A leading researcher from the Natural Resource Department of the China Geological Survey Rare Earth Resource Applied Technology Development Center, part of the Chinese Geological Survey Chengdu Mineral Comprehensive Use Research Center, has announced a new technological method for detecting underground rare earth resources by implementing a new fluorite and magnetic flotation method.
During the 1960s, the first flotation method for ore extraction was implemented at the Mountain Pass rare earth mine of the United States. This mining operation separated bastnaesite, light rare earth element, from other materials with a froth flotation method using fatty acids collector. This method can be considered a prototype of rare earth extraction technology. During the 1980s, China’s Baiyun Ebo rare earth mine was the first to extract bastnaesite and monazite ore by using a heated naphthalenecarboxamide froth flotation method, which can be considered as an upgrade to the previous technology. Afterward, this technology became China’s mainstream technology for bastnaesite rare earth ores and was utilized at many mines.
New technology greener and cheaper than previous technology
This new “rare earth fluorite synergistic technology” can be considered as a highly efficient upgrade to the previous rare earth utilization technology. China’s classical bastnaesite rare earth resources are usually found together with fluorite ore, and as the tactics for finding fluorite ore become more optimized, researchers are changing their focus from extraction technology for rare earth elements to extraction technology that extracts rare earth elements and fluorite together. Additionally, traditional naphthalenecarboxamide heating froth flotation technology consumes excessive energy during heating, and bastnaesite and monazite ore extraction is not environmentally friendly, and the recycling process is complex and hard to control.
In order to address the obstacles mentioned above, the Rare-Earth Resource Applied Technology Development Center research team has spent three years of tireless work and has innovatively developed this new “rare earth fluorite synergistic technology.” This technology is environmentally friendly, causes little carbon emission, and offers a green way of extracting rare earth elements and fluorite from ore. Furthermore, the extraction process is short and simple, and the technology is well suited for separating fluorite from alkaline earth metals.
New rare earth extraction technology to solidify China’s position in rare earth global market
Presently, this technology has already completely laboratory trials and has been successful in obtaining high quality rare earth elements and fluorite. The technology is currently undergoing field tests in several mines in the Panxi District of Sichuan. The proponents of this new technology hope to expand this technology to the Baiyun Ebo rare earth mines, as it would offer a green alternative to the current technology in the hard boulder rare earth mines. It is expected that this new technology will spur high quality development in China’s rare earth element industry.
Rare earth elements usually naturally occur as mineral deposits and possess metallic chemical properties. Rare earth elements are essential ingredients used in producing high-tech consumer electronics and military equipment. It is estimated that approximately 30% of worldwide rare earth deposits belong to China. Rare earth elements are used in a wide variety of products, such as phones, electric cars, aircraft turbine engines, and missile navigation systems. However, extraction of rare earth metals is expensive and causes considerable damage to the environment. China leads the world in rare earth element exports, and a large portion of the world’s militaries, including the American military, relies on Chinese production for obtaining rare earth elements.
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