Vietnam targets to exploit 2 million tons of rare earths each year

By Viet Tuan   July 26, 2023 | 02:21 am PT
Vietnam targets to exploit 2 million tons of rare earths each year
Rare earth samples collected in northern Vietnam in 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh
Vietnam will step up technologies to mine and process rare earths to achieve a total output of more than 2 million tons per year.

As per a government plan approved this week to explore, exploit, process and use minerals over the next decade and beyond, companies licensed to exploit rare earth mines "must have sufficient capacity and invest in appropriate processing projects, use advanced technology, modern equipment, and protect the environment."

Rare earths are a group of elements that have applications in electronics manufacturing and batteries, making them important for the global transition towards cleaner sources of energy.

By 2030, exploration will be completed at all licensed mines for exploitation to start. By then, the target of 2 million tons should be reached.

After 2030, four new mines will be explored to raise output by 100,000 tons per year, the plan said.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has licensed companies to exploit two rare earth mines in Lai Chau and Yen Bai provinces in the northwest since 2014, but so far none of them have operated as businesses have struggled with choosing appropriate technologies and there are no specific guidance.

Companies in Vietnam have mostly imported rare earths for processing and re-exporting.

Luu Anh Tuan, director of Vietnam Rare Earth JSC, told VnExpress last October that having to import raw materials causes difficulties in terms of supply and prices.

If Vietnam can self-supply rare earths, it will reduce product costs and create more jobs for locals, he said.

With 44 million tons, China has the largest reserves of rare earths in the world followed by Vietnam with 22 million tons, and Brazil and Russia with 21 million tons each.

For three decades China has been the largest producer and exporter, accounting for a full 80% of production, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a government agency.

The U.S. agency also said Vietnam’s rare earths output jumped to 4,300 tons last year from 400 tons in 2021, and that had turned the country into the world's sixth biggest producer up from 10th in 2021.

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