Supplies of Dysprosium, a rare metal required in the production of electric cars, wind turbines and mobile phones will get a boost as James Cook University (JCU) scientists from Townsville identified a way to discover new reserves of the mineral.
The team at JCU uncovered the geological origins of dysprosium, which will be vital to improvements in the growth industries. Dysprosium is being mined in Western Australia and is an essential element for turbine and electric motor magnets. Adding dysprosium to normal magnets creates a retainable magnetism, even at high temperatures.
The research, analysed drilling samples of the 1.65-billion-year-old rock came from the Northern Minerals’ Browns Ridge project and has given insight into the types of geological sites that may contain deposits of the metal. The metal is often associated with uranium ore, and a large portion of northern Australia has the potential to hold these minerals.
Although most rare earth mineral production occurs in areas relative to magma flows, Dysprosium is formed in a completely different way, and There are already reports of this type of ore mineral occurring in similar geological settings in Canada. However, with the new discovery, it is likely that Australia will soon become a major producer of the metal.
Until now, China has had a monopoly in the supply of dysprosium to market, sparking fluctuating price fears from global industries reliant on the metal. However, China was forced to abandon export quotas In 2015 to control global prices after a World Trade Organisation ruling.
As electric cars become more common and the push towards green energy, with things like wind turbines, the demand for dysprosium is going to increase rapidly.
Currently, around 50 tonnes a year is being produced by the pilot mine at Browns Range, which will double in the next two years. The new ore-sorting technology to be installed allows far more accurate locating of the mineral deposits onsite.