Rare Earth Minerals Update

Rare Earth Mineral Update December 15, 2012

North Korea and Rare Earth Minerals

It would appear that North Korea may be sitting on the world's 2d largest rare earth mineral deposit, next to China's huge deposit. Since China, the world's largest supplier of rare earths, has been reducing export of the minerals in recent years, has the rest of the world scrambling to find other sources for these minerals used in high tech equipment, phones, computers, autos, etc. It is estimated, that at current market prices, North Korea's rare earth deposits are worth upwards of $6,000,000,000,000, and that is a lot of zeros. China, their largest trading partner, has moved in to the North Korea mineral mining business, and is the largest miner, currently. However, many other countries have been making progress in talks about operating mines in this rare earth zone, notably Japan and South Korea. The current mines operating in rare earth production are outdated, and very inefficient, estimated to produce only about 1/3 of the product from a ton of ore that a more modern, say US mine would produce.

First, before any foreign company would be willing to risk the large sum of money required to put additional efficient mines into production, North Korea's government must implement policies making it much less risky for any outside company doing business in this Communist Country. Mining is risky enough business, without the real possibility of a government takeover of the company's assets, or stifling regulations instantly appearing, to make it ridiculously expensive for conducting business there. For a cash starved country, North Korea is sitting on a virtual gold mine for a influx of foreign currency, if it will only open the mining to more of a free market setting, and allow foreign countries to develop and sell the resources there, while paying royalties to the government, taxes to the government and employing many North Korean citizens in good jobs. The ball is in North Korea's corner, they must make the next move towards prosperity.

Charles Kubach, Mine-Engineer.Com

Rare Earth's Update October 13, 2011

Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd. Announced that they have overcome some technical problems associated with processing their rare earth deposit and can now begin to develop their massive Kvanefjeld uranium and rare earth project. The breakthrough, on the rare earth side, came when they developed a process to increase their concentrates by 15%. The project is now said to be cost effective and has been given the green light to go ahead. This should give another source of the rare earth minerals, outside of China.

Meanwhile, the US's large rare earth miner, Molycorp, has been quiet about their developments in improving their beneficiation and mining of their high grade deposit at the Mountain Pass Mine, although I have heard that they have made significant developments in this area. I would suppose that they are refining their methods, before any announcements are made.

Charles Kubach, Mine-Engineer.Com

Rare earths consist of a group of elements and minerals. These would be comprised of oxides of a series of 15 metallic elements, Cerium, Dysprosium, Erbium, Europium, Gadolinium, Holmium, Lanthanum, Lutetium, Neodymium, Praseodymium, Samarium, Terbium, Thulium, Ytterbium, and Yittrium. These elements are not rare in the Earth's crust, but occurrences of economic concentrations are rare. The rare earth metals resemble one another very closely in chemical and physical properties, thus making it most difficult to separate them. The rare earths are constituents of certain minerals, especially monazite, bastnaesite, and xenotime. Processing these minerals to extract the desired elements is difficult, at best.

In the US, only one commercial deposit is found at Mountain Pass CA (Molycorp - currently owned by Chevron Oil), near the Nevada California state line. The largest producer of rare earths is China, by far dwarfing all other countries. (see table below) It is estimated that China has reserves of 100,000,000 metric tons of rare earth mineral ore. These rare earth mineral deposits in China are world class deposits, high grade and easily mined.

Rare Earth Elements Mined (Data from 2003)

Country  Annual Production - Metric Tons  
China   92,000  
USA   5,000  
India   2,700  
Russia (And former CIS)   2,000  
Malaysia   450  
Sri Lanka   120  

Some of the major uses for rare earths are metallurgy, petrochemical, auto catalysts, glass, ceramics, agriculture and magnet manufacture. Rare earth elements are used in high efficiency batteries used in many portable electronic units, such PDA's. This is an expected growth market for rare earths, possibly replacing the phosphors that are used in CRT displays, as CRT's are being replaced with LCD and Plasma displays. Another area of growth for rare earths, is their use in energy efficient lighting, as energy continues to become more expensive, and the need to maximize efficient utilization becomes more cost beneficial. China, with the majority of rare earth deposits, will rule the rare earth supply markets for many years, unless a world class deposit is discovered elsewhere. China is the largest consumer of rare earth's with Japan second, the US following in 3d place and Europe is the 4th largest consumer of rare earths.

Charles Kubach, Mine-Engineer.Com

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