|2/11/2015 by mdc|
|In March, 2012, Nicholas Jepson released his dissertation that examines the peculiar structure of the rare earth elements industry, a sector dominated by China, and the global implications of current upheavals within the sector, especially as they concern South African (re)emerging rare earths production. REEs are a hitherto obscure group of metals that have now assumed global significance. |
There are also two other forms of international response. First, there is demand destruction either through increased efficiency in REE usage, substitution or recycling of rare earths. Secondly and most widely known are attempts to restart REE supply chains outside China. South Africa is in the forefront of these efforts through two, globally significant, mining projects. The refurbished Steenkampskraal thorium and REE mine may be the first non-Chinese new producer to come online in 2012 - 2013. The Zandkopsdrift development in Northern Cape is less advanced, but is among the largest prospective new REE mines. Both are joint ventures between Western junior mining companies and East Asian companies, respectively from China and Korea. Significant environmental risks seem inherent in the extraction and separation of REEs, especially from thorium waste, although apparently this has not reached the public consciousness in the areas immediately around the South African mines. If these dangers can be avoided or minimized, the new rare earths mines could make a small but significant positive developmental impact at local as well as national level.