Rare earth association aims to create global environmental standards in 2021

December 14, 2020

The global Rare Earth Industry Association (REIA) is working to build a global sustainability framework that would set global environmental standards for the industry that is under increasing pressure from buyers to address long standing pollution issues.

Retuers reported that REIA’s framework could be rolled out next year and plans to use an integrated blockchain tool to boost transparency.
Because there is no unified framework for rare earths, producers must currently navigate multiple standards and requirements, said Badrinath Veluri, president of REIA.

REIA has been in discussion with companies all along the “value chain” from miners to makers of consumer goods. These include the auto industry, now shifting increasingly toward electric vehicles, whose motors usually require rare earth-based magnets.

Manufacturers of products such as electronic goods and electric vehicles (EVs) are themselves under pressure from consumers to push their suppliers to impose sustainability standards - and some, such as German carmaker BMW, are trying to do without them altogether.

“The product manufacturers who are close to the customers demand sustainability, but every region is different, so this becomes very confusing and difficult to benchmark,” Veluri said.

Refining rare earth ore into individual elements is a complex operation, involving solvents and toxic waste that needs to be disposed of carefully.
China, which dominates global production, said last year it had shut down more than 1,300 heavy metal enterprises since 2016 to curb widespread chronic soil pollution.

Output of rare earths is set to spread geographically in coming years as the United States and Europe seek to wean themselves off dependence on China.

“To create a level playing field, the downstream players play a vital role. If there is a single standard and unified methodology, then upstream players will accept this much more easily,” Veluri said.

The REIA plans to use standards drawn up by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) as a foundation for its sustainability framework.



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