Description / history

Rare Earth (REE) are a group of 17 minerals with similar properties. The REE have a metallic appearance and are relatively soft, malleable and ductile. These minerals, even if they are called "rares" are  instead relatively common in the Earth crust. They are also generally quite chemically reactive, especially at high temperatures or when finely divided. There would be nearly the same amount of cerium element (REE) that copper in Earth crust.

Their name derives from their discovery in the early nineteenth meaning "rare minerals". Due to their geochemical properties, they are very unevenly distributed in the Earth's surface and often making their concentrations in mining unprofitable.

Production / use

Their unique properties make them useful in areas of high technology such as electric hybrid automobile, fighter aircraft, cell phones, batteries, television, low energy light bulbs and windmill. World reserves of REE oxides were estimated by the United States Geological Survey at 110 million tonnes by the end 2010 that China would hold 50%, in front of the Common Wealth of Independent States who holded 17%, U.S. 12% and India 2.8%.

The production of rare earth oxides from China goes up to 130,000 tonnes in 2010, unlike India, which would extract 2,700 tonnes. The production of the Common Wealth of Independent States, the United States and other minor producers who had acquired a fifth of the world is unknown. China, who holds almost the exclusive control on the export of rare earth now reduces its exports to the United States and Japan and perhaps even provides a complete stop. A Japanese group signed with a Quebec Exploration company as partners to exploit a project located north of Strange Lake to the Labrador border that could go into production in 2015 and produce about 23,000 tonnes of concentrate. Cars manufacturers Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi are the main users of REE and the Pentagon is concerned about the supply of these essential elements to many military technologies. Demand continues to increase; the demand estimate suggests that by 2014, it could be 190,000 tonnes compared to 136,000 in 2010.