Thursday, 31 May 2018

Rare Earth Elements - Finding out More from a Scientist

Yesterday we were very lucky to get a visit from a Scientist - Dr Michael Rowe from the University of Auckland.    He teaches Earth Science at the University of Auckland.  You can find out more about him here

We were all really excited about having Michael come in and talk to us and we had lots of questions to ask him about Rare Earth Elements.  He was brilliant at answering all our questions, we now know even more about Rare Earth Elements.  

Some of the things we learnt were... 

  • Praseodymium (Pr) is the rarest rare earth element
  • Rare earth's aren't found by themselves they are usually in other minerals - they have to be blasted, crushed and dissolved out of other minerals to get them to their pure form
  • The find in Japan is in mud, it's very different to the other Rare earth finds
  • The find in Japan has about 5000 parts per million of Rare earth
  • To extract the rare earth elements in Japan they could use a tool sort of like a vacuum cleaner to suck up the mud from the bottom of the sea.  They would then need to seperate the rare earth elements from the other elements in the mud.
  • China has about 97% of the world's rare earth mines and supply.
  • It can be dangerous to mine rare earth - rare earth elements can be found with radioactive materials
  • There can be a lot of damage to the environment when mining rare earth elements.  Rare earth elements are found in small concentrations so there is a lot of waste associated with mining them
  • Sometimes miners have to dig up a whole mountain just to find a small amount of Rare Earth Elements
  • If we were looking at rare earth and how much of it is in the environment we could say that 2 1/2 people out of 28 students in our class might contain some  rare earth elements.
  • If we were looking at 1000 marbles maybe 1 of them would be fairly pure rare earth.

Here are a few photos from the talk:

Watch this space, we're almost finished adding some more information to our Slide Decks and our What's in Your Device Boards so we'll post those to our blog soon.


  1. Wow that is a lot of facts Room 2 learnt! That must of been very cool to have somebody like him to come to you and teach you those things! I wish that Room 1 could have something similar to that.


  2. I found this really exciting and know that you did too as a group of inquisitive learners! Thanks Mrs Lee for bringing a new dimension and outside expert into the learning of Room 2. So interesting!

  3. I loved reading about all the rare earth mineral facts, especially the facts about rare earth findings in Japan. What are some possible consequences if mountains are continuously mined for rare earth elements? I am curious in learning the positives and negatives of mining for such rare earth minerals. :) So fascinating, thank you for the information!