12th Rare Earth Summit

May 27-28, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

11th Aluminum Raw Materials Summit

May 20-21, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

9th Magnesium Summit

April 15-16, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

13th World InBiGeGa Forum

March 25-26, 2021
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

7th World Antimony Forum

June 13-14, 2019
Changsha, Hunan, China

7th Refractory & Abrasive Materials Summit 2019

May 23-24, 2019
Qingdao, Shandong, China

10th Aluminum Raw Materials Summit

May 16-17, 2019
Zhengzhou, Henan, China

11th Rare Earth Summit

May 9-10, 2019
Qingdao, Shandong, China

8th Magnesium Summit

April 11-12, 2019
Zhuhai, Guangdong, China

12th World InBiGeGa Forum

March 14-15, 2019
Zhuhai, Guangdong, China

6th World Manganese & Selenium Forum

May 21-22, 2018
Hainan Sanya, China
Making a leader of rare earth fluorides in China
----Interview with Liu Jianping
Deputy General Manager
Ganzhou Shilei Rare Earth Materials Co., Ltd.
Built in 2017, Ganzhou Shilei Rare Earth Materials Co., Ltd. is a high-tech company which engages in rare earth fluoride research, production and sales. We finished the construction of 1,000tpy rare earth fluorides production line for phase I and has put it into operation since 2018. The total investment reached 50.32 million yuan (7.19 million USD). The company covers an area of around 15 acres now and obtained the high-tech enterprise certification. Now it aims to build a leading company of rare earth fluorides in China.

Asian Metal: Hello, Mr. Liu! Thank you for accepting this interview from Asian Metal. Could you please introduce your company and your main business briefly?

Mr. Liu: Built in 2017, Ganzhou Shilei Rare Earth Materials Co., Ltd. is a high-tech company which engages in rare earth fluoride research, production and sales. We finished the construction of 1,000tpy rare earth fluorides production line for phase I and has put it into operation since 2018. The total investment reached 50.32 million yuan (7.19 million USD). My company covers an area of around 15 acres now and obtained the high-tech enterprise certification.

Asian Metal: Thank you for your introduction. Would you please give us a brief introduction of your career?

Mr. Liu: I have engaged in the rare earth industry for more than 10 years. I ever mainly traded rare earth oxides and rare earth fluorides and co-built Ganzhou Shilei Rare Earth Materials Co., Ltd. with Jiangxi Shilei Fluoride Materials Co., Ltd. in 2017. Now I focus on the rare earth fluoride products' research, production and sales work.

Asian Metal: Chinese rare earth metal industry faced a sharp expansion of new capacities throughout 2019, and the competition among suppliers became fiercer. With the construction and expansion of new capacities in Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Shandong and other provinces, do you think this change would promote the development of rare earth fluoride industry? Whether there are some impacts led by rare earth oxide and metal prices' ups and downs?

Mr. Liu: Rare earth resource and its industrial chain is an important part of China's national strategy, which would certainly achieve greater development. From the eyesight of rare earth industry, rare earth metal industry is the most important, in which uses rare earth fluorides. As a rare earth fluoride producer, we are glad to see the development of rare earth industry, especially the rare earth metal industry, and we would make every effort to meet the demand from different kinds of clients.
From the micro aspect of enterprise, rare earth fluoride prices mainly depend on processing costs of raw materials, but the processing fee is usually thin and relatively stable. No matter rare earth oxides from upstream or rare earth metals from downstream, their price fluctuations have no direct impact on rare earth fluoride prices.

Asian Metal: Mr. Liu, you have been active in the rare earth fluoride market for a long time. Could you please briefly introduce the current production capacity and supply and demand situation of rare earth fluoride products such as PrNd fluoride, dysprosium fluoride, terbium fluoride and yttrium fluoride?

Mr. Liu: Generally speaking, rare earth fluoride market is small segment for the rare earth industry. As it is usually supported internally in major rare earth metal enterprises or some small workshops provided the processing services for those companies, I am also hard to give the statistics data of the industry's capacity and market situation of supply and demand.
To be specific, the rare earth fluoride consumption differs from different metal production processes. For example, we use about 80kg PrNd fluoride for one ton of PrNd mischmetal production in molten salt electrolysis. Namely, the annual consumption for PrNd fluoride in China would be about 4,000t if we calculated with 50,000tpy of PrNd mischmetal output. However, for the yttrium metallothermic reduction production, all the raw materials is yttrium fluoride, so we need around 1.5t of yttrium fluorides to produce one ton of yttrium metal 99.9%min.

Asian Metal: As far as I am concerned, there are two main technique to produce rare earth fluoride, which are wet hydrofluoric acid process and dry hydrogen fluoride or ammonium hydrogen fluoride gas process. Which process do your company adopt? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two processes? Which technology will lead the future development of the industry?

Mr. Liu: For a long time, the wet hydrofluoric acid process has been listed as the obsolete in the Industrial Restructuring Catalogue, which means that the process has been eliminated guided by the national industrial policy, so it is impossible to build new project using the process or legalize existing production facilities. On the other hand, as the ammonium hydrogen fluoride gas process, it is also difficult to solve the environmental problem.
Now our company adopts dry hydrogen fluoride gas process, using a DCS automatic system to control the entire process in a completely closed system. Firstly, we heat the high purity anhydrous hydrogen fluoride and evaporate it into gas, then carry out the fluoridation reaction with rare earth oxide under a specific condition. After that, we cool the product under the protection of high purity nitrogen gas. Then we remove the impurity, refine, package it and finally deliver to our clients. At the same time, the tail gas from the reaction is absorbed in water and it turns out to be hydrofluoric acid, which would be taken over by our group for the comprehensive utilization. Therefore, our rare earth fluoride process makes zero pollution and zero emission.

Asian Metal: As we know, fluorochemicals are often associated with dangerous chemicals. Under the current severe environmental protection atmosphere, what opportunities and challenges will bring to the rare earth fluoride industry from your side? What has your company done in terms of safety and environmental protection?

Mr. Liu: Safety and environmental protection are not only the bottom line that enterprises must keep, but also the lifeline of the survival of enterprises. We have been increasing investment in equipment and personnel since the planning of the company. The system design should be intrinsically safe, and the whole process should be zero pollution and emission. It turned out that our choice is correct. Ganzhou Shilei Rare Earth Materials Co., Ltd. has been the unique enterprise which owns legal procedures for rare earth fluoride production. Our company successfully passed the safety and environmental protection acceptance, obtaining the license of hazardous chemical materials safety production and the high-tech enterprise authentication, which really have the ability to provide professional, stable and reliable products and services to clients.
The fluoridation process is one of the 15 high-risk chemical processes along with chlorination and nitrification, etc., which has been key supervised by relevant departments of the government. There is no doubt that the production without legal production procedures and with the wet-process to produce rare earth has to exit. For practitioners, we must fully implement in accordance with national laws and regulations as well as industrial policies, or else the consequence of illegal production is extremely serious.

Asian Metal: Ganzhou Shilei Rare Earth Materials Co., Ltd. is one of subsidiaries of Jiangxi Shilei Group. Why your company choose Huichang as the location? How about your production quotas? Do you have some new development plans in the coming year?

Mr. Liu: We select Huichang as the site mainly from the following aspects: Firstly, as a chemical enterprise, the company must choose a professional chemical park in accordance with the requirements of national policies. And Huichang is a provincial chemical park for fluoride chemical industry in Jiangxi Province, which is a guarantee for the long-term development of the enterprise. Secondly, Ganzhou Shilei Rare Earth Materials Co., Ltd. have to rely on the Jiangxi Shilei group, not matter the high purity hydrofluoric acid raw material but also the hydrofluoric acid by-product, so that the group could provide the raw material and comprehensively utilize the by-product. Thirdly, Huichang is located at the junction of jiangxi, fujian and guangdong provinces. Choosing the site, we can rely on Ganzhou's rare earth resources and serve the downstream rare earth metal enterprises nearby.
By 2020, Ganzhou Shilei Rare Earth Co., Ltd. would fully operate 1,000t rare earth fluoride project. In the future, some enterprises which use wet hydrofluoric acid process and produce without legal procedures have to exit the market, so that we have more room to expand production. We are going to enlarge the rare earth fluoride production capacity to 5,000tpy in the future, aiming to build a leading company for rare earth fluorides all over the world.

Asian Metal: Recent years, both governments and industry participants call on extending industrial chain and increasing the added value for rare earth products. How do you feel this in practice?

Mr. Liu: The key to the future of rare earth industry lies in the expansion of applications. Rare earth fluoride is not only an essential raw material for rare earth metal production, but also a high value-added rare earth product. We are willing to develop new products and expand new application fields together with our cooperators in the rare earth industry.

Asian Metal: Would you like to share us some feelings on the market exploration and production?

Mr. Liu: First of all, our company is committed to meeting all the requirements of customers and seeking long-term and stable cooperation with them. Secondly, we are willing to develop some new materials, such as high purity yttrium fluoride, etc. If customers have demand for specific rare earth fluoride, we would like to discuss and research together. In addition, we focus more on high purity rare earth fluoride currently due to our product structure, for which we have invested a lot of funds to design and equip new fluoridation furnaces.

Asian Metal: Asian Metal is the authoritative platform for market information, and also provides the reference prices for rare earth industry. Could you give us some suggestions about our service? Thank you!

Mr. Liu: Asian Metal has been focused in the rare earth industry for around 20 years, thanks for your professional industrial information and price information, which let us practitioners benefit a lot. If possible, we are willing to cooperate with your platform to launch rare earth fluoride prices, which would provide a new observation aspect for the rare earth industry.

Asian Metal: Thanks, Mr. Liu! Asian Metal will carry your vision to provide the objective, professional and authoritative market information for the industry. Thanks again for your support and sharing! Wish you every success in your business!

Mr. Liu: Thank you! Let's work together!