Global Slice 🌍: Rare Earths



Note that neodymium is important for making strong permanent magnets.

[ Below is from 10 minerals.docx ]

Rare earth elements (17 elements).

China produces 57% of all = 140,000
USA: 38,000
Burma: 30,000
Australia: 17,000
Madagascar: 8,000
Russia: 8,000
India: 3,000
Thailand: 2,000
Brazil: 1,000
Vietnam: 1,000
Burundi: 500

The rare earths have diverse applications in electrical and electronic components, lasers, glass, magnetic ma-terials, and industrial processes. Rare-earth elements are relatively plentiful in Earth’s crust, with cerium being the 25th most abundant element at 68 parts per million, more abundant than copper. Increased de-mand has strained supply, and there is growing con-cern that the world may soon face a shortage of the rare earths. In several years from 2009 worldwide demand for rare-earth elements is expected to exceed supply by 40,000 tonnes annually unless major new sources are developed. In 2013, it was stated that the demand for REEs would increase due to the depend-ence of the EU on these elements, the fact that rare earth elements cannot be substituted by other ele-ments and that REEs have a low recycling rate. Fur-thermore, due to the increased demand and low sup-ply, future prices are expected to increase and there is a chance that countries other than China will open REE mines. REE is increasing in demand due to the fact that they are essential for new and innovative technology that is being created. These new products that need REEs to be produced are high technology equipment such as smart phones, digital cameras, computer parts, semiconductors, etc. In addition, these elements are more prevalent in the following indus-tries: renewable energy technology, military equip-ment, glass making, and metallurgy.

Mining, refining, and recycling of rare earths have se-rious environmental consequences if not properly managed. Low-level radioactive tailings resulting from the occurrence of thorium and uranium in rare-earth element ores present a potential hazard and improper handling of these substances can result in extensive environmental damage.

Mines in Brazil produced only 1,000 metric tons (MT) of rare earth elements in 2018, but the nation’s re-serves are the second highest in the world. It’s possi-ble that countries like this could become bigger play-ers in the space in the future.

Rare Earth Production

Total … mined in 2017 was … tonnes. Divided equally between all 7.5 billion people, this would be … per person; divided between 10 million, …; divided between 12.5 billion, ….

The top 10 producing countries are listed and charted below. Click the “▶Remaining countries” legend under the chart to see the others.

▶Remaining countries
Data as above, but for the remaining countries.