Whereas Rare-earth elements (REE) are necessary across a wide range of applications, especially high-tech consumer products, but the world faces the challenge of China’s monopoly on the REE market since almost all REE production is concentrated in China.
In 1993, 38 percent of world production of REEs was in China, 33 percent was in the United States, 12 percent was in Australia, and five percent each was in Malaysia and India. Several other countries, including Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, made up the remainder.
However, in 2008, China accounted for more than 90 percent of world production of REEs, and by 2011, China accounted for 97 percent of world production.
Beginning in 1990 and beyond, supplies of REEs became an issue as the Government of China began to change the amount of the REEs that it allows to be produced and exported.
The Chinese Government also began to limit the number of Chinese and Sino-foreign joint-venture companies that could export REEs from China.
Rare earth elements production in the world
Forecast of global supply and demand for selected REEs in 2020 (+/-25%)
In technologies including smartphones, flat-panel TVs, hybrid cars and wind turbines, a number of elements with exotic names represent criticial components. But the elements’ rapid rise from lab curiosities to helping supply the hearts of modern electronics has put strain upon existing supply chains, and experts worry that any supply disruptions could slow the pace of innovation. Now countries all over the world have begun racing to secure new reserves, boost recycling and find material substitutes for these energy-critical materials.