Heavy Rare Earth Exploration: Geopolitical Drivers Geochemical Systematics and Australian Targets

The rare earth elements (REEs) La to Lu are widely used in electronic manufacturing, communications, military defence systems, medicine and in emerging clean energy technologies.  Although supply of the light rare earth elements (LREE) La, Ce Pr and Nd, is relatively secure, because they are highly enriched in carbonatites, the supply of HREEs is more tenuous. China is the principal source of HREEs, which are mainly extracted from low-grade ionic clay deposits in Southern China using environmentally damaging leaching techniques.  Demand for the high value HREEs is predicted to increase continuously during the next decade due to growth of green energy applications. But increasing domestic consumption of HREEs in China will have a significant impact on supply. Concerns regarding security of supply of these critical elements, due to political, technological, economic, geological, social and environmental factors, has stimulated significant HREE exploration activity to secure new sources of supply. This presentation discusses this heavy rare earth landscape, reviews Australian REE deposits and comments on new opportunities for discovery of heavy rare earth mineralisation.

Ken Collerson is an Emeritus Professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at UQ. He is an internationally recognised geoscientist whose research has contributed to improved understanding of crust, mantle and metallogenic evolution, including providing a basis for predictive mineral system exploration. Ken is a specialist in exploration for technology (HREE, Sc) and battery (Li, Co Mn) metals, as well as PGE and alkaline hosted Au-Cu porphyry mineralisation. His use of spinifex biogeochemistry to explore under cover recently resulted in discovery of a new mineral province in Australia.


Room 314: Steele building (#3), St Lucia Campus