Demand for electric vehicles has seen a significant increase in recent years, driven by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As more people choose electric vehicles, the need arises to ensure the supply of essential materials for their manufacturelike neodymium.
What is neodymium?
Neodymium is one of the key elements in the production of permanent magnet synchronous electric motors, which are used in most electric vehicles on the market. These permanent magnets are essential for the propulsion of vehicles, as they generate the magnetic field necessary for the engine to operate.
However, obtaining neodymium is not a simple task. Currently, neodymium supply is mainly controlled by Chinawhich has most of the world’s reserves of this material.
This has raised concerns among electric vehicle manufacturers as they rely heavily on neodymium imports for the production of their engines. Additionally, China has restricted neodymium exports in the past, leading to shortages and rising prices.
Production in Spain
Despite these limitations, Spain has a unique opportunity to reduce its dependence on China regarding the supply of neodymium. It is estimated that our country has around 9,000 hectares of land with reserves of rare earths, including neodymium. These reserves could be exploited in a sustainable and responsible manner, thus guaranteeing a stable supply of neodymium for the electric vehicle industry.
Neodymium mining is not without challenges. This material is found in very low concentrations in nature, requiring a complex and expensive extraction process. Additionally, neodymium is difficult to recycle, further exacerbating its shortage.
In practice, with the right technology and an investment in research and development, Spain could become a benchmark in the extraction and production of neodymium. Neodymium is not only essential for the manufacture of electric vehicles, but is also used in other electronic devices, such as smartphones and television screens. This means that demand for neodymium will continue to increase in the coming years, making securing its supply even more crucial.
In addition to the extraction of neodymium, Spain also has the opportunity to develop alternative technologies for electric motors that do not depend on rare earth magnets. Although there are motor technologies that do not require the use of neodymium, electric vehicle manufacturers still prefer permanent magnet synchronous motors due to their efficiency and performance.
Where is it produced in Spain?
The province of Ciudad Real is located in central Spain and is known for its rich history, beautiful landscape and agricultural tradition. In recent times, a controversy has arisen in the region due to the Quantum Mining initiative to extract neodymium of an area of almost 9,000 hectares in the municipalities of Santa Cruz de Mudela, Torrenueva and Valdepeñas.
While the company sees great economic opportunities in this activity, various environmental, agricultural and community groups have expressed their opposition and concern about the possible negative impacts.
The extraction of this element could actually be an important source of income for the region and contribute to local economic development. However, opponents of the project argue that The economic benefits do not justify the possible environmental and social damages.
A total of 13 environmental, agricultural and neighborhood associations have expressed their firm opposition to the project, alleging that it is “speculative” and entails multiple damages. These organizations are concerned about the impact on the region’s fragile ecosystemsas well as the unique biodiversity that is home to endangered species.