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Rare Earth Elements (REE) 

Rare Earth Elements (REE)
Rare Earth Elements (REE)

Discussion: Rare Earth Elements

  • A Swedish mining company has identified more than 1 million tonnes of rare earth oxides in the country’s far north, the largest known such deposit in Europe.

About Rare Earth Elements

  • These are a set of 17 metallic elements.
    • These include the 15 lanthanides on the periodic table plus Scandium and Yttrium.
  • REEs are classified as light RE elements (LREE) and heavy RE elements (HREE).
  • 17 metallic elements are lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, yttrium.
  • They are called rare because it was difficult to extract them from their oxide’s forms.
  • China alone accounts for 44 million tonnes of reserves followed by Vietnam, Brazil and Russia.

Significance of Rare Earth Elements

  • These have unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties.
  • These are necessary components, especially for high-tech consumer products, such as cellular telephones, computer hard drives, and flat screen monitors and televisions.
  • They’re also used in electric car motors(neodymium), lithium-ion batteries, solar panels, wind turbines (neodymium and dysprosium) and to transitioning to a clean-tech-driven economy.
  • Scandium is used in televisions and fluorescent lamps, and yttrium is used in drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
  • Used in space shuttle components, jet engine turbines, and drones. E.g., Cerium is essential to NASA’s Space Shuttle Programme.

Rare Earth Elements in India

  • India has the world’s 5th-largest reserves of rare earth elements. India has 6% of the world’s rare earth reserves but it produces 1% of global output.
  • Geologically the entire landmass around the Indian Ocean contains rare earth element in the surrounding rocks.
  • Some REE are available in India such as Lanthanum, Cerium, Neodymium, Praseodymium and Samarium.
  • Others such as Dysprosium, Terbium, Europium that are classified as HREE are not available in Indian deposits in extractable quantity. Hence, there is a dependence on countries such as China for HREE.
  • Monazite sand is the principal source of rare earths (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, etc.) and thorium.
  • Rare earth elements contribute a total value of nearly $200 billion to the Indian economy.
  • Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IREL), the government-owned company is involved in the extraction and processing of rare earth elements.

What Does The Discovery Mean For Europe And The World?
  • Relief to western countries against the backdrop of the fraught relations between China and other western countries
  • Breaking Chinese monopoly: Globally, China holds a monopoly over rare earths production, following the withdrawal of USA from this business due to environmental and health issues.
  • Boost to Minerals Security Partnership (MSP)
    • In August 2022, US and 10 other Partners came together for this alliance known as MSP.
      • Partners include Canada, Australia, Finland, Germany, France, Japan, Republic of Korea, Sweden, UK, US, and European Commission.
    • The goal of the MSP is to ensure that critical minerals (Cobalt, Nickel, Lithium etc and also the 17 “rare earth” minerals) are produced, processed, and recycled in a manner that supports the ability of countries to realize the full economic development benefit of their geological endowments.
    • The alliance was seen as primarily focused on evolving an alternative to China.
Rare Earths
Rare Earths

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