Application of rare earth conversion coatings as a surface treatment for magnesium has been the subject of several studies revealing the potential to act as an effective passivating layer. Herein a mechanistic study is presented on the formation of a rare earth conversion layer based on Pr(NO3)3 on AZ80X magnesium alloy in simulated biological (buffered) solution. Scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) was used to investigate the insulating properties and degradation behaviour of the Pr conversion layer. The self-healing properties of the conversion layer in the presence of Pr3 + were also studied using SECM. Results revealed the self-healing characteristic of the Pr conversion film in the presence of active, Pr3 +, species. The Pr conversion layer provided passivation in the short term by producing an electrochemically inert and insulating layer. SECM results in potentiometric mode elucidated the role of near surface pH in the formation of the conversion coating.