Europe's Rare Earth Dependency Dilemma | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

Europe's Rare Earth Dependency Dilemma

Solar panels. Wind turbines. Electric vehicle batteries and motors. These are just four of the things that need one or more of a group of minerals known as rare earths. Incidentally, these are also four of the things the EU is basing its future on. And it produces next to none of these critical rare earths.

Like lithium, rare earths are abundant. Deposits large enough to make economic sense, however, are only found in a limited number of areas around the world, with the largest deposits discovered so far in China. Rare earth exports are a lucrative business for Asia’s biggest economy, where it has virtually established world domination. And this domination is not good news for Europe—or the United States, for that matter.

In 2020, China mined 140,000 tons of rare earths. The United States was a distant second with an output of 38,000 tons, and Burma was third with 30,000 tons. Europe doesn’t even figure in the list of rare earth producers globally.

“Europe is heavily dependent on imports of rare earths from China. China has very big and good quality resources of rare earth elements. China was lucky in this case,” one academic from the Technical University of Athens told Euronews last year.

In a bid to reduce that dependence, the European Union devised an action plan to boost domestic production of rare earths.

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