Rare Earth AdvisoryRARE EARTH ELEMENTS
“RARE EARTH ELEMENTS”
Collective name given to a set of 15 (lanthanides) to 17 (including scandium and yttrium) metallic elements of the Mendeleev table with similar physical and chemical properties.
Contrary to what their name suggests, they are fairly widespread within the earth’s crust, in proportions comparable to most industrial metals.
Conversely, their natural concentrations at economically exploitable levels are extremely localised and their similar chemical properties make their separation difficult and polluting.
These rare metals are also hard to substitute and not very recyclable with current technologies.
ENERGY TRANSITION & DIGITAL REVOLUTION
Their unique magnetocaloric properties are what primarily give REEs a central place in the ongoing energy transition and digital revolution.
These elements are widely used in high-tech products (smartphones, tablets, flat-screen TVs, etc.), defence (guided missiles, radars, etc.) and renewable energies (hybrid/electric cars, wind turbines, low-energy light bulbs, etc.).
THE MAIN RARE EARTH MARKETS
PREDOMINANCE OF CHINA THROUGHOUT THE VALUE CHAIN
China enjoys extensive reserves and has vast mines, having realised their strategic importance as early as the 1980s.
It has gradually established its hegemony over world production over the last 30 years, controlling all stages of the separation process up to the production of permanent magnets. By keeping prices artificially low, it has discouraged alternative production sources and tightened its grip along the whole supply chain. It now represents between 70% and 90% of global supply.