Rare earth elements - Statistics & Facts

Rare earths include a list of 17 chemical elements. Within the last decade these elements have become extremely sought after. Many industries are highly dependent on rare earths, using them for the production of magnets, catalyzers, displays, and more. Around 125 thousand metric tons of rare earth oxides were produced worldwide in 2015. With the largest known rare earth reserves worldwide, it is not surprising that China alone produced nearly 85 percent of that total amount. Canada, Greenland, and Australia are also expected to offer significant sources into the future.

China is expected to be responsible for the largest share of global rare earth production until at least 2018. The most important provinces for Chinese production are Inner Mongolia and Sichuan. With the regulation of its export quotas, China effectively defines the global market and prices for rare earth elements. Over the last decade, Chinese export quotas were constantly decreasing. This is mainly because of the growing domestic demand.

In 2015, the United States was the third-largest producer of rare earth elements worldwide having produced some four thousand metric tons of rare earth oxides. Nevertheless, the U.S. is also a major importer. Some 75 percent of all U.S. rare earth imports originate from China, while the rest comes from France, Japan, and other countries.

Due to the fact that the Chinese rare earth industry is controlled by the state, there are only a few larger companies from other countries that dominate the market. Among the the best known non-Chinese rare earth companies is Lynas Corporation from Australia. Prior to filing for bankruptcy in June 2015, the United States-based Molycorp was a leading non-Chinese rare earths company. Other leading companies are Greenland Minerals & Energy, Iluka Resources, and Northern Minerals, all from Australia. With Mountain Pass in California, Molycorp formerly held the largest deposit of rare earth elements outside of China. As of August 2016, Molycorp has been searching for a buyer for the Mountain Pass facility.

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