Why Are Rare Earths So Important?

Why Are Rare Earths So Important?

Rare earth is a general term for the lanthanides, scandium and yttrium in the periodic table of 17 metal elements. Under the development of industry, both light industry and heavy industry are inseparable from rare earths. The unique chemical and physical properties of rare earths can be used to make many high-end products and equipment, and they are valuable in many fields such as medical treatment, military industry, and science and technology. And a key strategic resource. There is a common analogy for the importance of rare earths: petroleum is the blood of industry, and rare earths are the vitamin of industry. There were media reports that all high-tech products in the world are inseparable from rare earths, and there are almost no substitutes for this special mineral.

The reason why rare earths are expensive is that they are small in stock and high in value. The total global reserves of rare earth resources are about 120 million tons, and the resources are relatively concentrated. In 2019, the global output of rare earth mines was 210,000 tons, and China’s output of rare earth mines was 132,000 tons, accounting for 63%; the United States, Myanmar, and Australia accounted for 12%, 10.5%, and 10% respectively. Since 2017, with the release of new production capacity in the United States and Australia, China’s rare earth output has decreased. Before 2016, China’s production of rare earths and their oxides accounted for more than 80% of the world’s total. After 2018, this proportion was reduced to 60%.

2012-2019 global rare earth production (tons) by country/region

2012-2019 global rare earth production (tons) by country/region

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