Countries across the globe are pursuing zero-emission goals, which have created a bottleneck of critical rare earth elements (REE) such as cobalt, copper, and lithium. These are essential components in producing renewable energy technology, from electric vehicle batteries to wind turbine blades. REEs also play a key role in manufacturing semiconductors and other electronics.
Access to these resources – both in raw and refined forms – has never been more important. Much like oil was throughout the 20th century, critical minerals are the primary inputs of future economic growth. Governments and private companies are increasingly acknowledging this, resulting in a global “gold rush” for these strategic minerals.
The global annual demand for rare-earth elements, a subset of ‘critical minerals’ deemed vital to economic security, is expected to increase from 208,250 metric tons in 2019 to a forecasted 304,678 metric tons by 2025.
REEs are not truly “rare” — they are found worldwide — but deposits containing economically usable concentrations are less common, thus reducing the number of financially feasible extraction projects.