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India planning to auction rare earth deposits: is this a strategy to counteract China’s monopoly?

Author: Muhammed Awais

It is all over the news that India is planning to auction one of its rare earth deposits located in Rajasthan. Monazite is the main rare earth metal found in India along with thorium. Thorium, which is radioactive, cannot be stored once extracted which makes Monazite not minable. Monazite is the principal ore mineral found in India which contains rare earths. India has an estimated reserve of around 12 million tons of monazite in beach sand mineral placer deposits along the coast. India is already processing 10,000 tons of monazite per year in Odisha under the department of atomic energy [1].

The Indian ministry of mines now believes that the blocks of rare earth metal found in Rajasthan contain low amounts of thorium, which can be extracted. The ministry has already started the process of identifying rare earth deposits. They have started conducting geophysical mapping of a 1000 sq. km area in Barmer, Rajasthan for rare earth deposits. Overall, they are focusing on widening the number of rare-earth miners in the country. This increase in production of rare earth metals can pose a challenge to China who is the undisputed top global supplier of rare earths (RE). Indian government is keen to open up a few RE mining areas to companies sometime later this year [2].

The new supply from India would be welcomed by the companies that produce motors, magnets and other RE end users. This new supply is not even entirely necessary right now due to very low RE prices but it can pose a real threat to China who is still in a very powerful position [3]. It is a very real possibility that China could cut off the supply of rare earth metals at any time, which would cause a spike in prices.

Work Cited:

  1. http://www.vccircle.com/news/engineering/2016/03/31/india-plans-rare-earth-deposit-block-auction
  2. https://agmetalminer.com/2016/04/07/rare-earths-mmi-flat-india-to-auction-mining-block/
  3. http://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/critical-metals-investing/rare-earth-investing/ben-kramer-miller-erbium-dysprosium-china-rare-earth-market/
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