How well do you remember your periodic table from chemistry class? If you’re like me, not very well. What stumps me in particular are 17 elements called rare earths with names such as erbium, cerium and lanthanum.
As we move toward a greener economy, these elements are crucial if we want more electric vehicles, wind turbines and other green machines. At the moment, most of the world’s supply of rare earths comes from China. Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated he wants to protect our rare earth deposits from foreign takeovers.
To talk about it all, I spoke with Constantine Karayannopoulos, CEO of NEO Performance Materials, a Canadian company that’s been involved in rare earths for some 30 years and has made major inroads in China, Europe and beyond.
Howard Green: You must love the words ‘net zero’ when you hear them.
Constantine Karayannopoulos: Guilty as charged. It’s great for our business as well as good for the planet. I am a chemical engineer and I have to admit that until I got involved with this company back in 1992, I hadn’t heard of rare earths. They’re the most obscure part of the periodic table. Eventually you realize how useful and almost indispensable they are to our modern way of life.