Rare Earth Metals by Madison Peters


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What's inside all those electronics and tech products you buy? Often, they're filled with toxic chemicals and rare earth minerals. This presentation addresses the history, and global demand for rare earth minerals, and the public and environmental health issues they cause.

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  • Cerium is the 25th most common element (similar in abundance in the earth to copper)“most critical” based on index that combines risk of supply disruption and importance to the clean energy economy
  • Most of these products use both heavy and light REEsCommonly used as permanent magnets (especially dysprosium and neodymium) (Other 3 of 5 most critical: europium, terbium, yttrium)Glass coating, screensUse of REEs in hybrids and turbines for magnetic fields making something spinPrius: Each motor uses 2.2 lbs of neodymium, and each battery uses 22-33 lb of lanthanum Terbium and dysprosium used in small quantities also
  • Missiles: samarium-cobalt magnet motors to direct moving (move parts like fins)Smart bombs: neodymium-iron-boron magnets to control drop direction (when dropped from aircraft)Lasers: used in things like rangefindersCommunication: magnets generate and amplify microwavesSpeakers: used in psychological warfare (create sounds for decoy attack), helicopters use to create sounds to hide rotor blade soundsDepartment of Defense is making supply and demand assessment this year, but estimated 5-10% of rare earth supply is for defense
  • Monazite-Placer era: mostly India, Brazil, and South AfricaUS domination: 1960s-1980s almost all rare earths came from US- Mountain Pass Mine was primary producer (up to 20,000 tons per day) The U.S. has the world's second-biggest deposit of rare earths, with "approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements," mainly located in western states such as California, Alaska, and Wyoming (U.S. Geological Survey, 2010).Today 97% of mining is done in China- shift because the separation and refining process is labor-intensive and raises safety and environmental concerns Mountain Pass mine shut down in 2002 because of combination of competition from China and pipeline leakChina’s prices were lower because cheaper labor and not as strict environmental regulationsWhen the industry moved to China people in the US no longer specialized in the field, so today we have few rare earth expertsGraph: http://csis.org/files/publication/101005_DIIG_Current_Issues_no22_Rare_earth_elements.pdf
  • China has enough heavy rare earth elements to last another 15-20 yearsIndustries reliant on rare earths are worth an estimated 5% of global gdp
  • China has 36% of world’s reserves, 97% of production
  • China mines 97% of rare earth, produces about 97% of rare earth oxides, is only exporter of commercial quantities of rare earth metals and the majority producer of the two strongest magnets in the world: neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-cobaltMagnet manufacturing: China does 75% neodymium magnets, 60% samarium-cobalt magnets (US has one company that does it but the metal still comes from China)
  • Eventually top US companies moved to China25% tax typically on heavy rare earth elements (about 15% for light ones)China also plans to limit both mining and processing companies to the 10-20 largest ones by 2015Cracking down on environmental regulations will force some mines to closeUS, Mexico, and European Union filed complaint to World Trade Organization in 2009 against China for limited exports of certain raw materials (not REEs)- Wto ruled against China. China can appeal, but ruling makes case against China for REE export limitation more promising (though some think it will increase tension with China and prove to be harmful)
  • Dysprosium is heavy (more expensive than light)
  • Demand will continue to rise- likely even above projected values- as alternative energy sources develop Projections show rise anywhere from 8-780% in next 5 yearsThis shows ROW supply rising a lot in the next 3 years- will take a lot of work and come at costROW= rest of world
  • Picture: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gcxkj7mOtDf2Kv3DHxC2KFkRKy7g
  • Multiple steps- sometimes happen at different locations Can’t change steps but can develop technology to make processes more efficient
  • Picture: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/26/business/energy-environment/26rare.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1311017050-7yYhjVVl3ibYgrdBi4Yeug
  • Use sulfuric acid or explosives to separate rocks, trucks haul them to processing areasPicture: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1241872/EXCLUSIVE-Inside-Chinas-secret-toxic-unobtainium-mine.html
  • In processing areas in China: open trenches of boiling sulfuric acid and other chemicals used to separate REEs
  • Tailing lake in Baotou- 7 square miles- Started out as a hole for waste mixed with water to be pumped to- when it dried up kids would go play on the black crust but a couple drowned in the sludge so now kids know to stay away- Reporter who visited lake: “Stand on the black crusts for just seconds and your eyes water and a powerful, acrid stench fills your lungs”Tailing ponds- also risk leaking from natural disaster- in 2008 one from an iron ore mine leaked and killed over 250 people in nearby villagePicture: http://www.envoinfo.com/2011/01/in-china-the-true-cost-of-britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-pollution-on-a-disastrous-scale/
  • Baotou Steel Rare Earth supplies 46% of marketBaotou area: 36 times more thorium in soil than in surrounding areasEveryone wears a face mask everywhere they go Workers get acid burns from sulfuric acid trenchesChildren born with weak bonesChina is cracking down on illegal mines, but they account for a significant amount of exports so it will be reduced even more Smuggling provided Japan with REEs during ban Illegal mining is mostly for heavy elements because they are much more expensive
  • Woman doing laundry in a stream that is not safe to drink or cook with
  • Stockpiles: China is (one of reasons reducing exports) Creating one has been proposed in US (first would have to get enough to put in stockpile) Risky because technology and prices may change composition of REEs used in production
  • Molycorp currently selling concentrates from previously mined ores (they aren’t refined in the US)- light elements onlyMostly ore called bastneasite (contains less thorium, but total heavy elements only 0.4% of total) Working on cleaner mining- will treat and recycle water (say it will reduce water usage by 96%)Potential for mining in the U.S.- one of biggest problems is obtaining a permit. Australia, for example, has much better permitting practices than we do. Another problem is the “not in my backyard” syndrome
  • Goal: vertically integrated production (most processing plants are teamed up with a mine) Still in early stages- will take time for them to develop best methods (same problems as facilities in China with acids)US Government- legislation under review to provide funding for further research to improve technology (specialists left with industry)
  • Deep Sea mining done for diamonds, and new technology is being developed to mine copper off the coast of New Guinea, so the technology could possibly be adapted for REE useMany skeptics raise questions such as what do you do with the waste? How are you going to access ocean floor? Who decides ownership of the ocean floor?
  • Hitachi machine- separate 100 rare earth magnets from hard drives per hourWith prices of REEs right now recycling is not cost effective, but as prices go up it could be and as technologies develop recycling will become cheaper
  • One project- enhance permanent magnets made out of iron and cobalt
  • Rare Earth Metals by Madison Peters

    1. 1. Rare Earth Metals<br />Mattison Peters<br />
    2. 2. Overview<br /><ul><li>What REEs are and where they are used
    3. 3. History of REEs
    4. 4. Supply and demand issues
    5. 5. Global demand
    6. 6. China’s dominance
    7. 7. Price
    8. 8. Environmental and public health issues
    9. 9. Mining expansion, recycling, and alternatives</li></li></ul><li>17 Rare Earth Elements<br /><ul><li>15 Lanthanides, Scandium and yttrium
    10. 10. Plentiful, but minerals (concentrated forms) are rare and difficult and costly to extract
    11. 11. Radioactivity typical around deposits
    12. 12. Elements classified as light or heavy
    13. 13. Five REEs on DOE’s list of most critical materials (2010): dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium, and yttrium</li></li></ul><li>Commercial Uses<br />
    14. 14. Defense Applications<br />Precision guided munitions<br />Lasers<br />Satellite communication<br />Speakers<br />Aircraft generators<br />Displays (TVs and computer monitors)<br />Radar and sonar systems<br />Night vision goggles<br />
    15. 15. History<br /><ul><li>1990: 12 rare earth factories in US
    16. 16. 6,000 jobs
    17. 17. China had lower prices, so eventually all companies moved there</li></li></ul><li>Global annual demand currently 134,000 tons<br />124,000 tons produced annually, the rest comes from above-ground stocks<br />120,000 of 124,000 tons produced in China<br />Demand projected to rise to 180,000 tons in 2012<br />Supply and Demand<br />
    18. 18. World Mine Production and Reserves (2009 Data)<br />
    19. 19. China’s Dominance<br />
    20. 20. China’s Dominance<br />REE output grew from 2,600 tons in 1996 to 39,000 tons in 2006<br />China limiting REE exports: 50,000 tons in 2009 down to 30,000 tons in 2010<br />More internal demand, reducing mine output and illegal operations<br />Tax rare earth exports up to 25%<br />May limit exports to finished products instead of oxides and metals as well<br />Cut off exports to Japan for 2 months in end of 2010<br />Prices continue to go up<br />
    21. 21. Prices<br /><ul><li>Some elements’ prices increased tenfold in the last year
    22. 22. In June prices doubled in only two weeks
    23. 23. Dysprosium oxide (used in permanent magnets) went from $700-740 to $1,470 per kilogram </li></li></ul><li>Projected Supply and Demand<br />
    24. 24. Environmental and Public Health Issues<br />
    25. 25. Steps in Rare Earth Material Production<br />Mining from mineral deposits<br />Separating the mined ore into rare earth oxides<br />Refining into metals with different purities<br />Alloying metals together to enhance properties<br />Manufacturing alloys into components such as permanent magnets<br />
    26. 26. Environmental Impacts of Production: Strip Mining<br /><ul><li>Alters soil composition and can eliminate soil microorganisms
    27. 27. Displaces wildlife
    28. 28. Landslides and erosion
    29. 29. Runoff in streams</li></li></ul><li>
    30. 30. Environmental Impacts of Production: Air Emissions<br /><ul><li>Harmful air emissions containing fluorine and sulfur
    31. 31. Radioactive particles in air
    32. 32. Thorium
    33. 33. Uranium
    34. 34. China’s REE industry produces 13 billion cubic meters of waste gas a year
    35. 35. More than five times the amount flared annually by all miners and oil refiners in the U.S.</li></li></ul><li>Environmental Impacts of Production: Water Pollution <br /><ul><li>25 million tons of wastewater per year
    36. 36. Radioactive thorium and uranium
    37. 37. Heavy metals such as cadmium
    38. 38. Sulfuric acid from processing
    39. 39. Wastewater enters groundwater and streams</li></li></ul><li>Environmental Impacts of Production: Water Pollution<br /><ul><li>Acidic and radioactive wastewater pumped to “tailing lakes”</li></li></ul><li>Public Health and Social Issues<br />Contaminated water unfit for humans, animals, and even crops<br />Farmers in Baotou, Inner Mongolia must find new land to grow on<br />Radioactivity causes cancer, skin and respiratory diseases, osteoporosis<br />Dalahai in Baotou: 66 villagers died of cancer between 1993 and 2005<br />Toxic air emissions turn workers’ hair white and make their teeth fall out<br />Illegal mines run by gangs that terrorize locals and workers at the legal mines<br />
    40. 40.
    41. 41. <ul><li>Mining expansion
    42. 42. Recycling
    43. 43. Alternatives</li></ul>Current Efforts<br />
    44. 44. Planned Expansion of Mining<br /><ul><li>Mountain Pass Mine, CA
    45. 45. Molycorp intends to reopen mine and refinery in 2012</li></li></ul><li>Planned Expansion of Mining<br /><ul><li>Mount Weld, Australia
    46. 46. Linas Corporation scheduled to begin at end of this year
    47. 47. ~10 mining projects underway throughout Canada</li></li></ul><li>Vertical Integration<br /><ul><li>Facilities in US and Japan that produce magnets, but REEs imported from China
    48. 48. Ames laboratory researching improved magnet processing techniques
    49. 49. Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP)
    50. 50. Processing plant under construction in Malaysia
    51. 51. Clearance given in early July, 2011</li></li></ul><li>Underwater Mining Potential?<br />Japanese scientists recently found REE reserves in deep-sea mud in the Pacific Ocean<br />3,500-6,000 m below surface at 78 locations<br />Contain less radioactivity than most land sites<br />A one-square-kilometer section near Hawaii is said to contain 25,000 tons of REEs<br />Could pump mud up to surface and separate by acid leaching<br />Underwater mining adds difficulties and costs for equipment and ship time, damage to underwater ecology<br />Plenty of unanswered questions still<br />
    52. 52. Recycling<br />Many projects underway to develop technology<br />Challenge because REEs alloyed with other metals in production process<br />Difficult to separate due to chemical similarities<br />Separation methods using acids<br />Generates hazardous waste<br />Japan leading current recycling efforts<br />Hitachi (magnet manufacturer) uses 4 large devices to saw open compressors, separate machine to break open disk drives and expose rare earth metals<br />June 2011- H.R. 2284, The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, introduced<br />Provision for rare earth recycling and recovery research at DOE<br />
    53. 53. Alternatives<br />Philips Econova:<br />First television without <br />rare earth elements<br />Toyota working with Tesla Motors to develop alternative for hybrid engines<br />Advanced Research Projects Agency- Energy accepting applications for funding to develop alternatives<br />
    54. 54. Closing Thoughts<br /><ul><li>Demand will continue to grow, and China won’t continue to meet global demand
    55. 55. Mining practices aren’t sustainable
    56. 56. Research should focus on alternatives and recovery methods
    57. 57. Carefully evaluate benefits of alternative energy sources </li>