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Scarcity of Rare Earth Elements

Authors

  • M. A. de Boer,

    1. Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1083, 1081 HV Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
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  • K. Lammertsma

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1083, 1081 HV Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
    • Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1083, 1081 HV Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

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Abstract

Rare earth elements (REEs) are important for green and a large variety of high-tech technologies and are, therefore, in high demand. As a result, supply with REEs is likely to be disrupted (the degree of depends on the REE) in the near future. The 17 REEs are divided into heavy and light REEs. Other critical elements besides REEs, identified by the European Commission, are also becoming less easily available. 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.

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