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The role of rare earth elements in our world

Rare earth mining is set to increase in demand."

Rare earth elements - they are in our phones, goggles and even pacemakers. 

In a world revolving around technological advancements, it comes as no surprise that efforts are made to use natural resources other than rapidly depleting oil and gas. But what exactly is meant by rare earth elements, and where in the world do they come from?

Rare earth elements are seen as more energy efficient than oil and gas.Rare earth elements are seen as more energy efficient than oil and gas.

What are rare earth elements?

There are 118 elements in the periodic table, 17 of which make up the so-called rare earth elements - the lanthanide group, yttrium and scandium. Rare Earth Resources points out that even the least common of these elements are nearly 200 times more abundant than gold in the Earth's crust. However, they are seldom found in accessible and large-enough quantities to justify mining activities from an economic standpoint. 

Where do they come from?

With the mining industry making up 9.3 per cent of Australia's gross value, according to the 2016 Why Australia: Benchmark Report, keeping on top of developments and trends is crucial for competitiveness. To allow a better understanding of just how prevalent a number of these components are, 911 Metallurgist created an infographic with the seven elements secretly ruling the world of technological implementation.

  1. Samarium is predominantly found in China. Some of its uses include miniature headphones, x-ray lasers and cancer-fighting drugs.
  2. Cerium can be sourced from the U.S., India and Brazil; it is implemented in cigarette flints and sea sickness treatments.
  3. Neodymium is found in Australia, China, Brazil, U.S.A and Sri Lanka and linked to hybrid vehicles, computer hard drives, eye disorder treatments or skin cancer treatment. 
  4. Promethium, which is sourced from Russia, is mainly used for pacemakers, spacecraft batteries and guided missiles.
  5. Europium originates from China and the U.S.; it is utilised for iPhones, TV screens and anti-forgery marks in Euro bank notes. 
  6. Praseodymium can be mined in Australia, China, India, Brazil and Sri Lanka; it is found in aircraft engines and welder goggles. 
Australia can leverage its access to rare earth elements for competitiveness. Australia can leverage its access to rare earth elements for competitiveness.

What does this mean for Australia's mining industry?

As demand for more energy-efficient resources grows, so will the popularity of rare earth elements, according to the 2013 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community. This means Australia's access to rare earth elements can, if utilised well, add to competitive advantages and further increase the mining industry's gross value. 

Interconnect Systems has a comprehensive background in aerospace and defence engineering, being an industry leader for more than 20 years. It provides electrical interconnect products and solutions, including cable and wire harness manufacture. For more information on the best backshells and cable harness solutions, contact Interconnect Systems today on 1800 812 214 FREE.

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