Rare Earths

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Rare Earth Elements (REE) are a variety of elements with similar chemistries. Most of them are part of the Lanthanide series of elements. The usual list is: 21 (Scandium), 39 (Yttrium) and elements 57 to 71. Despite the name, they are not extremely rare being found in trace amounts as oxides all over the place. But ores, (where they are naturally concentrated and economically exploitable), ARE fairly rare.

Thorium (a useful nuclear fuel) is usually found concentrated in REE ores, and is a potentially valuable by-product of mining these ores.

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Uses of REE

They are important in aerospace alloys, batteries, defence, and other electronics. However, the most common use, accounting for 29% of their use, is manufacturing powerful permanent magnets. Their luminescent properties allows them to be used in electronic displays. Several REE can be used as catalysts making chemical reactions faster & cheaper. Minor uses of REE include making ceramics, glass, pigments, and grit for polishing.

REE production on Earth

Because thorium found with REE is barely radioactive, some nations have ruled that the tailings left over from REE mining is 'radioactive waste'. This has limited the production of REE to only a few countries even tho ores are found in many places.

Currently (2022) REE production is found in the following countries:[1]

  • China 57.5%
  • USA 15.6%
  • Burma (Myanmar) 12.3%
  • Australia 7.0%
  • Madagascar 3.3%
  • Other countries 4.2%

(Canada is working to start REE mining.)