26 Nov Rare Earth Materials
Rare Earth Materials
The topic is based on how Rare Earth materials impact India’s Science and Technology.
Relevance for Prelims: Significance of Rare Earth Materi, Deep Ocean Mission
Relevance for Mains: Capabilities to increase production in India
Context: Recently, the Confederation of Indian Industry has urged the government to encourage private mining in the sector and diversify supply sources.
They are a set of 17 metallic elements out of which 15 are lanthanides on the periodic table in addition to scandium and yttrium that show the physical and chemical properties of lanthanides.
Rare earth materials have unique magnetic, and electromagnetic properties and are used in many technologies including consumer electronics, healthcare, communications, etc.
The reason for calling them rare earth as they were difficult to extract from their oxides technologically.
China in the last 20-30 years has acquired global domination of it to the extent that it produced around 90% of the world’s rare materials. Currently (November 2022), China produces 60% of rare material in the world and the remaining is produced by the Quad group (India, Japan, U.s and Australia).
India’s position in Rare Earth Materials
The exploration of Mines in India is done by the Bureau of Mines and the Department of Atomic Energy. The majority of mining of rare material is done by Indian Rare Earth Limited (IREL) which is a public sector undertaking under the Department of Atomic Energy.
The IREL has been granted a monopoly by the government over a few primary minerals that contain REE such as monazite beach sand.
Initiatives were taken in this regard:
The government amended the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation Act),1957 for boosting mineral production, improve the ease of doing business, and increase the contribution of the mine and mineral industry to GDP (Gross Domestic Product).