Can North America catch up on rare earths? Kiril Mugerman
“How does my company, Geomega Resources, fit into the rare earths recycling cycle? Geomega uses chemical processing to extract and produce purified rare earth oxides that are otherwise trapped in magnets. The magnet cannot be directly reused, because often the shape, size, coating and magnetic specifications will be hard to match to a specific application. Geomega’s process allows us to recover the rare earths and to ship them to metal and magnet manufacturers that will be able to make new products to the specifications of the end users.”
Rare earth elements (REE) are used in many devices that people use every day, including mobile phones, catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting, computer memory, DVDs, rechargeable batteries, and much more.
Geomega does not handle e-waste directly. We work with e-waste recycling companies that do not have viable buyers of their magnet stream from their factories, and, instead, are allowing the magnets to get mixed with the metal scrap. Our approach allows the commodity to be recycled instead of diluted with metal in the steel recycling process. In terms of electric appliances, washing machines, microwaves and small electric motors are collected by several recycling groups, but they do not extract the magnets because they do not have a buyer for that stream.
China’s production of critical minerals from raw materials has come at a high cost to the environment. Now e-waste is being recycled using the same polluting technologies. It is important to provide a cleaner solution to both primary ores and recycling. Just because recycling is helping to avoid unnecessary mining, it doesn’t mean that we need to recycle using an old, dirty process that harms the environment.
It’s been 10 years since the first REE crisis and the problem is far from resolved, but the first few seeds signal promise, and we may finally see a flower grow.