Rare Earth Metals: Tech Manufacturers Must Think Again, and So Must Users

March 26, 2014

rare-earth-elements.jpgRare earth metals are the crucial ingredient in many of our tech products. From smartphones, tablets and laptops, to the niche technology used by the military and medical profession, all depend on them to function, for features as broad as a phone's coloured screen to the magnets used to power hybrid cars. As new technology continues to flood the market, the demand for these metals will grow, but they're already in short supply.

If we're going to ensure that there are enough rare earth metals to keep pace with the current rate of technological innovation, and if we're going to stop these dangerous metals from filling landfill sites, we need to end today's rip-and-replace attitude towards IT equipment, as well as an end to the overproduction of devices by manufacturers.

Growing scarcity and China's stranglehold on the market

With the sheer number of new gadgets and business solutions coming onto the market every year, it's no surprise that rare earth metals are becoming scarce. However, the likelihood of a shortage is increased by the lack of mining that's taking place outside China. China has the lion's share of these precious metals but has been reluctant to export them to other countries in an effort – it says – to conserve its own resources. In recent years, it has cut its exports by more than 70%, severely impacting manufacturing in countries such as Japan and the US, while enabling manufacturing in China itself. In addition to these trade restrictions, China is using its economic clout to undercut the prices offered by mines in other regions, effectively forcing them out of business.

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Source: The Guardian

By Askar Sheibani