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Rare Earth Elements: Where in the World Are They?

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Rare Earth Elements Reserves

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Rare Earths Elements: Where in the World Are They?

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Rare earth elements are a group of metals that are critical ingredients for a greener economy, and the location of the reserves for mining are increasingly important and valuable.

This infographic features data from the United States Geological Society (USGS) which reveals the countries with the largest known reserves of rare earth elements (REEs).

What are Rare Earth Metals?

REEs, also called rare earth metals or rare earth oxides, or lanthanides, are a set of 17 silvery-white soft heavy metals.

The 17 rare earth elements are: lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), lutetium (Lu), scandium (Sc), and yttrium (Y).

Scandium and yttrium are not part of the lanthanide family, but end users include them because they occur in the same mineral deposits as the lanthanides and have similar chemical properties.

The term “rare earth” is a misnomer as rare earth metals are actually abundant in the Earth’s crust. However, they are rarely found in large, concentrated deposits on their own, but rather among other elements instead.

Rare Earth Elements, How Do They Work?

Most rare earth elements find their uses as catalysts and magnets in traditional and low-carbon technologies. Other important uses of rare earth elements are in the production of special metal alloys, glass, and high-performance electronics.

Alloys of neodymium (Nd) and samarium (Sm) can be used to create strong magnets that withstand high temperatures, making them ideal for a wide variety of mission critical electronics and defense applications.

End-use% of 2019 Rare Earth Demand
Permanent Magnets38%
Catalysts23%
Glass Polishing Powder and Additives13%
Metallurgy and Alloys8%
Battery Alloys9%
Ceramics, Pigments and Glazes5%
Phosphors3%
Other4%
Source

The strongest known magnet is an alloy of neodymium with iron and boron. Adding other REEs such as dysprosium and praseodymium can change the performance and properties of magnets.

Hybrid and electric vehicle engines, generators in wind turbines, hard disks, portable electronics and cell phones require these magnets and elements. This role in technology makes their mining and refinement a point of concern for many nations.

For example, one megawatt of wind energy capacity requires 171 kg of rare earths, a single U.S. F-35 fighter jet requires about 427 kg of rare earths, and a Virginia-class nuclear submarine uses nearly 4.2 tonnes.

Global Reserves of Rare Earth Minerals

China tops the list for mine production and reserves of rare earth elements, with 44 million tons in reserves and 140,000 tons of annual mine production.

While Vietnam and Brazil have the second and third most reserves of rare earth metals with 22 million tons in reserves and 21 million tons, respectively, their mine production is among the lowest of all the countries at only 1,000 tons per year each.

CountryMine Production 2020Reserves% of Total Reserves
China140,00044,000,00038.0%
Vietnam1,00022,000,00019.0%
Brazil1,00021,000,00018.1%
Russia2,70012,000,00010.4%
India3,0006,900,0006.0%
Australia17,0004,100,0003.5%
United States38,0001,500,0001.3%
Greenland-1,500,0001.3%
Tanzania-890,0000.8%
Canada-830,0000.7%
South Africa-790,0000.7%
Other Countries100310,0000.3%
Burma30,000N/AN/A
Madagascar8,000N/AN/A
Thailand2,000N/AN/A
Burundi500N/AN/A
World Total243,300115,820,000100%

While the United States has 1.5 million tons in reserves, it is largely dependent on imports from China for refined rare earths.

Ensuring a Global Supply

In the rare earth industry, China’s dominance has been no accident. Years of research and industrial policy helped the nation develop a superior position in the market, and now the country has the ability to control production and the global availability of these valuable metals.

This tight control of the supply of these important metals has the world searching for their own supplies. With the start of mining operations in other countries, China’s share of global production has fallen from 92% in 2010 to 58%< in 2020. However, China has a strong foothold in the supply chain and produced 85% of the world’s refined rare earths in 2020.

China awards production quotas to only six state-run companies:

  • China Minmetals Rare Earth Co
  • Chinalco Rare Earth & Metals Co
  • Guangdong Rising Nonferrous
  • China Northern Rare Earth Group
  • China Southern Rare Earth Group
  • Xiamen Tungsten

As the demand for REEs increases, the world will need tap these reserves. This graphic could provide clues as to the next source of rare earth elements.

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Mining

The Biggest Salt Producing Countries in 2023

In this graphic, we break down global salt production in 2023. China is currently the top producer, accounting for almost 20% of output.

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Voronoi graphic breaking down global salt production in 2023.

The Biggest Salt Producing Countries in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Humanity has utilized salt for thousands of years, dating back to ancient civilizations. The U.S. alone consumes more than 48 million tonnes of salt per year.

In this graphic, we break down global salt production in 2023, measured in tonnes. These estimates come from the U.S. Geological Survey’s latest commodity report on salt.

Ample Supply

Salt is essential for human life, serving various purposes including food preservation, flavor enhancement, industrial processes, and health maintenance. The good news is that the world’s continental resources of salt are vast, and the salt content in the oceans is nearly unlimited.

China is currently the top producer of salt, with almost 20% of the output, followed by the U.S. (15%) and India (11%).

CountryProduction (tonnes)
🇨🇳 China53,000,000
🇺🇸 United States42,000,000
🇮🇳 India30,000,000
🇩🇪 Germany15,000,000
🇦🇺 Australia14,000,000
🇨🇦 Canada12,000,000
🇨🇱 Chile9,200,000
🇲🇽 Mexico9,000,000
🇹🇷 Turkey9,000,000
🇷🇺 Russia7,000,000
🇧🇷 Brazil6,600,000
Rest of world67,000,000
Global total273,800,000

The global salt market was valued at $32.6 billion in 2022.

It’s projected to grow from $34.1 billion in 2023 to $48.6 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 5.2% during the forecast period. This suggests a surprising amount of growth for what is one of the world’s oldest and most common commodities.

Facts About the U.S. Salt Industry

In the U.S., salt is produced by 25 companies, which operate 63 plants across 16 states.

The states that produce the most salt are Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Utah. Altogether, these states account for 95% of domestic production.

The primary uses of salt in the U.S. are highway de-icing (41%), chemical production (38%), and food processing (10%).

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