Geology to metallurgy of critical rare earths

Rare earth elements (REE) are used in many low carbon technologies and are found in every smartphone and computer. Museum scientists are part of a multi-disciplinary collaboration to promote sustainable and economical development of neodymium (Nd) and heavy rare earth element (HREE) deposits.

Low carbon uses of REE range from low energy lighting to permanent magnets in large wind turbines and hybrid cars.

Despite this global demand, 97% of the world's REE supply comes from a few localities in China. 

Problems with extraction

REE prices are volatile and subject to political control, and substitute materials are difficult to design. The most difficult REE to source are neodymium and the higher atomic number HREE. 

Despite these problems there are many rare earth ore deposits worldwide that could be exploited at a limited cost.

This project will develop strategies for extracting REE from the right locations in the most environmentally friendly and cost-efficient manner. This should provide a secure, reasonably priced and responsibly sourced supply.

  • Bayan Obo, China.
    Project background

    Read more about the project's aims and our collaborative team of experts from around the UK.

  • Geology to metallurgy workshop.

    The project team will consult with a range of stakeholders through workshops on radioactivity and geometallurgy.

Project details

Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter (PI)
The British Geological Survey
St Andrews University
Brighton Unviersity
The University of Leeds

NERC £96,635