Rare earth elements

  • Rare earth elements/metals are a group of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table
  • They are not rare and are plentiful in Earth’s crust
  • Why the word rare is used then?
    • Word rare is used in terms of difficulty we face to make them usable because :
      • They tend to occur together in nature and are difficult to separate from one another
      • They are typically dispersed and not often found concentrated as rare earth minerals in economically exploitable ore deposits
  • Ex. Scandium, Yttrium, Lanthanum etc.
  • China is the largest producer of REMs
  • Monazite sands of Indian beaches contains REMs
  • They are used in :
    • Wind Turbines
    • iPods
    • Hybrid Vehicles
    • Fibre Optics
    • Energy efficient fluorescent tubes etc.
  • What is the issue?
    • As India becomes a manufacturing economy, it will need REMs in huge amount
    • India will need to firm up diplomatic trade channels and long-term supply contracts
    • India is among the top five nations with reserves of rare-earth minerals
    • Minerals and metals such as bismuth, cadmium, gallium, germanium, indium, molybdenum, rhenium, selenium and tin are generally recovered as a by-product during processing of primary ores (lead, zinc, copper, molybdenum and aluminium). India currently does not tap this source. We need suitable R&D interventions and policy support  to do it.

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