Rare earth minerals are so named, not because they are rare but because they are either environmentally harmful, or uneconomical to mine, as they are so widely spread. Recent research however has found surprising quantities and concentration of rare earth elements in the mud on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.
Japanese geologists say, it is now considered that one square metal-rich mud on the seafloor, 2.3 kilometres wide may keep enough rare earth metals meet most of the global demand for a full year.
Director of the U. S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory in Iowa, Alex King says “The heavier rare earths tend to be ones that command greater price because of their scarcity”.
- Lanthanum is widely utilized in the motor and battery of electrical cars. Each battery requiring 10-15 kg per battery. Cost $64,000 a kilo
- Being a difficult metal to use as it is stressed and brittle, Rhodium is used as plating for jewellery because of its glitteringly, dazzling, white and mirror-like appearance. It increases the apparent size of a diamond because it grows to be difficult to notify where the gem ends and the metal commences. It costs as much $29,860 per kilo.
- Europium is used in Euro banknotes as an anti-counterfeiting phosphors, as it is luminescent. Under certain situations it makes the notes appear to be red. Europium is also used in LED TV screens for the red colouring. Cost $8000 per kilo.
- The magnetic alloy Neodymium, is most commonly used in ear-phones, in magnets for microphones and loudspeakers, guitar pick-ups, mobile phones, wind turbines and computer disk drives. It is also used in the small magnets that direct the fins of bombs. Valued at $1000 a kilo.
- Erbium is critical in fibre-optic telecommunication cables. It is also used in nuclear technology, besides a wide range of medical applications. Its value is $650 per kilogram, because it alone possesses these optical properties.
- Dysprosium, a component of magnets in hybrid car motors, costs $300 per kilo.
The cost of rare earth minerals are negligible in comparison to gold at $51,000 a kilo, or titanium at $540,000 a kilo or palladium at $1,571,000 a kilo.