About rare earth elements

RARE EARTH ELEMENTS ARE FUNDAMENTAL TO LIFE IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Comprising 17 unique chemical elements, rare earth elements (“REEs”) are often separated into two sub-groups based on atomic weight:

  • light REEs (Lanthanum, Cerium, Praseodymium, Neodymium and Samarium), which are more abundant; and
  • heavy REEs (Europium, Gadolinium, Terbium, Holmium, Erbium, Thulium, Ytterbium, Lutetium as well as Scandium and Yttrium), which tend to be rarer.

Due to their unique electrical and magnetic properties, REEs allow for miniaturisation and much lighter, stronger, resilient, and efficient components. To date, they have transformed the consumer electronics market, enabling the high-tech products so integral to our lives and which still account for ca. 50% of the rare earth market.

However, REEs have an even more important role to play as enablers of the transition to the green economy. REEs are vital components of the type of permanent magnets used within electric vehicles and wind turbines, with both of these markets forecast to continue rapid growth as global efforts play out to reach net zero.

Global demand for magnet rare earth oxides (“REOs”) (Nd, Pr, Dy, Tb)

"Source:
Argus Media

Currently China controls ca. 70% of rare earth mining, but over 90% of the downstream rare earth processing and manufacturing. This reliance on one country creates supply chain vulnerability which, combined with a forecast deficit of supply compared with rising demand, has driven countries around the world to officially recognise REEs as critical minerals.

Adding to the criticality of REEs is their growing use in high tech and strategic defence applications, such as guided missiles, drones, electronic displays, sonar and jet fighter engines.

Whilst rare earths are not actually that scarce within the Earth’s surface, they are rarely concentrated into mineable ore deposits and are often not economically viable to extract. They also co-exist within the same orebody, creating complications from a separation and processing perspective. Economic sources of REEs are principally found within the minerals bastnasite, monazite, and loparite and lateritic ion-adsorption clays.

Some REE minerals contain significant amounts of radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium, which have the potential to contaminate air, water, soil and groundwater. However, Rainbow’s projects demonstrate low levels of radioactive elements, an important factor that we believe sets the Company apart when compared to many typical rare earth development projects.