The Rare Earth Riches Buried Beneath Greenland’s Vast Ice Sheet
Small group of 17 elements is in extraordinary demand, but potential wealth must be balanced against environmental responsibilities.
Inside every wind turbine, inside computers, phones and other high-tech equipment from medical scanners to electric cars, are materials known as “rare earths”. This small group of 17 elements are in extraordinary demand – but their supply is limited, and most of the existing sources have already been snapped up by China in its quest for ever more rapid economic growth.
Last month China – which controls more than 90% of the reserves of these essential elements – warned that its supplies were diminishing, despite quotas to limit exports. Beijing’s top officials said in a memo: “After more than 50 years of excessive mining, China’s rare earth reserves have kept declining and the years of guaranteed rare earth supply have been reducing.”
This could spell disaster for the future of green technologies such as renewable energy and low-carbon vehicles.
To keep reading, click here.