Rare earth elements facts
Rare earth elements (REE) are a group of 15 elements referred to as the lanthanide series in the periodic table of elements together with scandium and yttrium. The last two elements exhibit similar properties to the lanthanides and are found in the same ore bodies. REEs are key components in many electronic devices that we use in our daily lives, as well as in a variety of industrial applications.
- Canada has some of the largest known reserves and resources (measured and indicated) of rare earths in the world, estimated at over 15.1 million tonnes of rare earth oxide in 2022.
- Manufacturing permanent magnets is the largest global use for REEs, accounting for 43% of total demand in 2021.
- China is the world’s largest producer with an estimated 168,000 tonnes of REEs in 2021, accounting for 61% of global mine production.
- Many countries, including Canada, have rare earths resources but producing REE metals requires complex separation and refining processes.
Learn more about rare earth elements
REEs are used in a variety of industrial applications, including electronics, clean energy, aerospace, automotive and defence.
Manufacturing permanent magnets is the single largest and most important end use for REEs, accounting for 43% of demand in 2021.
Permanent magnets are an essential component of modern electronics used in cell phones, televisions, computers, automobiles, wind turbines, jet aircraft and many other products.
REEs are also used widely in high technology and “green” products because of their luminescent and catalytic properties.
Rare earth elements uses, 2021
This chart shows the global demand by market sector for REEs in 2021. The largest use is in magnets (43.2%), followed by catalysts (17.0%), polishing powders (11.2%), metallurgical (7.1%), glass (6.4%), battery alloys (3.6%), ceramics (3.0%), phosphors (0.5%), pigments (0.3%) and other products (7.6%).
Although not a current commercial producer of REEs, Canada is host to several advanced exploration projects and some of the largest reserves and resources (measured and indicated) of REEs worldwide. Canadian reserves and resources are estimated to be 15.1 million tonnes of rare earth oxide.
In 2021, the Nechalacho project initiated a small-scale demonstration REE mining project. The three-year project is located southeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. Material is crushed and sorted on site and will be transported to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for further processing.
Canadian REE projects
This map shows the location, status and stage of select Canadian REE projects.
- Nechalacho T-Zone and Tardiff-Zone project – active at the processing stage
- Nechalacho Basal-Zone project – active at the feasibility stage
- Wicheeda project – active at the preliminary economic assessment stage
- SBH Black Shale project – suspended/on-hold at the preliminary economic assessment stage
- Alces Lake project – active at the exploration stage
- Falcon Point project – active at the resource estimate stage
- Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) Rare Earth Processing Facility project – active at the processing stage
- Vital Metals’ Saskatoon Rare Earth Processing Facility project – active at the processing stage
- Clay-Howells project – suspended/on-hold at the resource estimate stage
- Lackner Lake project – suspended/on-hold at the resource estimate stage
- Elliot Lake project – suspended/on-hold at the resource estimate stage
- Lavergne-Springer project – active at the resource estimate stage
- Eldor (Ashram) project – active at the preliminary economic assessment stage
- Strange Lake project – active at the preliminary economic assessment stage
- Montviel project – active at the resource estimate stage
- St-Bruno Rare Earth Recycling Demonstration Plant project – active at the processing stage
- Crater Lake project – active at the preliminary economic assessment stage
- Kwyjibo project – active at the preliminary economic assessment stage
- Kipawa (Zeus) project – active at the feasibility stage
- Niobec - REE Zone project – inactive at the resource estimate stage
Newfoundland and Labrador
- Red Wine project – active at the resource estimate stage
- Port Hope Simpson (Foxtrot) project – active at the preliminary economic assessment stage
REEs are categorized as being either “light” or “heavy:”
- Light REEs (lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium and scandium) are naturally more abundant than Heavy REEs and are generally in surplus supply globally. Praseodymium and neodymium, both used in wind turbines and EVs, are exceptions and in high demand.
- Heavy REEs (terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium and yttrium) are produced mainly in China and are in more limited supply than light REEs. Global efforts to bring new resources to the marketplace continue.
Many of Canada’s most advanced REE exploration projects contain high concentrations of the globally valued heavy REEs used in high-technology and clean-energy applications.
Learn more about why rare earth elements are important.
China is the world’s largest producer of REEs, accounting for 61% of global annual mine production, estimated at 168,000 tonnes for 2021. The United States, Burma (Myanmar), Australia and Thailand accounted for the majority of the remaining mine production. China remains virtually the only producer of the valued heavy REEs.
|Ranking||Country||Thousand tonnes||Percentage of total|
The United States was the world’s largest supplier of REEs until the emergence of China in the mid-1990s. China was virtually the world’s sole REE supplier until 2012, when the now-bankrupt US producer Molycorp Inc. and the Australian company Lynas Rare Earths Ltd. started commercial production.
World REE mine production, 2012–2021 (p)
This graph shows REE mine production by China compared with the rest of the world from 2012 to 2021. In 2012, China’s estimated mine production was 100,000 tonnes, and the rest of the world was 10,000 tonnes. China’s annual mine production remained relatively steady, ranging between 95,000 tonnes and 105,000 tonnes from 2012 to 2017. Mine production by the rest of the world increased from 6,000 tonnes to 27,000 tonnes over the same period. In 2018, annual mine production began increasing rapidly in China and the rest of the world. Production in China increased to 120,000 tonnes in 2018 and reached 168,000 tonnes by 2021. Similarly, production in the rest of the world increased to 70,000 tonnes in 2018 and reached 109,000 tonnes by 2021.
Notes and sources
Totals may be different because of rounding.
- Rare earth element uses, 2021
- Wood Mackenzie
- Reserves and resources
- Natural Resources Canada, compiled from company reports
- Includes reserves and minerals resources (measured or indicated). Although Canada’s REE resources continue to exist, projects may be on hold, and the corporate entities developing these resources may no longer be solvent or may have changed focus to other mineral deposits or business segments.
- Canadian REE projects
- Company websites, press releases and NI-43-101 reports
- World mine production of REEs, by country, 2021 (p)
- U.S. Geological Survey
- World REE mine production, 2012–2021 (p)
- U.S. Geological Survey
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