Japan and Kazakhstan to explore rare earth metals in Karaganda and Kostanai regions

28 октября 2015, 13:52
Photo courtesy of jogmec.go.jp
Photo courtesy of jogmec.go.jp

Japan and Kazakhstan will be jointly exploring rare earth metals in Karaganda and Kostanai regions of Kazakhstan, according to the Kazakh Ministry for Investments and Development.

 Minister Asset Issekeshev met executives of Japan’s Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) during the official visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Kazakhstan. The two sides discussed a joint project to carry out joint geological exploration in Kazakhstan.

“JOGMEC and Kazgeologiya National Geological Exploration Company are expecting to start exploration works in spring 2016, primarily in territories rich in yttrium in Karaganda and Kostanai regions”, the Ministry’s statement reads.

The two nations have agreed to consider other possible projects to process rare earth metals in Kazakhstan. To discuss all the related issues and launch an ad-hoc working group, another meeting will be held at the level of the two countries’ companies.

As part of industrialization efforts in geological exploration and subsurface use in Kazakhstan, some other geological exploration projects have been launched, including those with RioTinto, Korea Resources Corporation, Australia’s Iluka Resources Limited.

As defined by IUPAC, rare earth elements or rare earth metals are a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table. Because of their geochemical properties, rare earth elements are typically dispersed and not often found in concentrated and economically exploitable forms.

According to mnn.com, much of rare earths' appeal lies in their ability to perform obscure, highly specific tasks. Europium provides red phosphor for TVs and computer monitors, for example, and it has no known substitute. Cerium similarly rules the glass-polishing industry, with "virtually all polished glass products" dependent on it, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Permanent magnets are another big role for rare earths. Their light weight and high magnetic strength have made it possible to miniaturize a wide range of electronic parts, including many used in home appliances, audio/video equipment, computers, cars and military gear. Innovations like small, multi-gigabyte jump drives and DVD drives likely wouldn't exist without rare earth magnets, which are often made from a neodymium alloy but may also contain praseodymium, samarium, gadolinium or dysprosium.

While producing rare earths can cause environmental problems, they have an eco-friendly side, too. They're vital to catalytic converters, hybrid cars and wind turbines, for example, as well as energy-efficient fluorescent lamps and magnetic-refrigeration systems. Their low toxicity is an advantage, too, with lanthanum-nickel-hydride batteries slowly replacing older kinds that use cadmium or lead.

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