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Sustainable rare earths for the clean tech revolution


A new process limits the impact and cost of extracting key elements

Spotted: Rare earth elements, such as Dysprosium and Terbium, are vital to the clean energy transition. However, mining these elements is extremely damaging to the environment, in part because they are usually present in very low concentrations and often in combination with radioactive elements and heavy metals. This makes extraction difficult and expensive, involving environmentally damaging and water-intensive techniques such as open-pit mining.

Aclara Resources has now come up with a novel process to extract rare earth elements in a more environmentally sustainable way. The process, called Circular Mineral Harvesting (CMH), involves processing ionic clays containing rare earths in a way that recycles and reuses most of the water and reagents.

According to the company, the novel mining system recirculates 95 per cent of the water and 99 per cent of the reagent (a common fertiliser) back into the process. In addition, it does not leave behind any liquid residues (which could otherwise contaminate water sources) or radioactivity.

Aclara recently announced that it had received up to $80 million (around €75 million) in strategic investment from Chilean company CAP. The agreement includes the establishment of a joint venture company to develop metals and alloys for the rare-earth permanent magnet industry. Aclara also recently incorporated a US-based subsidiary, Aclara Technologies, to enable its strategic expansion into the US.

Sustainable mining is the focus of a number of recent innovations spotted by Springwise, including the use of microbes for greener lithium mining and using AI to improve mining efficiency.

Written By: Lisa Magloff




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