Indonesia Explores Rare Earth and Germanium Extraction From Coal Mines

by | 21. Dec 2023 - 09:20 | Politics

World’s third-largest producer could find new uses for coal beyond power plant feedstock.

The Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry has begun to analyze the potential of rare earth elements (REEs) and germanium in coal deposits, the Jakarta Post reports. The Southeast Asian country is the world’s third-largest coal producer (PDF) and an important thermal coal exporter. The government is looking for ways to increase the commodity’s export value; the newspaper cites Agung Pribadi, head of the energy ministry’s Center for Mineral, Coal, and Geothermal Resources. Pribadi added that initial tests have shown that Indonesian coal contains enough parts per million REEs to be extracted commercially. Still, the studies need to be expanded on a larger scale to confirm the data.

China dominates the world’s production of REEs and germanium with approximately 60 percent, respectively. Both are classified as critical minerals by the EU and the U.S., for example, because of their concentrated production and importance for fields like clean energy and electric vehicles in the case of REEs and fiber optics and semiconductors in the case of germanium.

Indonesia Wants to Leverage its Natural Wealth

Beyond coal, the fourth-most populous country on earth is also home to large deposits of the battery metal nickel. The rise of electric vehicle adoption across the globe has caused a surge in demand for battery materials, including nickel. Recognizing the economic potential, the Indonesian government under President Joko Widodo has ramped up efforts to profit more from its resources by banning the export of unprocessed nickel ores and ores of other raw materials as refined minerals yield higher returns on the global market. Foreign countries without critical mineral deposits are becoming increasingly dependent on imports and are, hence, pushing for trade partnerships, for example, the U.S. with Indonesia.

Photo: iStock/Maksim Safaniuk

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