Rare Earth Minerals

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Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology recently said that India is not reliant on China for accessing rare earth minerals.

About Rare Earth Minerals:

  • Rare Earth Elements or Rare Earth Metals are a set of 17 elements in the periodic table — the 15 lanthanides, plus scandium and yttrium, which tend to occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides, and have similar chemical properties.
  • They are used in production in a huge number of sectors, including renewable energy technology, oil refinery, electronics, and the glass industry.
  • Rare Earth elements are used in space shuttle components, jet engine turbines, and drones. 
    • Cerium, the most abundant Rare Earth element, is essential to NASA’s Space Shuttle Programme.
  • Although called "rare", they are actually found relatively abundantly in the Earth's crust.
  • However, they are hazardous to extract, and there are relatively few places in the world that mine or produce them.
  • According to the Rare Earth Technology Alliance (RETA), the estimated size of the Rare Earth sector is between $10 billion and $15 billion. About 100,000-110,000 tonnes of Rare Earth elements are produced annually around the world.

Reserves of Rare Earth Minerals:

  • China has the largest reserve (37 percent), followed by Brazil and Vietnam (18 percent each), Russia (15 percent), and the remaining countries (12 percent).
  • India has the world’s fifth-largest reserves of rare earth elements (contributing a total value of nearly $200 billion to the Indian economy), nearly twice as much as Australia.


Q1) What is lanthanide contraction?

Lanthanide contraction is the steady decrease in atomic and ionic size of lanthanides as their atomic number increases. 

Source: PIB