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Paper suggests rare earth supplies likely to be disrupted in near future

In a paper in the journal ChemSusChem, a team from the VU University Amsterdam suggests that with increasing demand from green and high-tech applications, the supply of rare earth elements (REEs) is likely to be disrupted (the degree of disruption depends on the REE) in the near future.

Although there is no deficiency in the earth’s crust of rare earth oxides, the economic accessibility is limited. The increased demand for REEs, the decreasing export from China, and geopolitical concerns on availability contributed to the (re)opening of mines in Australia and the USA and other mines are slow to follow. As a result, short supply of particularly terbium, dysprosium, praseodymium, and neodymium is expected to be problematic for at least the short term, also because they cannot be substituted.

Recycling REEs from electronic waste would be a solution, but so far there are hardly any established REE recycling methods. Decreasing the dependency on REEs, for example, by identifying possible replacements or increasing their efficient use, represents another possibility.

—de Boer and Lammertsma


  • de Boer, M. A. and Lammertsma, K. (2013), Scarcity of Rare Earth Elements. ChemSusChem. doi: 10.1002/cssc.201200794



Three new Canadian mines may come to the rescue if associated environmental issues can be solved.


Heavy Earth mining can be easily restarted if our federal government is willing to treat Thorium by-products in a more reasonable way. It is barely radioactive; we would get more radiation by sun-tanning for example.


Refining is more of a problem than mining. China has the refining locked up because they know it is necessary to do, the western world will only do it if it is vastly profitable.

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