Rare Earths And Their Uses.

This is a more comprehensive article on “Rare Earths” It gives you a better idea of what they are used for and their availability world wide.

Events, Trends, and Issues:

Domestic demand for rare earths in 2006 increased overall as rare-earth imports and exports were estimated to be higher than in 2005.

Demand increased for cerium compounds used in automotive catalytic converters, glass polishing, and glass additives; rare-earth compounds used in automotive catalytic converters and many other applications; and yttrium compounds used in fiber optics, lasers, oxygen sensors, phosphors for fluorescent lighting, color television, electronic thermometers, X-ray intensifying screens, pigments, superconductors, and other applications.

Demand was also higher for mixed rare-earth compounds and for rare-earth metals and their alloys used in permanent magnets, base-metal alloys, superalloys, pyrophoric alloys, lighter flints and armaments.

U.S. demand, however, was lower for rare-earth chlorides used in the production of fluid cracking catalysts used in oil refining. Although the rare-earth separation plant at Mountain Pass, CA, remained on a care-and maintenance basis, it is expected to resume operations. Bastnäsite concentrates and other rare-earth intermediates and refined products continued to be sold from the mine stocks at Mountain Pass.

The trend is for a continued increase in the use of rare earths in many applications, especially automotive catalytic converters, permanent magnets, and rechargeable batteries.

World Mine Production, Reserves, and Reserve Base:
Mine productione Reserves6 Reserve base6
2005 2006

United States — — 13,000,000 14,000,000

Australia — — 5,200,000 5,800,000

China 119,000 120,000 27,000,000 89,000,000

Commonwealth of Independent States NA NA 19,000,000 21,000,000

India 2,700 2,700 1,100,000 1,300,000

Malaysia 750 200 30,000 35,000

Thailand — — NA NA

Other countries 400 400 22,000,000 23,000,000

World total (rounded) 123,000 123,000 88,000,000 150,000,000

World Resources: Rare earths are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust, but discovered minable concentrations are less common than for most other ores. U.S. and world resources are contained primarily in bastnäsite and monazite. Bastnäsite deposits in China and the United States constitute the largest percentage of the world’s rareearth economic resources, while monazite deposits in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United States constitute the second largest segment. Apatite, cheralite, eudialyte,
secondary monazite, loparite, phosphorites, rare-earth-bearing (ion adsorption) clays, spent uranium solutions, and xenotime make up most of the remaining resources. Undiscovered resources are thought to be very large relative to expected demand.

Substitutes: Substitutes are available for many applications, but generally are less effective.

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