Rare earth reserves
According to estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey, the worldwide reserves of rare earths are approximately 120 million metric tons. Most of these reserves are located within China, and are estimated at some 44 million metric tons. The United States also owns significant reserves, which are estimated to be some 1.4 million metric tons. In addition, within the major rare earth holding countries are India, Australia, Brazil and Malaysia. With over 100 thousand metric tons produced from mines in 2016, China by far exploited most of its rare earths reserves. China produces most of these amounts in Inner Mongolia. Australia, which is the second largest producer of rare earths from mines, extracted some 14 thousand metric tons of these commodities in the same year.
Rare earth elements, also called rare earth metals, are a group of 17 chemical elements. The largest subgroup within it are the 15 lanthanides. The two other elements are scandium and yttrium. Based on quantity, the lanthanides cerium, lanthanum and neodymium are the most produced rare earths elements. Yttrium, one of the rare earths that was explored first, has its name from the town where it was found – Ytterby, Sweden. Nowadays, rare earth elements are crucial for a number of key technologies such as medical technology and energy technology. They are used, among many other things, for lasers, battery electrodes, magnets, MRI contrast agents, catalysts, alloys, etc. It is expected that in the near future, most of the rare earth metals will be needed for magnets and metal alloys.