Crucial find: Light Rare Earth Elements discovered in Andhra Pradesh by NGRI scientists

The discovery of these rare earth elements could turn the tables as they are the key components used in many electronic devices and high technology
Representational Image, Picture Courtesy: Google Images
Representational Image, Picture Courtesy: Google Images

Scientists at the CSIR-NGRI (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research-National Geophysical Research Institute) in Hyderabad have found the presence of Light Rare Earth Elements (REE), key components in many electronic devices and various industrial applications, including medical technology, aerospace and defence, in Ananthapur district of Andhra Pradesh.

The Light Rare Earth Element minerals include Lanthanum, Cerium, Praseodymium, Neodymium, Yttrium, Hafnium, Tantalum, Niobium, Zirconium and Scandium.

"We found strong anomalous (enriched) Light Rare Earth Elements (La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Y, Nb and Ta) in whole rock analyses, confirming the minerals hosting these REE," senior principal scientist in NGRI Dr PV Sunder Raju told PTI.

Rare earth elements (REE) are 15 elements referred to as the lanthanide and Actinide series in the periodic table of elements, together with scandium and yttrium. REEs are key components in many electronic devices we use daily (like cell phones) and various industrial applications, including medical technology, clean energy, aerospace, automotive and defence.

Why is REE important and what is it used in?

The manufacturing of permanent magnets is the largest and most important end use for REEs. Permanent magnets are essential to modern electronics used in cell phones, televisions, computers, automobiles, wind turbines, jet aircraft and many other products. Because of their luminescent and catalytic properties, REEs are widely used in high technology and "green" products.

"To reach net zero, Europe will require up to 26 times the amount of rare earth metals in 2050 compared to present demand. Demand is also increasing because of digitalisation," he said.

All about SHORE
The discovery of the REEs was part of a study funded by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-India) under a project called SHORE (Shallow subsurface imaging Of India for Resource Exploration).

Sunder Raju said that the scientists had a multi-disciplinary approach to the SHORE project.

"Under this project umbrella, our focused objective was Detailed understanding of RM (Rare Metals)-REE metallogeny, assessment of resources and identifying economically potential sites, especially from the carbonatite-syenite complexes of Andhra Pradesh," he said.

Following the discovery of the REEs, deep drilling for more than at least one km will ascertain the consistency of REE presence in-depth, he added.

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