The DOE recently released the 2010 Critical Materials Strategy to evaluate the role of rare earth elements in the development of windturbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting.Fourteen rare earth elements were analyzed, with 5 elements recognizedas the most critical: dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium andyttrium, as well as indium.
While the name implies ahard-to-obtain metal, rare earths are actually quite abundant. They arespread out across the globe, however China currently produces 95% of the rare earth elements that are traded globally. In August, China slashedexports, causing concern in many importing countries over futuredevelopment of renewable energy technologies. While mining companies inother countries are also mining rare earth elements, the lead time tocreating a new mine is long with large capital needed to get themonline.
The DOE report outlines a strategy in near-term,mid-term, and long-term to helping ensure success in renewable energydevelopment by minimizing risks associated with potential supplyfailures. The report includes an overall strategy, and program andpolicy directions. The full-report can be found here, and a 4-page executive summary here.