Posted by Michael Swickard on Monday, November 4, 2013
The answer is something “rare.” Something that is currently used in almost everything modern, but that is abundant and recoverable in very few places on the planet—hence the “rare” moniker. Something that China has in abundance and that they are using as an economic weapon against the rest of the world—much like OPEC uses oil. And, this something is also found in the U.S., which could give us a competitive advantage in the global economy.
Have you guessed it? “Rare” was a big clue. I am talking about Rare Earth Elements (REEs), many of which are recognized as Critical Minerals.
REEs are found in almost all massive rock formations—though their concentrations range from 10 to a few hundred parts per million by weight, which makes them difficult to extract. There are 17 different REEs with names ending in “ium” such as: dysprosium, yttrium, neodymium, terbium, cerium, and europium—just to name a few.
While most people don’t give REEs a thought, we all use them in our modern lives as they are a part of what makes cell phones, flat screens, and computer chips work. But REEs are not just about convenience and luxury. They are in every modern vehicle from a Prius to a Ford F-150. They enable miniaturization—making things fast and light. Read full column