Rare Earths Elements: Where in the World Are They?
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|
|Glass Polishing Powder and Additives||13%|
|Metallurgy and Alloys||8%|
|Ceramics, Pigments and Glazes||5%|
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.
|Country||Mine Production 2020||Reserves||% of Total Reserves|
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.
Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining
This infographic highlights the need for new gold mining projects and shows the next generation of America’s gold deposits.
Visualizing the New Era of Gold Mining
Between 2011 and 2020, the number of major gold discoveries fell by 70% relative to 2001-2010.
The lack of discoveries, alongside stagnating gold production, has cast a shadow of doubt on the future of gold supply.
This infographic sponsored by Novagold highlights the need for new gold mining projects with a focus on the company’s Donlin Gold project in Alaska.
The Current State of Gold Production
Between 2010 and 2021, gold production increased steadily until 2018, before leveling and falling.
|Year||Gold Production, tonnes||YoY % Change|
Along with a small decrease in gold production from 2020 levels, there were no new major gold discoveries in 2021. Meanwhile, annual demand for the yellow metal increased by 10%, up from 3,651 tonnes to 4,020 tonnes.
The fall in production and long-term lack of gold discoveries point towards a possible imbalance in gold supply and demand. This calls for the introduction of new gold development projects that can fill the supply-demand gap in the future.
Sustaining Supply: Gold For the Future
Jurisdictions play an important role when looking for projects that could sustain gold production well into the future.
From political stability to trustworthy legal systems, the characteristics of a jurisdiction can make or break mining projects. Amid ongoing market uncertainty, political turmoil, and resource nationalism, projects in safe jurisdictions offer a better investment opportunity for investors and mining companies.
As of 2021, seven of the top 10 mining jurisdictions for investment were located in North America, according to the Fraser Institute. Here’s a look at the top five gold-focused development projects in the region, based on measured and indicated (M&I) gold resources:
|Project||M&I Gold Resource, million ounces*||Grade (grams/tonne)||Location|
|KSM||88.4Moz||0.51g/t||British Columbia 🇨🇦|
|Donlin Gold**||39.0Moz||2.24g/t||Alaska 🇺🇸|
|Côté Gold||13.6Moz||0.96g/t||Ontario 🇨🇦|
|Blackwater||11.7Moz||0.61g/t||British Columbia 🇨🇦|
*Inclusive of mineral reserves. **See cautionary statement regarding Donlin Gold’s mineral reserves and resources.
Located in Alaska, one of the world’s safest mining jurisdictions, Novagold’s Donlin Gold project has the highest average grade of gold among these major projects. For every tonne of ore, Donlin Gold offers 2.24 grams of gold, which is more than twice the global average grade of 1.03g/t.
Additionally, Donlin Gold is the second-largest gold-focused development project in the Americas, with over 39 million ounces of gold in M&I resources inclusive of reserves.
Novagold is focused on the Donlin Gold project in equal partnership with Barrick Gold. Click here to learn more now.
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