Global demand for rare earth resources and strategies for green mining

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Abstract

Rare earth elements (REEs) are essential raw materials for emerging renewable energy resources and ‘smart’ electronic devices. Global REE demand is slated to grow at an annual rate of 5% by 2020. This high growth rate will require a steady supply base of REEs in the long run. At present, China is responsible for 85% of global rare earth oxide (REO) production. To overcome this monopolistic supply situation, new strategies and investments are necessary to satisfy domestic supply demands. Concurrently, environmental, economic, and social problems arising from REE mining must be addressed. There is an urgent need to develop efficient REE recycling techniques from end-of-life products, technologies to minimize the amount of REEs required per unit device, and methods to recover them from fly ash or fossil fuel-burning wastes.

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