Having Super Rare Treasures, Indonesia Becomes China’s Main Competitor

            Indonesia also keeps a super rare ‘treasure’ called Rare Earth Metals (LTJ) or Rare Earth Elements (REE). Based on data from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) as of 2015, the total potential of rare earth metals in Indonesia is estimated at 1.5 billion tons. The potential of these rare earth metals is spread in several areas, especially in the Bangka Belitung Islands, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, Sulawesi, to Papua.

            Citing “Study on Potential Associated Minerals in Tin Mining” released by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources Data and Information Center 2017, of the 17 rare earth elements, six elements are indispensable for the development of electric vehicles, namely lanthanum (La ), cerium (Ce), neodymium (Nd) for batteries, praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), terbium (Tb), and dysprosium (Dy) for generators and electric motors. It is known that obtaining the LTJ can be done in two approaches, namely obtaining from upstream tin mining with a higher grade and lower cost, and from processing tin slag with a relatively lower grade compared to the first one and the cost is relatively higher. In fact, if Indonesia works on and exploits this LTJ seriously, it is predicted that Indonesia will become China’s main competitor in meeting the world’s LTJ demand.

            China is the largest LTJ producer in the world today. This is because China has LTJ deposits in the primary form in the form of by-products from iron ore mining, and secondary in the form of alluvial deposits and lateritic deposits. “Recovery of LTJ will be much greater if it is carried out from upstream of tin mining, capable of reaching 74% by 2045, and Indonesia is predicted to become China’s main competitor in meeting world demand,” reads the executive summary of “The Study of Potential Associated Minerals in Tin Mining” which released by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in 2017.

            From slag processing, the six highest levels that can be recovered are cerium (16,400 parts per million, ppm), yttrium (13,900 ppm), lanthanum (7,470 ppm), neodymium (6,470 ppm), dysprosium (2,210 ppm), and praseodymium (1,810 ppm). ppm). If the smelter capacity for slag processing is increased to 3,000 tons per year, it will be able to meet world demand up to 1.13% in 2045 amounting to 360 thousand tons. The capacity of 10,000 tons per year can meet world demand around 4.23% in 2056 amounting to 437 thousand tons. 

It should be noted that until now the Government of Indonesia has not issued a special regulation regarding the management of rare earth metals. However, the Director-General of Mineral and Coal (Dirjen Minerba) of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Ridwan Djamaluddin, said that currently, the government has formed a team called the rare earth metal-based industry development team. In addition, the government is also preparing a Presidential Instruction (Inpres) to accelerate the development and downstream of rare earth metals.

Feb 08, 2022, CNBC Indonesia