Rare Earth Elements (REE) Power the 21st Century

By Keith Thuerk | SCIFI Future | 17 Jan 2023

Rare Earth Elements (REE) Power the 21st Century


Apologies, it has been just over two months since I have posted, I have been grinding on other projects. However, over the holiday season I was re-watching one of my favorite movies, one of the quotes from it is "Earth & Water" which spurred me to write this blog as I feel it is important to share the information on Rare Earth Elements!

What are Rare Earth Elements? AKA known as Rare Earth Minerals (AKA REE, REM), you can think of them as Vitamins of Chemistry.

There are 17 Elements which can be found in the middle of the Periodic table. For those with curious minds they are atomic numbers 21, 39, and 57–71.

Image source - https://www.rareelementresources.com/rare-earth-elements

Image source -

What are REE/REM used for?

Everything from familiar technologies such as smartphones, LED lights, and hybrid cars.  While a few are used for oil refining and nuclear power. And still others are utilized in wind turbines and electric vehicles; and more specialized uses occur in medicine and manufacturing. You will not easily find DoD (Dept. of Defense) use cases, know the US Military uses REE in Stealth fighters, bombers, F35 advanced platform planes, etc. One can assume REE are also utilized in Military Satellites, just guessing. I don't work for them nor have I hacked them. Just putting 1+1+1=3.

The fact is the USA nor Australia have enough for their EV goals so they must look outside their borders. 

Rare earth metals 

The US and China are in race to mine these globally and control the 21st and perhaps the 22nd Centuries! The US has 35 minerals on Strategic Mineral List (most are imported) One of the largest can be found in Wyoming in a Mountain called Bear Ledge which potentially holds 18MM tons.

Australia and the US are rushing to develop this REE pipeline to meet known needs.  While Canada is set to Open their first REE facility in Saskatchewan late in '22. 

Where are REE mined? 

  • China still dominates the REE mining by a very large percentage coming in at 61%. Between 1978 and 1995 China’s annual production of rare earth elements increased by an average of 40% per year.  China Creates New State-Owned Mining Giant To Tighten Control Of Rare Earth Supplies
    • Meanwhile results from Dec. '21 shows China produced most of them over past decade, dropped to 71.4% during trade war with then President Trump.  
  • USA comes in at 15.5%  
  • Myanmar 9.4% 
  • Australia 8.0% 
  • All others 6.1% 

Countries w/ a large percentage of REE yet to be mined (estimated in million tons)

  • China 40
  • Vietnam 22
  • Brazil 21
  • Russia 21

For those wondering how much of the existing REE/REM are recycled? The facts speak for themselves,  only 1% of REE are recycled annually! This puts even further pressure on existing and new deposits due to low reclamation levels.

Other countries look to secure their own REE supplies

  • Japan will start mining in coastal waters just off its borders late this year. Oh, I am sure they will just print more money to make this not as costly as it sounds on paper. 
  • Saudi Arabia just secured some very large contracts w/ global miners to locate and secure its resources (if there are any other than Oil).
  • Sweden found Europe's largest REE deposit in late '22.  Any chance this influenced them being voted upon for NATO membership? 
  • I envision other countries are putting together plans for REE exploration, and will make public statements at later times.

Why all the concern? US and Japan are two of the worlds largest consumers of REE. While China has the most in-ground REE deposits and has already threatened to stop exporting REE more than twice since the '20 pandemic. Why would anyone trust them to deliver them in the long run?  

Where else might REE be found? Via deep-sea mining or extracting rare earths from the acidic wastewater draining from abandoned mines. A lengthy and costly project even after the regulator barriers to entry (permits, etc.) 


Summary - As you have read REE have a huge impact on advanced Western Civilizations already, and one can assume that China wants to advance their society to surpass all other countries and will do so via REE. Question is does the world have enough to continue forward? Consider this is relying on a single source for anything ever a good idea? Are you setting yourself up for disaster (price manipulations, supply shortages, supplies being cutoff, etc.) Better to secure your own resources and then stockpile from other countries before they notice; in this case its too late. Will the Sci-Fi future we all dreamed of when we were children come to fruition or succumb to a dystopian nightmare due to myopic leadership. I know which I am selecting!


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Keith Thuerk
Keith Thuerk

Currently learning about Crypto & DeFi to combat the Inflationary Tidal wave coming our way!

SCIFI Future
SCIFI Future

Quantum Computing In Bite Size Pieces & SCIFI items

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