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Academician Shen Baogen: "carbon neutrality" provides a rare earth industry with a once-in-a-century opportunity

2022-06-14 08:22:39
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The important instructions of the general secretary have pointed out the direction for the high-quality development of China's rare earth industry.


Rare earth is the general name of 15 lanthanide elements and 17 elements including scandium and yttrium in the periodic table of elements.


Rare earths are widely used in new energy, new materials, energy conservation and environmental protection, aerospace, electronic information and other fields of economic and social development. They are an indispensable material basis for modern industry.


In recent years, the United States, Japan, Europe and other developed countries have listed rare earth as a strategic key resource.


For example, the European Commission issued four lists of key raw materials and policy documents from 2011 to 2020, requiring that the EU's safety guarantee capacity for rare earth and other key raw materials be significantly improved; In 2019, the United States, together with Australia and other nine countries, established a key mineral resources alliance, aiming to improve its control over global rare earth resources; Soon after taking office in February 2021, US President Biden signed a presidential decree requiring a 100 day security review of the supply chain of key minerals such as rare earths.


With the deepening of the world scientific and technological and industrial revolution, the application scope of rare earth elements is further expanded, and the strategic and economic value is increasingly prominent.


Rare earth is an irreplaceable key raw material supporting low-carbon clean technology and equipment, including hydrogen production and storage, environmental catalysis, permanent magnet motors, electric vehicles and wind turbines.


Therefore, as more and more countries and regions put forward and promote the goal of carbon neutrality, the strategic value of rare earth resources will become more prominent.


The world bank, the International Energy Agency, the European Commission, the US Department of energy and other institutions agree that rare earth is an essential strategic key resource to support the goal of carbon neutrality.


China has obvious advantages in rare earth resources, and has established a complete global rare earth industry chain and a large-scale rare earth industry. Every year, it provides a large amount of rare earth resources to the world in the form of raw ore, smelting products, functional materials, permanent magnets, permanent magnet motors, fans, electric vehicles and other products, making great contributions to supporting global carbon emission reduction.


However, China bears a huge ecological and environmental cost in rare earth mining and separation and smelting. In fact, global carbon emission reduction has the embarrassing situation of "cleaning the world but polluting China".


This contribution and cost of China's rare earth industry need to be clearly and fully understood and explained.


However, China's traditional rare earth advantages are facing great challenges.


First of all, China's rare earth reserves, especially those that can effectively support carbon neutralization technology, have declined significantly, and may face a situation where supply exceeds demand in the future, which will bring challenges to China's promotion of carbon neutralization;


Secondly, the unbalanced application of rare earth elements in China is becoming increasingly prominent. While the gap between supply and demand of praseodymium, neodymium, dysprosium, terbium and other elements continues to increase, the situation of excess supply of lanthanum, cerium, europium, samarium and other elements is becoming increasingly serious;


Thirdly, the sharp fluctuation of the price of rare earth raw materials hinders the application and extension of rare earth in low-carbon industry in China, which is not conducive to the sustainable development of the rare earth industry itself and the low-carbon energy-saving industry in the long run;


Finally, China's rare earth industry as a whole is still at the middle and low end of the global rare earth industry chain. There is a big gap in the field of rare earth high-end materials compared with the United States, Japan and other developed countries, and it faces the risk of being "stuck" in technology.


"Carbon neutrality" provides a once-in-a-century opportunity to consolidate and enhance the strategic advantage of China's rare earth industry.


To this end, we urgently need to strengthen rare earth strategic research, provide countermeasures and work plans for seizing the opportunities of the times, support the government and enterprises to strengthen guidance and funding for scientific and technological research and development, strengthen and refine the rare earth permanent magnetic materials and rare earth based low-carbon equipment industry, actively publicize the ability of China's rare earths and their derivatives to reduce global carbon emissions, and let the world understand and recognize China's contributions and ecological and environmental costs, Enhance the contribution and voice of China's rare earth industry to global sustainable development.


The original text was published in the 8th issue of science and technology guide in 2022, with the original title of "strengthening rare earth strategic research and actively publicizing the contribution of China's rare earth industry to global sustainable development". You are welcome to subscribe to it.


The content was originally created by [science and technology Herald] official account


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