Detailed Information about Rare Earth Metals

PRELIM

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Science & Technology

Rare Earth Metals

Context:

The US has proposed a law aiming to end China’s alleged “chokehold” on rare-earth metal supplies.

Concept:

  1. Rare earth metals are a group of 17 elements.
  2. They are lustrous silvery-white soft heavy metals.
  3. These metals have unusual fluorescent, conductive, and magnetic properties.
  4. They are very useful when alloyed, or mixed, in small quantities with more common metals such as iron.
  5. They are found in relatively high concentrations in the earth’s crust.
  6. The rare earths occur as by-products from phosphate rock and from spent uranium leaching.

Rare Metals Reserves & Production:

  1. The total world reserves are estimated at 121 million tonnes of rare earth oxides (REO).
  2. China alone accounts for 44 million tonnes followed by Brazil and Vietnam (18% each) and Russia (15%).
  3. The other major producers are Australia, USA, Russia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Rare Earth Metals in India:

  1. In India, monazite is the principal source of rare earths and thorium.
  2. Rare earth elements contribute a total value of nearly $200 billion to the Indian economy.
  3. India has the world’s fifth-largest reserves of rare earth elements.
  4. India imports most of its rare earth needs in finished form from China.

5 Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IREL), a Government of India Undertaking, and KMML, a Kerala State Government Undertaking, are actively engaged in mining and processing of beach sand minerals from placer deposits.

  1. As per the Foreign Trade Policy, 2015-2020 and the effective policy on export and import, the import of ores and concentrates of rare earth metals and of rare earth oxides including rutile sand are permitted ‘freely’.

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