EMM have long supported the mineral sands industry through the delivery of technically robust studies and environmental approvals throughout Australia. Recently, the EMM team including Joel Georgiou, Paul Gibbons, Nick Travers, Tavis Kleinig and Sam Cook, attended the 22nd Mineral Sands Conference in Perth. Mining Market Leader and Associate Director Joel Georgiou shares his three insights.
1. The need for critical minerals and rare earths
The Mineral Sands sector has traditionally supplied the world with zircon, synthetic rutile and TiO2 feedstocks used mainly in the ceramic and pigment industries. However, the growth of renewables and transition to a low carbon economy will see significantly increased demand for critical minerals and rare earth elements (REEs) used in the manufacture of electric vehicle and permanent magnet components.
REEs or lanthanides are abundant in the Earth’s crust but are not commonly found in economical concentrations. The REE fraction may only represent 1 or 2% of the overall heavy mineral sand ore body.
2. The Monazite Opportunity
Monazite, which is rich in REEs including lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, and neodymium, has traditionally been a by-product associated with heavy mineral sands processing, often disposed of as tailings, and used to backfill mined pits. Given these future feedstocks have effectively already been mined and stockpiled, monazite provides enormous opportunities for mineral sand and processing companies to take advantage of. In addition, these downstream processes are being planned to take place in Australia, creating exciting opportunities for the Australian economy.
For consumers and investors, the environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are becoming front of mind and are starting to shape many companies’ strategies. During the conference, it had become clear that companies are moving forward with ESG planning, frameworks and polices. The 16th edition of Aussie Mine states that reducing carbon emissions dominated the ESG agenda throughout 2021, which was reflected through many mineral sand companies installing new solar farms, producing up to 25% of the required power to run mining and processing operations.
“Critical minerals, in particular REEs, are anticipated to play an integral role to our decarbonising future, and many studies are already predicting a substantial feedstock shortage to meet global demands. Although there are significant benefits, the industry is not immune to challenges. Processing rare earths requires cracking and separating of the ore using various techniques and chemical additives that are new to the industry within Australia. The appropriate management of naturally occurring radioactive minerals (NORM) by-products, typical of mineral sands, remains an ongoing issue”. This will need ongoing careful and sustainable management and robust ESG polices. At EMM, we are dedicated to working alongside our mineral sand and rare earth clients to make sure all stakeholder expectations are met while creating opportunity for our clients, people, and community.”
Mining Market Leader | Associate Director
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