Mapping rare earths projects outside China
China has long dominated the supply chain for rare earth elements that are vital for many 21st century technologies, from jet engines to electric vehicles and medical scanners. Yoana Cholteeva profiles the most prominent rare earth mining and processing projects outside the dominant market.
espite their name, the 17 minerals labelled as rare earth elements are not that rare. According to the US Geological Survey, they are about as common as copper. However, REEs are hard to extract, due to their ores oxidising rapidly, and are extremely polluting, causing extensive water and soil pollution.
China’s dominance of the market, holding some 44 million metric tons out of the world’s total 120 million metric tons of rare earth elements, has sparked the need for a secure supply of the elements outside the country. This has been amplified by trade conflicts such as the US-China trade dispute in 2018, which threatened to disrupt numerous industries.
As those critical minerals were a priority of Trump’s administration in the US, the White House signed agreements with Australia and Canada, in 2018 and 2020 respectively, to secure the supply of rare earth elements.
Similarly, the EU has concentrated its efforts to become less reliant on the imported raw materials by creating a list of critical materials that it plans to support locally.
// Main image: Credit: Evgeny Haritonov / Shutterstock.com