All about Rare Earth Elements
What are REE's?
- A group of 15 lanthanide elements (atomic numbers 57-71), with the metal yttrium (39) and scandium (21)
- Widely dispersed geologically, but rarely concentrated in commercial ore deposits.
- REEs are recovered as a group in various minerals. They are extracted by metallurgical separation and mineralogy is therefore very important. These non- toxic elements are essential to a cleaner environment and reduced reliance on fossil fuels.
- Key applications for REEs in super magnets and phosphors in electronics.
- REEs are used in various aspects of modern life, including hybrid cars, energy saving light bulbs, LCD screens, solar panels and MP3 ear buds..
Rare earth elements (REEs) are the building blocks for new materials technologies that are required to sustain today’s modern society.
Why are they getting so much attention?
- China is a major producer of REEs, accounting for 97% of global supply, and consumes around 60% of this production.
- In September 2010 China announced that it would progressively reduce its export quota to 35,000 tons per year between 2010 and 2015. This generated a major global concern.
- Growing global demand for REEs and their application to modern green technology, and the growth of the “green global economy” with the requirements for consistent supply bode well for future demand.
- It is estimated that 25% of all new technologies rely on REEs. Today great efforts are being directed toward finding new sources of REEs, not only to enable a release from China’s monopoly on REEs but to help localize over US$1 billion value of REE products consumed in the US (USGS estimate).