A RARE EART ELEMENT
DETAILED EXPLORATION IS UNDERWAY AT TWO RARE EARTH ELEMENT PROJECTS
Training was organized among geologists on applying the classifi cation of mineral deposits. Journalist D. Oyunchimeg used the opportunity to interview B. Uyanga, head of the Department of Geological Policy of the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry, about the deposits of rare earth elements identified throughout Mongolia.
government and ministry representatives informed the international conference that in the near future our country will be mining rare earth elements. Industry experts say that where to start this work and what principles will be applied, should be made clear. what do you think ?
The formation of large deposits of rare earth elements is located along the borders of Mongolia. In general, geological formations are not restricted by state borders. Therefore, the demand for rare earth elements attracting global interest is constantly growing with the development of high technology. In other words, this means that as technology develops rapidly, so does its use. Currently, our southern
neighbor is the largest player in the global market for rare earth elements, a major consumer as well as producer. Since there is a huge global market next to us, we need to intensify exploration of rare earth element deposits and identify reserves without delay.
In addition in 2015, Mongolia issued updated recommendations on the classification of its mineral deposits and scientists developed recommendations for 30 types of minerals. So far, five volumes have been published as a guide for geologists, producers, and students. for example, if you are planning to explore for feldspar, the recommendations detail how to conduct exploration and how to estimate reserves.
Does this mean that geological exploration must be conducted immediately to take advantage of these times of high demand for rare elements?
The basic geological research and prospecting works are financed by the state. However, the state does not finance field evaluation and exploration. This is done by a company or enterprise with a special license for exploration and exploitation. Therefore, instead of focusing only on rare earth elements, the government should pay attention to the entire mining sector, as it supports the economy of the country and contributes to its budget. Mineral resources are defined by geologists. At this conference, experts and geologists also advised on what methods and principles should be followed for each element.
In future, our ministry will pursue a policy of issuing special exploration permits. The cost of labor and technical equipment in exploration is quite high. Since the state budget does not fund exploration, we will focus on issuing special exploration permits to the private sector.
Society has very little understanding of the difference between exploration and mining. In particular, local residents are very sensitive to the fact that their land is being destroyed by mining.
Mongolia began issuing special permits for mineral exploration in 1997. The total number of special permits issued is relatively small compared to the number of mines being developed. According to statistics, out of 50 special exploration permits issued, only one of them finds a deposit that is worth developing. Therefore, it should be understood that although exploration is conducted over a large area, deposits are discovered only on a small fraction of that area. Moreover, for every 100, 200 or 1000 permits, only one finds a f ield worth developing.
There are six deposits with proven reserves of rare earth elements. what do you need to do to start mining them without delay? as you know, work on some of them has stopped.
Currently, there are six deposits of rare earth elements in our country. One of them is an alluvial deposit. Another is a small-scale deposit, and the other four are large-scale deposits. It is true that production at these deposits has been stopped. But two projects are working to attract foreign investment and conducting detailed exploration studies.
There are two problems associated with these deposits. first, it is necessary to evaluate the reserves and conduct technological tests. There are also projects at the pilot stage. On the other hand, there is a problem with investment.
Even if the projects are implemented by the private sector, the government has to support them within a legal framework. To do this, special permits must first be issued.
However, special permits for projects currently underway have already been granted. But what kind of support can the ministry offer to a company that needs investment? They can provide investors with information about the types of projects that can be implemented in the country, describe to them the situation in the mining industry in Mongolia and help attract investment. There is an opportunity to organize meetings with foreign investors at the government and ministerial level, to provide detailed information about the project, and we should use this opportunity. This is how we support our private sector.
Rare earth elements are highly profitable as a nonferrous metal and, in the future, they will be as important as gold and copper. Industry experts, researchers and economists agree that this opportunity should not be missed, right?
Yes, the demand for rare earth elements will grow around the world, as their use increases and becomes routine. But supply is not keeping up with demand. Therefore, Mongolians have an opportunity to achieve success in this field and generate income. On the other hand, since deposits of rare earth elements are not sufficiently explored, it is assumed that existing reserves cannot satisfy demand. So scientists have also begun to study which metals with similar properties can replace them.
We must understand that we can profit from minerals only when they are in demand. If we are late, we will miss the “profitable” period. Therefore, it is not only government organizations, private businesses, experts, and scientists who should care about and benefit from this period when minerals are in demand on the world market. It is important that everyone participates. In other words, even if the government provides adequate political support to the private sector, no one wins if the local communities oppose and block the project.
When it comes to rare earth elements, we can’t sit back and do nothing. Because, by the time we finish exploring, discovering, and developing the deposit, if a substitute product appears on the market, our work will be useless. Therefore, in order to estimate the reserves of rare earth elements, it is recommended to begin exploration and mining in this sector immediately.