Rare earth is the general name of lanthanide and seventeen metallic elements such as scandium and yttrium in the periodic table of chemical elements. It was first isolated from ore by the Finnish chemist Gadolin in 1794 and exists in nature mainly in the form of rare earth ore (REO), which is difficult to separate.
Data published by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that world reserves of rare earths (REO) are 130 million tons.
Among them, China's rare earth reserves are 55 million tons accounting for the world's first, Brazil is 22 million tons, Australia is 3.2 million tons, India is 3.1 million tons, the remaining 10% are scattered in various countries.
However, foreign media reported that Turkey has discovered about 700 million tons of rare earth deposits in Eskişehir province, capable of meeting the global demand for the next 1000 years, while being able to bring billions of dollars to Turkey.
What is this all about? Will the discovery of large amounts of rare earths in Turkey affect our status as a major rare earth country?
Turkey discovers rare earth resources that could meet global demand for 1,000 years
Citing the Turkish Daily News, RIA Novosti reported that a large amount of rare earth resources exist in Eskişehir province in northwestern Turkey, with reserves of about 694 million tons.
The nearly 700 million tons of rare earth deposits could not only generate billions of dollars in revenue and provide job demand for Turkey, but also meet the world's needs for the next 1,000 years.
In other words, Turkey's discovery of rare earth deposits will increase the global proven rare earth reserves by 6 times, and take the lead, the previous ranking of rare earth countries may be readjusted.
Many netizens believe that Turkey's large amount of rare earth resources in addition to being able to bring their own country a steady stream of wealth, but also will impact China's rare earth processing and export and other industrial chains, fearing that China's status as a major rare earth country will soon be lost.
So, is this likely to happen?
The overall situation of rare earth resources in China
China has a complete range of rare earth species and elements, and is the only country that can provide all 17 rare earth metals.
With 130 million tons of total reserves, China's share is as high as about 38%, the production of rare earths is the first in the world, accounting for 60% of the total production, smelting and separation technology is in the global leading position, accounting for about 90% of the production, is the world's largest producer, exporter and consumer of rare earths.
Rare earths are usually divided into light rare earths, mainly cerium fluorocarbon and monazite, and heavy rare earths, mainly ionic ores and yttrium phosphate, and the distribution of rare earth resources in China is roughly "light in the north and heavy in the south".
- The north is mainly dominated by light rare earths, mainly concentrated in the Inner Mongolia Baiyun Ebo iron-niobium and rare earth mining area in North China, accounting for more than 80% of the country's rare earth reserves, which has the advantage of large-scale mining and can greatly reduce costs.
- The south is dominated by heavy rare earths, mainly concentrated in Jiangxi Ganan, Guangdong Guangdong North, Sichuan Liangshan and other areas, with low radioactivity, good economic benefits and very important military strategic significance.
After nearly 50 years of development and utilization of rare earths in China, a very complete rare earth industrial system has been formed, and it has a place among the world's rare earth industrial powerhouses.
With the expanding market scale, the rare earth new material industry has grown accordingly, such as rare earth superconducting materials, rare earth laser and luminescent materials, and applications to high-end supplies such as energy-saving lamps and nickel-hydrogen batteries, which meet the needs of national economic development as well as the demand for scientific and technological products from all over the world.
What exactly is the use of rare earths? Will our country be affected?
About the role of rare earths, the industry has always had a saying: if oil is the blood of industry, rare earths are vitamins, known as "industrial MSG", "mother of new materials", widely used in the field of cutting-edge technology and military industry.
In new energy, emerging industries and other high-tech industries, rare earths have become essential raw materials in them due to their role in luminescence, hydrogen storage, permanent magnetism and catalysis, and they also play an outstanding role in petrochemicals, electronics and light industry.
With the development of new energy vehicles, energy-saving motors, industrial robots and other high-tech fields, rare earth elements play a vital role in clean energy transformation.
Although Turkey has discovered about 700 million tons of rare earths, our status as a major rare earth country cannot be easily shaken.
Rare earth smelting is a technology-intensive industry, but also a highly polluting process, more complex than ordinary metal smelting, development costs and costs are very high, which is why other countries even if the rare earth reserves are rich, but also dare not rashly develop the reason.
However, China has developed a unique and complete industrial chain of rare earths for more than 50 years, and has mastered the key core technology. Even the United States, which is famous for its high technology, has to export rare earth ores to China for further processing.
For example, the rare earth sector belonging to China's Baotou Iron and Steel Company produces about 50,000 tons per year, accounting for almost 50% of the world's annual production, and is the world's largest manufacturer of rare earth metals.
The rare earths produced by Baosteel come from iron ore, which is equivalent to the side materials of steel making, and the cost is several times lower than simply refining rare earth metals and opening the mine.
Moreover, with the advancement of technology, the pollution caused by rare earth separation and smelting is getting smaller and smaller.
Almost all of Turkey's rare earths are raw ores that need to be processed, smelted, etc. to be useful and economically productive.
However, Turkey's industrial technology level is not high, the infrastructure is relatively poor, and the industrial chain is even shorter. Compared with New Malaysia and Thailand, Turkey relies more on foreign technology and equipment instead, so it is impossible to form a heavy industrial system, much less an industrial chain for deep processing of rare earths.
Moreover, the authenticity of the report has yet to be confirmed, even if true, there will be no substantial impact on our country, the strength accumulated over decades is not overnight can be subverted.