The Rare Earth Elements: demand, global resources, and challenges for resourcing future generations

Goodenough, Kathryn M.; Wall, Frances; Merriman, David. 2018 The Rare Earth Elements: demand, global resources, and challenges for resourcing future generations. Natural Resources Research, 27 (2). 201-216.

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The rare earth elements (REE) have attracted much attention in recent years, being viewed as critical metals because of China’s domination of their supply chain. This is despite the fact that REE enrichments are known to exist in a wide range of settings, and have been the subject of much recent exploration. Although the REE are often referred to as a single group, in practice each individual element has a specific set of end-uses, and so demand varies between them. Future demand growth to 2026 is likely to be mainly linked to the use of NdFeB magnets, particularly in hybrid and electric vehicles and wind turbines, and in erbium-doped glass fiber for communications. Supply of lanthanum and cerium is forecast to exceed demand. There are several different types of natural (primary) REE resources, including those formed by high-temperature geological processes (carbonatites, alkaline rocks, vein and skarn deposits) and those formed by low-temperature processes (placers, laterites, bauxites and ion-adsorption clays). In this paper, we consider the balance of the individual REE in each deposit type and how that matches demand, and look at some of the issues associated with developing these deposits. This assessment and overview indicate that while each type of REE deposit has different advantages and disadvantages, light rare earth-enriched ion adsorption types appear to have the best match to future REE needs. Production of REE as by-products from, for example, bauxite or phosphate, is potentially the most rapid way to produce additional REE. There are still significant technical and economic challenges to be overcome to create substantial REE supply chains outside China.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 1520-7439
Date made live: 08 May 2017 08:27 +0 (UTC)

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