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Science & Technology
Rare Earth Metals
The US has proposed a law aiming to end China’s alleged “chokehold” on rare-earth metal supplies.
- Rare earth metals are a group of 17 elements.
- They are lustrous silvery-white soft heavy metals.
- These metals have unusual fluorescent, conductive, and magnetic properties.
- They are very useful when alloyed, or mixed, in small quantities with more common metals such as iron.
- They are found in relatively high concentrations in the earth’s crust.
- The rare earths occur as by-products from phosphate rock and from spent uranium leaching.
Rare Metals Reserves & Production:
- The total world reserves are estimated at 121 million tonnes of rare earth oxides (REO).
- China alone accounts for 44 million tonnes followed by Brazil and Vietnam (18% each) and Russia (15%).
- The other major producers are Australia, USA, Russia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Rare Earth Metals in India:
- In India, monazite is the principal source of rare earths and thorium.
- Rare earth elements contribute a total value of nearly $200 billion to the Indian economy.
- India has the world’s fifth-largest reserves of rare earth elements.
- 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.
- 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’.