Highlight the applications of Rare earth elements. Also discuss its distribution across the world and India’s policy on rare earth elements.

Rare earth elements are a group of 17 metallic elements like 15 lanthanoids and Yttrium, Scandium, etc. These are high-density, pure elements with multiple usages.

Industrial applications:

  • They have unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties. Thus, they find their usage in consumer electronics, computers & networks, communication, healthcare, etc.
  • They find usage in futuristic technologies like high-temperature superconductivity, safe storage of hydrogen, etc.
  • The addition of these elements to metallurgy, alloys, and steel increases strength and thermal stability.
  • Also usable in the ceramic and glass industry for coating, coloring, etc.
  • They have a usage in Magnets, x-ray tubes, fluorescent lamps, etc.

Distribution across the world:

  • China produces 90% of these elements presently.
  • It is found in the Mountains of the USA and also in Texas and Mexico region.
  • Reserves are also present in Japan and Australia.
  • In India, Rare earth elements are found in the monazite sands of Kerala. Most of REE is imported from China.

India’s policy on Rare Earth Elements:

  • Exploration has been conducted by the Bureau of Mines and the Department of Atomic Energy.
  • IREL India Limited has a monopoly over primary minerals that conains REEs viz monazite sands found in coastal states.

Way Forward:

Rare earth elements are called so, not because they are rare, but because their extraction is a difficult process. Therefore technology development capacity shall determine the future of REEs. India should focus on technological advancement and also coordinate with other nations to build up a strategic buffer reserve against the global supply chain crisis.

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