Sweden Discovers Largest Rare Earth Elements Deposit

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    • Recently, Swedish state-owned mining company LKAB has discovered more than one million tonnes of rare earth oxides in the northern area of  Sweden.

    About

    • Rare Earth Elements deposits were discovered in the Arctic region of Kiruna, Sweden. No Rare Earths Elements (REE) are mined in Europe and it mostly imports them from other regions. 
      • 98 percent of rare earths used by the European Union were sent by China.

    What are Rare Earth Elements (REE)?

    • Rare earth elements or rare earth metals are a set of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table:
    • The 15 lanthanides, plus scandium and yttrium, which tend to occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides, and have similar chemical properties.
    • One of the rare earths, promethium, is radioactive.
    • Although REE are fairly distributed across different geographies, the extraction of REE is the most challenging part, because of complex processing and intensive environmental effects.

    Applications of REE

    • Technologies of consumer electronics, 
    • computers and networks, 
    • Communications, 
    • Clean energy, 
    • Advanced transportation, healthcare, 
    • Environmental mitigation, and 
    • National defence, etc.
    • Space shuttle components, jet engine turbines, and drones. 
    • Scandium is used in televisions and fluorescent lamps
    • Yttrium is used in drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. 
    • Cerium, the most abundant rare earth element, is essential to NASA’s Space Shuttle Programme.

    Importance

    • REEs have become more important because there has been an increase in demand for green energy
    • Elements like neodymium and dysprosium, which are used in wind turbine motors, are sought-after more than ever as wind mills across the world continue to grow.
    • There is a push for switching from internal combustion cars to electric vehicles has also led to a rise in demand for rare earth magnets — made from neodymium, boron, and iron — and batteries.

    India’s major concern 

    • India produces only 1% of global output despite having around 6% of world’s reserves.
    • Some REEs are available in India — such as Lanthanum, Cerium, Neodymium, Praseodymium and Samarium, etc. Others such as Dysprosium, Terbium, and Europium, which are classified as HREEs, are not available in Indian deposits in extractable quantities.
    • India has an ambitious plan to convert a large percentage of its transport to electric, and would require these minerals. 
    • If India is not able to explore and produce these minerals, it will have to depend on imports from other countries, including China.

    India’s Efforts

    • The production of Monazite, the primary source of rare earth minerals in India is around 4000 MT per annum.
    • Geological Survey of India (GSI) carries out mapping and exploration activities for various mineral commodities including Rare Earth Element (REE) and Rare Metal (RM) in different parts of the country.
    • India set up Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) for exploration of REEs and even signed bilateral agreements like Australia-India Critical Minerals Investment Partnership.

    Source: IE