Exolpring the distribution and recovery potentials of rare earths from urban mines in China—A case study on neodymium

Youth Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China 2021.01-2023.12


Rare earth elements are important strategic and non-renewable minerals. Driven by the national strategies such as “Made in China 2025” and “New Infrastructure”, there is a rapid increase in the demand for rare earths, possibly rendering the virgin mining insufficient to meet the growing demand. Thus, it becomes increasingly important to recycle rare earths from urban mines. This project aims to explore the distribution and recovery potentials of neodymium from urban mines in China as a case study, and three research stages are included: (1) The database for the in-use neodymium-containing products is established to quantify the provincial in-use stock and scrap generation of neodymium from 1990 to 2019, revealing the historical evolution pattern of neodymium from urban mines; (2) A systematic quantitative evaluation model is proposed to comprehensively evaluate the recovery potentials of secondary resources in urban mines; (3) This project then aims to explore the future spatio-temporal distribution and evolution pattern of recovery potentials of neodymium, according to the future forecast of provincial scrap generation of neodymium from 2020 to 2050, the screening results of targeted neodymium-containing wastes for further recycling, and the evaluation of the economic, environmental and resource benefits of neodymium recycling. The overall project can help to form effective policies for the government to promote the exploration of neodymium from urban mines, and to provide scientific guidance for the rare earth recycling modes in China.


Rare Earth Elements; Urban Mines; Material Flow Analysis; Industrial Ecology; Anthropogenic Elemental Cycles