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Τετάρτη, 31 Ιουλίου 2019

A Review of Misleading Methods and Biased Practices in Evaluating the Feasibility of Rare Earth Mining Projects

World Map showing the global distribution of REE deposits and mines

Αctive REE Mines and Exploration Projects, by G. Barakos and H. Mischo.
On July 22, 2019, President Trump sent five Presidential Determinations to the Secretary of Defense stating that domestic production capabilities for the following are essential for the national defense:
  • Separation and processing of heavy rare earth elements;
  • Separation and processing of light rare earth elements;
  • Rare earth metals and alloys;
  • Samarium cobalt rare earth permanent magnets; and
  • Neodymium iron boron rare earth sintered material and permanent magnets
Rare earth mining projects are increasingly being promoted as a way to achieve such domestic production capabilities. However, IBC Advanced Technologies, Inc. ("IBC") provides the following cautionary information, based on an independent study and independent expert findings, in order to inform policy makers as they carry out the Presidential Determinations.

A valuable framework for assessing the Presidential Determinations is provided by an independent study, entitled, "A Review of Misleading Methods and Biased Practices in Evaluating the Feasibility of Rare Earth Mining Projects," co-authored by G. Barakos and H. Mischo, Technische Universität Bergakademie, Freiberg, Germany (the "Independent Study").

The mining evaluation of any deposit starts on the basis of exploration activities and continues as the knowledge about the deposit evolves. This process is depicted in feasibility studies and technical reports which are required in the preproduction stages to justify continued investment.

Such reports are usually conducted by consultants on behalf of mining companies regarding the feasibility of potential mining projects. The spur in exploration for rare earth elements (REE)
resulted in a remarkable increase of the total number of REE resources worldwide. Subsequently
scoping studies, pre-feasibility and final feasibility studies have been conducted for several
potential REE projects. An analysis is made in this paper of numerous technical reports and studies, which indicates that each project has unique characteristics, thus making their cross comparison a challenging task.

 But even if the diversities are sidelined, there is a variety of different reporting practices identified in several of the studies. A thorough review on many reports, presentations and press releases from mining companies and their consulting associates denotes the utilisation of an array of different misleading metrics and ambiguous methodologies.

These controversial reporting practices
have infused the REE mining industry and are widely
adopted despite being in discordance with regulated reporting standards. Hence the scope of this
paper is to expose those fallacious methods and specify how such reports should be conducted.


In one of its many findings, the Independent Study reported on the jump in REE prices which occurred after the "…crisis and spike of 2011 when fears of Chinese monopolistic control of production, export restrictions and global supply shortages drove prices up nearly tenfold. The crisis was sufficient to cause a global treasure hunt by way of exploration of REE deposits; the high prices of REE made investments in start-up projects seem temptingly easy. Yet the crisis did not last long; the prices plummeted in a relatively short time…" However, "…in many projects conducted from 2011 to 2013 [specifically referencing the Bokan Mine project], the REE price predictions are based on a three-year average evaluation that incorporates the price bubble of mid-2011." The authors noted that "…projects including the period of the 2011 price spike in their forecast models will be getting erroneous results."

In discussing their conclusions, the authors stated: "Given these deceptive and in many cases fallacious reporting practices, it becomes obvious that any assessment of the deposits and of the feasibility of the potential REE projects is difficult to make"

Hence, a more careful and detailed assessment is needed, where all the erroneous practices are eliminated and the actual boundary conditions of the REE market and mining industry are taken into consideration.It is critical for all stakeholders to overlook the realistic prospects of the REE market and base their mining, processing and economic evaluations to rational price forecasting models, and assess the marketability of their products. Misleading practices will result in failing REE projects. A proper evaluation will not necessarily mean that any examined REE project will have a positive economic result, but at least it can give more robust indications on whether to further invest in the project or not. The review presented in this paper is part of a PhD research that regards the development of an assessment tool for the mineability of rare earth deposits.

Europe's REE: the EURARE project is completed (2013–2017).

Geological, Mineralogical and Geochemical Aspects for Critical and Rare Metals in Greece 

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