Rare Earth Minerals are growing in demand, becoming a necessary and controversial commodity in today’s trade in production.Their status as a natural resource that is essential to the advancement of defense, tech, and clean energy will only be elevated as technology advances.
Although the REM trade has sparked backlash from environmental watch dogs, it’s becoming more apparent that they are taking hold as the “new oil” in the natural commodities market.
Rare Earth Minerals (REMs) consist of 17 elements from the periodic table. They are plentiful in the Earth’s crust and are often found concentrated near each other. They are classified into subgroups by weight, some being “heavier” and thus more valuable than others.
What makes REMs so rare isn’t their quantity on earth, which is abundant, but instead the amount of time and energy it takes to extract them. REMs are extremely concentrated, making it so that “producers churn through mountains of material just to get a cup of product” in the mines. Their yields are low, and at the moment, the general consensus is that they will be necessary for tech development for the foreseeable future.
The messy process of extracting REMs comes at a huge environmental cost. In Baotou, China, the biggest REM mining facility in the world, the effects of the industry have had an impact on the city, causing massive population growth in only two years, coupled with visible environmental destruction.
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