Exploring Hidden Treasures: The Critical Minerals Institute’s Deep Dive into Rare Earths within Ionic Clays

The world of rare earths is, for many, a topic reserved for experts and industry insiders. However, given the rising demand in sectors from technology to automotive, it’s essential for us to grasp its implications. A recent discussion hosted by the Critical Minerals Institute (CMI) shed light on this last week, emphasizing the potential and challenges associated with ionic clay, a noteworthy source of these minerals.

The dialogue was set into motion by Tracy Weslosky, an industry expert and the Managing Director for the CMI. One of the first points brought to the fore was by CMI Co-Chair Jack Lifton, who underscored the paramount importance of heavy rare earths. These are not just minerals beneath the ground; they are pivotal for the creation of high temperature resistant magnets. Lifton’s concern over China’s supremacy in the supply of these minerals was palpable, especially given the significance of elements like dysprosium (Dy) in propelling the green revolution.

Now, while it may seem like dysprosium (Dy) or terbium (Tb) can be extracted from various global deposits, CMI Co-Chair Ian Chalmers provided a reality check. He underscored the complexities and challenges in extracting these minerals economically and efficiently. And what added to the intrigue was his skepticism about the volume of claims surrounding ionic clay deposits, especially those originating from Australia. Both Lifton and Chalmers converged on one point: the paramount importance of understanding what exactly “ionic clays” are and the necessity of detailed feasibility studies before any decisive actions.

Delving deeper, the conversation steered towards understanding ionic clay deposits better. What are they, how do they form, and what characteristics do they possess? These deposits, laden with potential, are surrounded by a maze of extraction costs, supply chain complexities, and strategic considerations. One issue that particularly stood out was the apprehension regarding the U.S.’s level of awareness of these challenges, especially when juxtaposed with China’s advanced expertise in this domain.

As the discussions progressed, a representative from Aclara Resources Inc. (TSX: ARA) illuminated an initiative unfolding in Chile. The focus? The significant U.S. investments pouring into the value chain and the emergence of separation plants. But the conversation did not stop there. It ventured into the realm of the automotive industry, unearthing the immense need for elements like neodymium (Nd) in the heart of electric vehicle motors.

Various voices in the conversation zoomed in on diverse facets— from the geographical spread of these deposits to the painstakingly long formation processes, from economic conundrums surrounding extraction to the pragmatic challenges in ensuring high recovery rates.

So, where does this leave us? The undeniable truth is the vast potential harbored by ionic clays as a source for neodymium and heavy rare earths. But potential, on its own, isn’t enough. We’re faced with a tapestry of challenges— be it in extraction, processing, or navigating supply chain intricacies. These materials aren’t just geological wonders; they are the lifeblood of industries, particularly the automotive one. This, in essence, amplifies the urgency and significance of such discussions. The future, it seems, is as much about rare earths as it is about innovation and strategic foresight.

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One response

  1. Rare Earths Investor Avatar
    Rare Earths Investor

    “…from economic conundrums surrounding extraction to the pragmatic challenges in ensuring high recovery rates”.

    Now throw in there the political implications which most want to skim over for ‘other’ project limiting variables.

    Do we really think it’s presently all about the economics of RE deposits in the US and CAD?

    One actual RE mine move during the entire Biden Admin’s oversight in the US, and this was recently via Stellantis with NioCorp. Yet, even they have presently left NioC to find its own buildout funding (US strategically funded MP, Lynas and REEMF just happened to have their own mines/tailings sources – political expediency to directly avoid the new within-borders mining issue).

    Presently, we have several N. American RE mining projects with all sorts of releases but no public information on any major funding movement. Then we have the RE sector ‘confidence building’ collapse of Vital (don’t get me started) in CAD and the ever focussed drill, drill, drill of the rest of the wannabees. All waiting to find out (along with N. American-based autos) whether gov’ support will actually come downstream before the Nov’ 2024 US election and if not, what will happen if Biden stays in or the Republicans emerge?

    Thank heavens for RE retail investors we have others who are not waiting/praying to see what others will do. We see e.g., the likes of Hyundai, Kia, Noveon, and Seimans in association with the likes of ASM, Arafura, Iluka, VHM, Namibia CM, etc., and today’s news re., Ford, LCM and Ionic Tech along with HyProMag, all with some form of strategic funding from AUS, S Korea, Japan even China and the UK.

    Recognize the US and CAD are caught in the political dilemma of sounding like they will meet the pragmatic RE feedstock needs of the new green revolution (flowing out of the US DoE with basic research on alt extra’ and recyling, etc), while at the same time trying to avoid the wrath of environmental and indigenous opposition. Voters who will show up (or as bad not turn up) at the November polls. Or, maybe we can hope that the US Admin will use the meetings with Mongolia and Vietnam, etc., as more than photo ops.

    Would have been interested to hear what the CMI deep dive said on this lot.

    GLTA – REI

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