On Thursday morning, we set off from the capital, Ankara, to Eskişehir with our captain, pilot Attila Işeri. A little before we came to Sivrihisar, we took roads across numerous villages under the guidance of the navigation system.
Our destination is the mining area, where rare earth elements (metals) will be extracted, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave good tidings about after the cabinet meeting in the past few days.
When we arrived at the region that contains the world's largest discovered reserves of rare earth elements, we met with Türkiye's Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Fatih Donmez.
Türkiye is advancing at a fast pace through a silent revolution in the mining industry.
As stated in one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent statements, “We were among the countries that distinguished themselves favorably in the mining industry during the pandemic crisis, as $6 billion worth of minerals were exported annually during the pandemic period in which global mining production decreased.”
After that, news came that if Türkiye continues on its path to stability, it will be possible to exceed these numbers by a lot within five or ten years.
Let's summarize Secretary Donmez's words about the rare earth elements in question, and what strategic value they boast.
- We have an estimated reserve of 694 million tons in Belikova district of Eskişehir State.
Rare earth elements are very valuable elements, the importance of which is that they are used in the manufacture of products used in the aerospace, defense, and aerospace industries, as well as in the artillery industry and many other vital fields.
- When you sell raw metal without processing, you earn one unit, while you can make it 10 times more valuable when you turn it into an intermediate product, and the value increases 100 times when you turn it into a final product.
Minister Donmez opens a special address to thorium between the lines of his speech and adds: "Here, I would like to draw attention to thorium in particular. We are talking about a metal that will offer great opportunities as a new fuel in new nuclear technologies. And here (in this place), it will be The pilot plant installation will be completed within a year, and we will start production."
When we arrived at the facility located within the boundaries of the town of "Belikavava" in the state of Eskisehir, we were accompanied by Minister Donmez and his delegation to the "press conference room".
Serkan Keleşer, General Manager of Eti Ma'aden Mining Factory, showed us the products he had taken out of the bags packed with them and enthusiastically told us about the work done in the field of mining.
Keleşer elaborated on how those products were produced, all the stages they went through, and the value that those products gain after passing through each stage.
As evidenced by Minister Donmez's words above, and as the name suggests, rare earth elements are among the most strategic products in the mining sector.
I learned this while we were shown those products at the time.
More than 80 percent of these minerals are produced in China. We have already indicated with examples that China is "weaponizing "this opportunity.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump formally threatened China during his presidency when the Chinese authorities said they could stop the export of such products to the United States.
The Chinese have previously tried a similar thing with Japan.
The Japanese immediately surrendered, when their access to these minerals was in jeopardy.
There is an element in this category called neodymium, and this element is used in all processes related to magnets.
And it would be even more impressive if you put it this way:
In the absence of neodymium, none of the work on magnets would be possible.
And if we say that these types of elements are used even in F-35 combat fighters, then it is possible to better understand how strategically important these products are.
The rare element field, which President Erdogan gave good ridings about and we toured with Energy Minister Dönmez, during our visit to the region, is close in capacity to the largest field in China.
The capacity of the field in China is 800 million tons, while the field mentioned here has a capacity of 694 million tons.
But the main task, Minister Donmez pointed out, is to obtain technology and production capacity in the chain extending from the ore to the final product.
It is worth mentioning that the general manager of the “Eti Maaden” factory, Serkan Keleşer, is a person who exudes feelings of responsibility, enthusiasm, and ambition.
Keleşer cites the strides (results) made by going through a similar process in boron as an example of a trace element.
He explains that the ability to control the chain extending from the manufacture of the ore to the final product has been reached, adding, "We have completed this value chain in the boron mineral." Türkiye has already started exporting boron worth more than $1 billion annually.
"Mining is a business that requires sweat and hard work," says Minister Dönmez.
To eventually turn the metal into products with advanced technology, with high added value.