Rare earths: another reason for investing in Chile

Our country was previously a producer of Cobalt, a rare earth element; researchers are currently studying its presence in Antofagasta tailings. This and more will be part of EXPONOR 2024, which positions Chile as a safe investment.

Rare earths are a group of chemical elements that are found in low concentrations on Earth and have unusual properties. One example is niobium, which, despite a low concentration in the Earth's crust, has magnetic properties that are much stronger than iron, explained Dr. Pedro Galleguillos, CICITEM Scientific Director.

The high demand for rare earths led to the categorization of 35 critical elements in 2018, including metals, metalloids, mineral salts and cobalt. Chile was a producer of the latter, a metallic element that has several uses due to its characteristics, especially in electromobility because it forms part of lithium batteries, and also provides greater hardness to steel in alloys used in armaments and jet manufacturing.

The tailings contain cobalt; for example, there are copper concentrators that register iron with associated cobalt in their tailings. It may also be in our copper ores and is mainly found as cobalt sulphide. We must do more research in this area, in the regulation of tailings metals, because more components may also be found there, such as iron, copper and even cobalt and molybdenum", explained Galleguillos.

The main producer of cobalt in the world is Congo, with over 70% of the world's production in 2019 and where specific cobaltite deposits are located, followed by Australia. Meanwhile, Cuba is the main country in Latin America to share this classification, with 2.5% of the world share in the same year, with the third largest reserves worldwide.

Scientists are currently carrying out studies to implement sustainable and low-cost processes when exploiting these attributes of the Chilean territory, with processes that involve the use of green hydrogen for the production of metals, "the great advantage of this region, when using hydrogen for these reductive processes, is that all our products have a green seal and, for example, the value of green iron is not the same as the value of the iron sold in the south of Chile", he said.

This, he added, is part of a commitment to developing cleaner processes for metals without a carbon footprint, contributing to environmental sustainability with the help of rare earths.


For a more sustainable industry, with clean technologies and energies, accompanied by electromobility, rare earths can be an excellent option for both national and foreign exhibitors, as it is a complement in the Antofagasta Region, the mining and energy epicentre where EXPONOR is held. Therefore, we want to promote the region as an outstanding pole for mining and industrial business, making use of its geographical benefits and the studies that help make industrial processes sustainable", said Andrea Moreno, EXPO Manager.

This and more can be found in the market in Chile and Antofagasta, in which EXPONOR plays an important role by functioning as a meeting point for the mining and energy industry, where mining companies, domestic and foreign, seek technological innovations for the challenges that the sector presents today, and one of the options is the rare earth elements that, due to their unique characteristics applicable to technology and sustainability, position Chile as a safe investment.

EXPONOR 2024 -june 3 – 6, 2024- has the support of its strategic partners Albemarle, Antofagasta Minerals, CODELCO, Escondida|BHP, Minera El Abra, Pan American Silver, Sierra Gorda SCM, Spence|BHP and SQM, together with the backing of APRIMIN, Consejo Minero, Generadoras de Chile, InvestChile, the Ministries of Economy, Mining and Energy, the Regional Government, ProChile, SOFOFA and SONAMI. Official media partners are Minería Chilena, Reporte Minero and El Mercurio de Antofagasta. Stands can be reserved at: reservas@exponor.cl - 552 454 335.

EXPONOR 2024... Solutions for a sustainable industry.

Antofagasta, september 27, 2023.


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