November 08, 2010 14:07
Korea has started exploiting reserves of rare earth metals in Yangyang, Gangwon Province. The metals are core ingredients of high-tech industries to make permanent magnets and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and have been at the center of a global scramble for resources since China recently limited exports during a recent territorial dispute with Japan.
A Korea Resources Corporation official on Sunday said the massive deposits were found during the redevelopment of a closed iron ore mine in Yangyang. "We decided to begin full commercial mining in 2012," he added.
Although rare earth deposits exist in Hongcheon, Gangwon Province, and Chungju, North Chungcheong Province, commercial production was not deemed unprofitable because the metal content was low and they are located near residential areas or roads.
Due to a hike in the price of iron ore in recent months, the Korea Resources Corporation decided to redevelop the mine that had been shut down in 1995 and found deposits of lanthanum and cerium. Because the mine is in the mountains more than 10 km from residential areas, mining can go ahead.
Dr. Sung Yoo-hyun of the corporation's research institute said the deposits found in the early stage seem to be of low quality, but there seems to be a large deposit of high-quality metals to be found when full-scale exploration of the huge mine gets underway." Iron ore and rare earth metals exist in areas where magma erupts to the surface, making it likely that the two coexist.
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