mines produced have been exclusively sold to China by Shenghe Resources. In 2018, the import volume was 27,567 tons, which is equivalent to about 15,200 tons of REO. The import volume in 2019 is 46,149 tons, which is equivalent to about 25,400 tons of REO. At present, The production of Mountain Pass has tended to be stable, and the indexes such as the grade and recovery rate of concentrate have exceeded the level before bankruptcy, which is close to the highest level in history. The quality of concentrate is gradually stable, and it is expected to reach more than 60,000 tons of material per year if the production is full, which is equivalent to about 33,000 tons of REO.



China accounts for more than 85 percent of the world's production of rare earth smelting and separation products

Global production of rare earth smelting and separation products totaled about 176,000 tons (REO) in 2019, up 21 percent year on year, according to Antaike. Among them, China's output is about 155,000 tons, accounting for 88.2%. China's total output includes the planned output of the six major rare earth groups, as well as the output of smelting products made from imported minerals and compounds. As the largest supplier of rare earth smelting and separation products outside China, Australia Lynas has steadily increased production at its Kwantan rare earth separation plant in Malaysia, with the annual output of about 18,700 tons in 2019, accounting for 10.6%.



China's rich rare earth resources have promoted the rapid development of smelting, separation and processing industries. With regional rare earth resources as the core, China's rare earth industry has formed a pattern of three major bases and two major production systems in the north and the South. The three bases include: 1) The northern rare earth production base with Baotou mixed rare earth as raw material; 2) Production bases of medium and heavy rare earths with ion-type rare earth mines in seven southern provinces represented by Jiangxi as raw materials; 3) The production base of fluorocarbon cerium ore with Sichuan Mianning as raw material. Two major systems: the northern process system with light rare earth as the main element, and the southern process system with medium and heavy rare earth as the main element.

The production capacity of rare earth smelting and separation in China is generally excessive. As the state continues to implement strict total quantity control policy, the utilization rate of production capacity is not high. According to Data from Baichuan, the total production capacity of rare earth smelting and separation in China in 2019 is 406,900 tons, and the operating capacity is 229,100 tons, with an operating rate of only 56.29%.



At present, overseas rare earth smelting and separation capacity is relatively limited. In addition to the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Kwantan, Malaysia, Lynas is expected to start operations in 2020 at a US-BASED rare earth smelting and separation Plant, which it is developing in partnership with US chemicals company Blue Line. In addition, Anteke expects the U.S. Mountain Pass to start its own processing capacity by the end of 2020, which is a rare earth smelting separation capacity with a high likelihood of coming into production outside China this year. China has the world's largest reserves of rare earths


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