Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi unveiled plans for the extraction of rare earth elements in the country as by-products of uranium mining process.
Speaking at a television talk show on Saturday night, Salehi said his organizations has signed contracts with the local industries to produce rare earth elements simultaneous with the extraction of uranium in the mines.
The extraction of rare earth elements, which are very expensive, will reduce the costs of uranium production, he explained.
The production of rare earths in the uranium mines will start in the current Iranian year (which began on March 20), Salehi noted, saying the elements will be used for both domestic consumption and exports.
According to the official, only three counties in the world possess and produce the rare earth elements.
Rare earth elements are a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, specifically the fifteen lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium. While named rare earths, they are in fact not that rare and are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust. What is unusual is to find them in quantities significant enough to support economic mineral development.
China is the dominant consumer of rare earths, which it uses mainly in the manufacture of electronics products for domestic use as well as export. Japan and the US are the world’s second and third largest consumers of rare earths.
The Japanese call REEs “the seeds of technology.” The US Department of Energy calls them “technology metals.”