Material and energy requirement for rare earth production

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    52 Citations (Scopus)


    The use of rare earth metals (REMs) for new applications in renewable and communication technologies has increased concern about future supply as well as environmental burdens associated with the extraction, use, and disposal (losses) of these metals. Although there are several reports describing and quantifying the production and use of REM, there is still a lack of quantitative data about the material and energy requirements for their extraction and refining. Such information remains difficult to acquire as China is still supplying over 95% of the world REM supply. This article attempts to estimate the material and energy requirements for the production of REM based on the theoretical chemical reactions and thermodynamics. The results show the material and energy requirement varies greatly depending on the type of mineral ore, production facility, and beneficiation process selected. They also show that the greatest loss occurs during mining (25-50%) and beneficiation (10-30%) of RE minerals. We hope that the material and energy balances presented in this article will be of use in life cycle analysis, resource accounting, and other industrial ecology tools used to quantify the environmental consequences of meeting REM demand for new technology products. © 2013 TMS.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1327-1340
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


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