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PHI 346: Environmental Ethics: Strategic Elements or Rare Earths

About Strategic Elements

Rare earth elements are a group of seventeen chemical elements that occur together in the periodic table. Rare earth metals and alloys that contain them are used in many devices that people use every day such as: computer memory, DVD's, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, car catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting and much more.

These metals are very difficult to mine because it is unusual to find them in concentrations high enough for economical extraction. ...Significant amounts of rare earth elements are produced in only a few countries. China is the dominant producer of rare earth elements and is believed to be responsible for over 95% of the world mine production on a rare earth oxide equivalent basis.

China is also the dominant consumer of rare earth elements, used mainly in manufacturing electronics products for domestic and export markets. Japan and the United States are the second and third largest consumers of rare earth materials.

Strategic Elements / Rare Earth Elements


Wind Energy uses Rare Earths

Did You Know? Rare earth magnets are used in wind turbines.

Rare earth magnets are used in turbines and generators in many alternative energy applications. Some large turbines require two TONS of rare earth magnets. These magnets are very strong and make the turbines highly efficient. []

Critical Defense Uses of Strategic Elements

Rare earth elements play an essential role in our national defense. In the Gulf Wars, night-vision goggles, precision-guided weapons and other defense technology gave the United States military a tremendous advantage. Rare earth metals are key ingredients for making the very hard alloys used to make armored vehicles and projectiles that shatter upon impact in thousands of sharp fragments.

Substitutes can be used for rare earth elements in some defense applications, however, those subsitutes are not as effective and that will diminish military superiority. []

Electric Cars

A lot of modern technology depends on rare earth elements. If you own a cell phone, flat screen television or laptop – you own one of a wide selection of products that require rare earths. ... bigger products, things like electric cars, make use of powerful rare earth magnets in their motors.