Turkey Discovers Second-Largest Rare Earth Reserve

A rare earth supply chain independent of China is being created
By Anne Zhang
Anne Zhang
Anne Zhang
Anne Zhang is a writer for The Epoch Times with a focus on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2014.
July 12, 2022 Updated: July 12, 2022

Turkey has disclosed that it has found a huge rare earth reserve of an estimated 694 million tons in the central Anatolia region.

It is understood to be the world’s second-largest raw earth reserve, with the biggest being an 800 million ton site in China.

According to Turkish media Turkiye, the rare earth deposit was discovered in the Beylikova district of Eskişehir.

Metin Çekiç, a member of the board of directors of the Istanbul Mineral Exporters’ Association (IMIB), said that Turkey has now found enough rare earth reserves to meet the world’s demand for 1,000 years.

The report also said that of the 17 rare earth elements known in the world, 10 are contained in the newly discovered reserve.

‘Industrial Vitamins’

Rare earth elements have excellent optical and electromagnetic properties and can be used to form new materials, most notably to improve the quality and performance of other products, hence why they are nicknamed “industrial vitamins.”

Rare earth elements also play a crucial role in the clean energy transition. Neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium are key raw materials for the production of electric vehicles and neodymium magnets (permanent magnets in wind turbines); yttrium and scandium are used in certain types of hydrogen electrolysis cells.

USA-RAREEARTHS
Matt Green, mining/crushing supervisor at MP Materials, displays crushed ore before it is sent to the mill at the MP Materials rare earth mine in Mountain Pass, Calif., on Jan. 30, 2020. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

Since the end of the last century when China used a lower-price strategy to outcompete MountainPass, the world’s then biggest source of rare earth, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken control of the global rare earth industry, supplying more than 90 percent of the world’s rare earth at one point. Although the supply rate fell to nearly 60 percent in 2020 it is still dominant.

China currently ranks first in the world in terms of both reserves and production. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the world’s rare earth reserves were approximately 120 million tonnes in 2020, of which China had 44 million tonnes (37 percent).

However, there is no detailed resource description for the new reserve in Turkey, so it is unclear how much of the nearly 700 million tonnes of ore reserves are mineable rare earth ore.

Turkiye also reports that IMIB’s Çekiç has revealed that the newly discovered Beylikova mine is the best grade of ore in the world. He said that a pilot plant would be set up at the site in the first phase with a processing capacity of 1,200 tonnes of ore per year. At the end of the initial phase, the site will have a processing capacity of 570,000 tonnes of ore per year.

Chinese State Media Responds

Following the announcement of the new rare earth discovery in Turkey, CCP-controlled media such as NetEase, Sohu, and Global Times reacted cynically to the news.

These media questioned the actual amount of Turkey’s new rare earth resources, they say that if a tonne of rare earth minerals produces between 1 kg and 4 kg of rare earth, the actual amount of rare earth in the new mine in Turkey is only between 700,000 and 2.8 million tonnes. The articles also claim that the fears of Chinese rare earth companies that their dominance is being challenged are just a false alarm.

In reality, however, years of reckless over-exploitation have resulted in a significant decline in China’s rare earth reserves. According to the USGS, from 2013 to 2020, China’s rare earth reserves dropped from 55 million tonnes to 44 million tonnes, a 20 percent decrease.

In addition, China’s retaliation against Japan by halting the supply of rare earth in 2010 caused widespread concern in the international community about China’s control of rare earth supply, and countries began to build a reliable supply chain.

Epoch Times Photo
A general view of Steenkampskraal (SKK) rare-earth mine on July 29, 2019, about 80Km from the Western Cape town of Vanrhynsdorp. (Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images)

According to the USGS database, significant rare earth resources have been discovered in Greenland, Brazil, Canada, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Norway, and several African countries since 2009. From 2010 to 2020, 261 companies in 37 countries outside of China initiated a total of 429 rare earth projects, adding between 80,000 and 100,000 tonnes of rare earth production capacity.

But according to the Global Times, China is currently the only country in the world with a complete chain of rare earth production, and this processing advantage will not be undermined by the discovery of other rare earth.

Yet, noted in a survey published in March 2021 by China’s Acta Geoscientica Sinica, China is not the only global source of rare earth smelting and separation products. The United States has now built a supply chain consisting of the Mountain Pass mine, the Mount Weld mine in Australia, and its plant in Kuantan, Malaysia, which produces nearly 60,000 tonnes of rare earth ore and 20,000 tonnes of fractionated products per year, creating an initial supply chain of rare earth resources independent of China.

Anne Zhang
Anne Zhang is a writer for The Epoch Times with a focus on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2014.