Rare Earth Elements update – November/December 2010

Author: Sean Wolfgang

Rare Earth Elements have continued to gain prominence since the September 2010 halting of shipments from China to Japan over an incident near the mutually claimed Senkaku/Diaouyu Islands. But the incident that brought REE to prominence was followed by the stoppage of REE to the US and Europe amid confusion (both international and in China) over new Chinese export quotas. We are now beginning to see how the US and other countries are responding. A changing market and the economic and defense consequences of higher prices and less Chinese imports have produced a range of short and long-term responses.

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The Potential of Rare Earth Elements for Strategic Leverage

Author: Sean Wolfgang

 

What are Rare Earth Elements?

Rare Earth Elements (REE), also known as Rare Earth Minerals and Rare Earths, are a group of 17 elements composed of the chemical category known as lanthanides and the elements yttrium and scandium1. REE have several unique properties that make them valuable in a variety of civilian and military high-technology applications. Small amounts of REE enable the miniaturization of a number of high technology components, especially permanent magnets. On the civilian side, REE are integral to LCD screens, fiber-optic cables, rechargeable batteries, various appliances, and are increasingly becoming valuable for their use in ‘green’ technologies such as wind power generation and hybrid motor vehicles. Their military utility is enormous and includes applications ranging from aircraft engines and precision-guided munitions to communication and tracking satellites2.

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