MGB set to identify rare earth element sites in Q1

By Czeriza Valencia, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 03 2013 09:16 AM | Updated as of Jan 03 2013 05:16 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The government will begin in the first quarter of the year the identification of rare earth elements (REE) exploration sites, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

For this year, the Mines bureau is spending half a million pesos out of the total P20 million earmarked for the entire reconnaisance phase.

“We have already found potential areas to explore and these areas are also close to copper-gold mines. Notably, Palawan and Nueva Vizcaya are the best places to start,” said MGB director Leo Jasareno said.

A chunk of marble is held up for the camera at a mine operated by locals near the village of Astrazub in southwest Kosovo September 5, 2012. REUTERS

The Philippines is now pushing for the development of REE deposits amid the extended production halt of China’s largest rare earths producer and the Chinese government’s continuing reduction of export quotas to protect prices.

Rare earth metals are a group of elements that are used in a wide range of electronic products like computers and mobile phones as well as green technology.

Recognized as REE are Scandium, Yttrium, Lanthanum, Cerium, Praseodymium, Promethium, Samarium, Europium, Gadolinium, Terbium, Dysprosium, Holmium, Erbium, Thulium, Ytterbium, Lutetium.

China recognized the importance of these elements decades ago and now supplies around 95 percent the REE needs of the world.

China currently produces nearly 95 percent of the world’s rare earth materials, a group usually classified as 17 elements for their importance in high-tech applications.

Experts from the China Geological Survey (CGS), a Chinese government-owned entity, were supposed to help the MGB last year in identifying REE sites. Communication with CGS, however, stopped at the height of the military standoff over Panatag shoal.