The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) recently closed with the adoption – by consensus of nearly 200 countries – of the Glasgow Pact, which seeks to increase climate ambition and action by keeping the target of 1.5°C alive, as well as finalising the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement.
Importantly, the deal struck has codified new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including the gradual phasing down of fossil fuel consumption and the reduction of the global carbon market. Key to achieving this will be the advancement of the green revolution, which aims to massively curtail the use of internal combustion engines (ICE) and facilitate the greater utilisation of renewable energies and widespread adoption of green technology. These low-carbon greener technologies, however, have an intensive mineral demand.
The importance of high-strength permanent magnets
Central to this demand are rare earth elements (REE) – in particular, neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr) and dysprosium (Dy), which are used to make compact high-strength permanent magnets used in the motors of hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) and wind turbines powering the greener electrification era for the international community. These permanent magnets are also used in aerospace and the defence industries’ satellite technology, and, across their varied sector uses, directly impact between US$5 – US$10 trillion in global GDP. As a result, with the projected demand for REE expected to increase as much as ten times between 2030 and 2040, they have been designated as critical and strategic metals by the US Federal Department of the Interior, the Government of China, and the EU Parliament, as they promote a drive toward greater raw material security and sustainability.
To put this into a local UK context, in their letter to the Committee on Climate Change, leading UK scientists noted that, in order to replace all UK-based vehicles with EVs, at least 7200 t of NdPr and Dy would be needed, requiring a 70% increase in annual production.
While rare earths are not rare from a geological perspective, they are not commonly found in economically viable concentrations, and, in addition to being generally low grade, often have high levels of radioactivity owing to the presence of thorium, which increases processing requirements and heightens safety concerns both operationally and environmentally. Furthermore, 85% of the world’s REEs are currently produced by China, which has a significant impact on global supply and demand dynamics.
The Phalaborwa Project
With its exciting project-in-development in South Africa, Rainbow Rare Earths is well positioned to meet the anticipated demand and supply gap. In particular, the high grade and low-cost nature of the Phalaborwa Project, coupled with its anticipated utilisation of the latest, state-of-the-art processing technology, sets Rainbow apart from its peers in its value and environmental proposition. Rainbow has the near-term opportunity to develop an independent, western rare earths supply chain and become a significant, responsible producer of NdPr, with regulatory oversight.
Rainbow Rare Earths CEO, George Bennett, commented: “The resolution that follows the discussions of COP26 and the affirmation of the Paris Agreement six years in the making to adhere to net-zero carbon emissions, is a crucial factor in the dramatic increase of sustainable forms of energy production. Rainbow Rare Earths is in a pivotal position to provide the foundational materials required to advance this clean technology and the green revolution.
“The Phalaborwa Project can be brought into production quickly, with low capital and operating expenditure, in an environmentally responsible manner to deliver a high-grade oxide. In the processing of material from the existing gypsum stacks at Phalaborwa, we aim to deliver a clean rare earths project, removing environmental liability and redepositing benign gypsum on a new stack, built according to International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards and Equator Principles.
“The codification of international net-zero carbon targets cements Rainbow’s position as company working towards a green future, directly contributing to the alleviation of climate change through a responsible, sustainable, and independent supply chain for REE.”
Read the article online at: https://www.globalminingreview.com/mining/08122021/cop26-resolutions-offer-bright-future-for-rainbow-rare-earths/