24 May 2013

The University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) will host the inaugural Rare Earth Minerals Symposium next Friday (31 May), to identify gaps in the current research spectrum of the sector, which spurs innovation of new technologies made from rare earth elements.

More than 50 delegates from 14 countries are expected to attend, including Japanese representatives in Queensland to explore the key role rare earth elements have in making new technologies like hybrid cars, mobiles and wind turbines.

SMI’s Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining Director Professor Saleem Ali said the event brings together industry representatives, leading practitioners, and international academic researchers in science, geo-politics, nuclear expertise and industrial ecology.

“The goal of this investment is to spur innovation, linking technology, process and contextual changes in the mining sector to changes in human needs,” Director Professor Ali said.

Professor Ali said through this initiative SMI would also launch a Rare Earths Research Consortium to attract further funding and partnerships worldwide.

He added that the Rare Earths initiative has also sparked an important collaborative partnership with researchers at CSIRO.

“Rare earth minerals are characterised not by their scarcity, as they are more common than gold or silver, but by the fact that they are a dispersed elements that cannot be made available easily or cheaply,” Professor Ali said.

“There are also various geo-political challenges surrounding the industry given the current dominance of a few countries in their production forecasts.

“This initiative will attempt to grapple with the full range of issues from technical aspects of mining and recycling to governance of mineral supply chains.”

SMI Deputy Director for Research Integration Professor David Brereton said this was an exciting new area of research for the institute.

“We are pleased that new linkages with an emerging industry and leading international scientists and experts in Japan, America and beyond are being created through the NextMineTM investment,” Professor Brereton said.

United State Department of Energy’s Critical Minerals Hub Deputy Director Professor Roderick Eggert will deliver a keynote presentation at the symposium.

“This reflects the international attention our initiative is receiving,” Professor Ali said.

Professor Yoshihiko Wada from Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan; Dr Keisuke Nansai and Dr Haji Ahmad Zaidee bin Laidin, Senior Council Member of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia will also give keynote presentations at the event.

Given the prominence of rare earth materials in manufacturing operations in Japan, this initiative is also being linked to an Australia-Japan Foundation proposal to further collaborative opportunities between universities in both countries.

In addition, the initiative will be partnering with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Xiamen University’s Centre for China Energy Economics Research.

The symposium has been made possible through an internal grant from SMI’s NextMineTM initiative which aims to identify and pursue cutting edge research areas in the mineral sector.
Event details What: SMI’s Rare Earth Minerals Symposium When: Friday, 31 May 2013 (8.15am to 5pm) Where: Playhouse Theatre, Women’s College, UQ, St Lucia Campus, Brisbane Register: rareearths@uq.edu.au or http://www.csrm.uq.edu.au/rareearths before 5pm Tuesday 28th May
More info: http://www.csrm.uq.edu.au/RareEarths.aspx

For more information on the Sustainable Minerals Institute’s NextMine™ initiative please visit http://www.smi.uq.edu.au/ResearchProjects/ResearchIntegration/NextMine.aspx

MEDIA: Sarah Knox, +61 7 334 64013, s.knox@uq.edu.au