There are 15 keys to the future called the Lanthanide series of elements on the periodic table. They are key to the development of new technologies and clean energy. Together, these elements are called “rare earths,” because they are dispersed through material removed from mines and require processing to produce quantities.
A mine in China has been producing rare earths as a byproduct, giving China a corner on the market as demand for these elements has dramatically risen. Since they are important to the development of clean energy technology and miniature electronic devices, demand will continue to rise. Mining companies around the world are increasing efforts and investment to make rare earths available to industry.
One of the biggest mines for rare earths is run by Lynas in Australia at Mount Weld. Lynas has been extracting material for processing, and is investing in a processing plant which can meet the demand for a large volume of rare earth products. Lynas had a choice between locating the plant near their own mine in Australia, or more centrally to Asia in Kuantan, Malaysia.
One might ask oneself?why Lynas chose Malaysia??There are many reasons,?including the strong infrastructure and excellent skilled labor market. Lynas? choice will also make Malaysia a key player in processing rare earths as both production and demand rise throughout Asia.
The modern, safe technologies for processing rare earths are in keeping with a key use for these elements: providing a clean and sustainable energy future. From efficient fluorescent light bulbs to wind turbines and hybrid car power supplies, these elements signal a change in industry towards respecting the needs of the earth and its people.
Electronic products, a mainstay of manufacturing throughout Asia, are also dependent upon rare earth elements. Components such as smartphone screens use rare earths for their colors and characteristics. As electronic components, sensors and displays get smaller, these elements help increase the effectiveness of technologies so they can be miniaturized. Rare earths make iPhones possible.
The Lanthanides, little known but key elements in modern technology, play many roles in new development. They are used in metals, electronics, magnetics, optics and chemistry. Their current uses are only the beginning as scientists explore new uses for the elements and for the products in which they are included. Lynas? plant in Malaysia will be at the forefront of a new industry providing clean energy and electronics that bring societies together.