Experts call for more exploration of rare earth sector
Rare earth experts have called for more exploration of the sector to bridge the demand-supply deficit of these elements due to increasing needs the world over.
India has enormous potential in the sector as it has a long coastline rich in deposits but it has to ramp up its indigenous production, Prof Sidney J L Ribeiro, Institute of Chemistry, Sao Paulo State University, UNESP, Brazil said.
In this regard, he said private sector can play a crucial role in managing the demand-supply deficit.
Prof Stefan Lis, Head, Rare Earth Department, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, said since 2010 there was a big gap in production of rare earth elements and demand due to increasing needs, especially for magnets and phosphorous.
Ribeiro said China retains 90 per cent of Rare Earth business globally.
“Rare Earths are very important for critical applications and every country has been focusing on the ways and means to get rare earth minerals,” he said.
V Subramanian, Director of Tamil Nadu based V V Minerals, one of the major players in heavy minerals in the country, said more exploitation of rare earth minerals would trigger a huge manufacturing revolution in the country.
These rare earth elements were very critical components in solar cells, magnets besides windmills, motors, automobiles and defence electronics, he said.
India has the highest monazite reserve in the world with 11.39 million tonnes.
“Monazite is the richest rare earth raw material available in the world with close to 60-65 per cent of total rare earths,” he said.
Though, public sector IRE is dealing with rare earth for more than 50 years now, ‘they are hardly contributing to it.’
While India was making efforts to increase production of heavy minerals such as monazite and rare earth elements, these fall short of present requirements, he said.
“The shortfalls are also because private companies are barred from producing monazite, due to its applications in nuclear power production, with public sector companies, such as Indian Rare Earths Ltd, being dominant producers in India,” he added.
Stressing the need for achieving self-reliance in this critical sector, he said with limitations of public sector units in matching global standards of production, it was time to permit private sector entities to process monazite from their existing facilities.
The experts were addressing a three-day International Conference on Science, Technology and Applications of Rare Earths, which concluded here yesterday.