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jun 08, 2017

Brazil’s rare iron ores could boost the wind turbine industry

Brazil could be a global player in the wind turbine industry before 2020, thanks to the discovery of rare iron ores and their potential use in energy production.

Brazil has the world's second largest reserves of rare earth ores, which can be used to produce super-powerful magnets. These magnets are useful for producing wind turbines and electric motors. As of yet, there is no national enterprise capable of producing them.

But Brazil is preparing to create its first national market, through the Brazilian Company of Metallurgy and Mining (CBMM). Partnered by IPT, the Sao Paulo Institute for Technological Research, the CBMM will be Brazil’s first private national enterprise attempting to leverage the natural resource.
Over the last three years, CBMM’s mission has succeeded in gathering the ores and perfecting the production of the super-magnets. With the help of the IPT and the Brazilian Company for Industrial Research and Innovation, Embrapii, CBMM has managed to raise R$13 million in investments over the same period.

The project is entering its second phase, joining neodymium with praseodymium. CBMM has already been able to produce a solid metal bar containing the two components, one of the final stages before the magnet is created. This is the first time that this has been achieved in Brazil.

The market is currently dominated by China, which has the world’s largest collection of natural resources needed for these products. But with wind turbines becoming more and more popular, countries that have typically depended on China’s resources may be looking elsewhere. Brazil plans to grow its domestic industry slowly, and use that as a demonstration of its potential to international clients.

CBMM stumbled across the potential to tap into the industry by accident. They had been mining for niobium, and the ores used to form neodymium and praseodymium make up part of the waste ores. With the costly extraction process already out of the way, CBMM had the opportunity to explore the possibility to create the super-magnets at a reduced cost.
CBMM is now entering into contact with the Federal University of Santa Catarina and wind turbine company WEG for support as it enters the final stages of its project. 

With its newfound resources, Brazil’s potential to develop the industry is huge. For every 600kg of super-magnet produced, it is possible to generate 1Mw (Megawatt) of energy. The Global Wind Energy Council believes the technology is developing so rapidly that by 2020, companies will be able to produce far more electricity than estimated.