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An Interview with Nabeel Mancheri, Secretary General of REIA - The Global Rare Earth Industry Association

As Secretary General of REIA, could you summarise what the purpose of the association is and what you are aiming to achieve?

Many countries and companies consider rare earths to be the most critical elements, as they are important ingredients in many modern technologies. The industry faces a number of challenges such as concentration of supply, unsustainable production and processing practices and lack of data on how RE are produced or consumed and environmental impact. No industrial association or global advocacy group for the REE industry existed until REIA was formed in mid-2019 by its 12 founding members with the support of EIT RawMaterials, a European commission sponsored organisation. REIA gathers key supply chain actors already on the global market and creates and shares information, which leads to an innovative REE industry of the future.

Our aim is to develop a strong and balanced global stakeholder network, support the development of sustainable value chains and create transparency and certification of products and processes within the REE industry. In the coming years, REIA will be a source of information for the public and the industry, as well as being a global protagonist for the sector.

In your opinion, what are the biggest obstacles and problems that need to be tackled in the REE sector?

The industry faces significant challenges such as inefficient recovery of rare earths, high environmental impact of production and processing and high volatility of raw material prices. It is also known for its value chain fragmentation. New producers, better technologies and fast-growing demand require stronger collaboration between the REE industry players, industrial customers, research institutions and governments. Cooperation is essential to ensure these materials deliver on their incredible potential to decarbonize energy and transportation.

REIA also works as a guiding partner in understanding and evaluating the environmental hotspots. The Association is leading a project on the construction of an REE industry footprint. The industry-wide environmental footprint is calculated through life cycle assessment (LCA) methods that measure the environmental performance of products and processes. The OEMs and Tier 1s would be the largest beneficiary of these assessments.

From your point of view, why is SUSMAGPRO an interesting project in this context?

We are happy that most of the SUSMAGPRO partners are REIA members. The objective of SUSMAGPRO is well aligned with that of REIA, namely achieving supply diversification, value chain integration and promoting a circular economy. In a practical way, SUSMAGPRO shows that “diversification of supply doesn’t mean only of the primary production”. The project also tries to close the loop by bringing together stakeholders across the value chain to develop a circular economy in the rare earth industry.

How do you think can SUSMAGPRO best contribute?

SUSMAGPRO rightly addresses the core concern of geographical concentration of REE supply and criticality by trying to demonstrate the effective reuse of recycled rare earth materials. Along with addressing this issue, the project also includes specific work packages aligned with REIA's mission of raising awareness on the benefits of a circular economy of rare earth magnets, reducing the environmental impacts and health risks related to REE processing, reducing the environmental damage associated with the mining and refining of REEs and improving production techniques and making magnets more recyclable and eco-friendlier. REIA would be happy to contribute, through its members and stakeholder network, to realizing these objectives.