What is a rare earth metal?
- Group of 17 atomic elements on the periodic table that includes the 15 lanthanoids plus scandium and yttrium.
Why are they rare?
- Not actually rare since they are found in abundance all around the world.
- Considered rare because there are not many areas where they can be mined effectively.
Why are they so important?
- Key elements to the advancement of technology all around the world.
- Key components to cell phones, hybrid car batteries, wind turbines, solar devices and even high-tech military equipment.
- Electric and hybrid cars currently contains more than twice as much rare earth metals than a standard car.
Although rare earths are essential to many “green” technologies, they can create toxic waste once separated from their other elements. These essential elements are now being cut from the world’s main source.
China currently controls 97% of the world’s production of rare earth metals. In late 2010, China cut the metal exports by 70% putting Japan, Europe, and the U.S. in distress. Although China serves as the main source of the rare earth metals, studies show that China holds only about 37% of the world’s estimated reserves. Image below shows the rare earth deposits around the world.
What is the world to do now that China has cut down the supply of the rare earth metals?
- Countries have to find alternative sources for the rare earth metals.
- Vietnam has decided to have Japan for exploration, mining, and development of rare earths.
- Korea has found deposits with large amounts of rare metals that will begin production in 2012.
Countries are now forced to let go of their dependence on China and turn to other countries as their source. It’s not surprising that there are other countries that have large quantities of these rare metals. China just became the world’s largest producer because those countries shut down their own mines due to labor cost and environmental issues.
With the growing demand for advancing technology, the cut on the metal exports from China could in turn disrupt the progress of many businesses. However, since many countries are searching for alternative sources within their own land and in other countries, the effect may not be as detrimental as predicted.
So remember, expand your company’s reach throughout the world. It will not suffice to import from or export to one region anymore. At any time a region, like China, may change its role in the inernational economy and you do not want to be left without options. If you need help expanding to new regions or would like to reevaluate your current shipping situation, please feel free to contact us.
Check out our other blogs on rare earth metals: