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Tanzania now battles China`s monopoly on rare earth metals

Discussion in 'Biashara, Uchumi na Ujasiriamali' started by BabuK, Apr 14, 2010.

  1. BabuK

    BabuK JF-Expert Member

    Apr 14, 2010
    Joined: Jul 30, 2008
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    China has over 95 percent market share in the global production of rare earth metals, but many alternatives are now being examined, such as the Wigu Hill deposit in Tanzania owned by Montero Mining.
    Apparently Wigu Hill has a lot going for it, both geologically and geographically, according to a US newspaper San Franscisco Chronicle of last week. Wigu is located 200km west of Dar es Salaam.
    Montero president and CEO Tony Harwood argues that Wigu Hill's first competitive advantage is its simple carbon material, unlike many rare earths which are found in deposits that are complicated by radioactive materials or silica, creating all kinds of processing, and cost, issues.
    “Geologically because the deposit is carbonatite in form with no associated radioactive materials present such as uranium or thorium that while potentially adding a revenue stream also greatly complicate the handling, concentrating and refining processes,” the paper quoted him as saying.
    He says that concentration is another facet of the geological advantages in Wigu’s favor, saying it goes as high as 25 per cent, but is likely to average between 7 and 10 per cent. The newspaper says the other advantage is Tanzania’s geographic proximity to world class mining, processing and refining expertise in neighboring South Africa.
    “Opportunities like this in Tanzania should be a reminder that there are actually rare earth deposits all over the world,” the paper says.
    Actually, production in places like North America was shut down in the past due to environmental concerns plus cost competitiveness from China, it says, adding that South Africa and India used to be the world's leading producers.
    Now that rare earths demand is surging due to their use in battery technology, old production areas can be re-started and new ones can be discovered, it says.
    Wigu is of even higher grade than China's huge Bayan Obo mine that produces most of the world's supply: While China might have a monopoly in the near-term, since it takes time to re-start old rare earth mining activities in other places, in the long-term there is actually no shortage of 'rare earths', the paper concludes.
    Rare earths are a collection of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, Scandium and Yttrium, and the 15 lanthanides of Lanthanum, Cerium, Praseodymium, Neodymium, Promethium, Samarium, Europium, Gadolinium, Terbium, Dysprosium, Holmium, Erbium, Thulium, Ytterbium and Lutetium.
    According to scientists, rare-earth metals are the key to 21st Century technology: Without them, we wouldn't have smartphones, hybrid cars or precision weapons.