Forget rare earths, boron is the critical mineral to track – by Frik Els ( – September 15, 2022)

Rare earths have captured the imagination of the broader public: The 17 elements served as the basis of a top-selling video game, provided a plot point for a popular Netflix drama, sparked a drawn-out WTO dispute and were used to slam Barack Obama.

Even Kim Jong-Un has a finger in the pie. Boron, not so much. But boron’s not boring. Far from it. It shares many of the family traits of rare earths and it’s also close to mineral du jour lithium.

Comes out in the wash

Boron, the fifth-lightest element, in its many forms has a wider range of advanced applications than both rare earths and lithium.

You can already find 40-50 kilograms of boron materials in the average EV, including in permanent magnets, high-strength steel chassis, ceramic brakes, dashboard screens, body panels and thermal and acoustic insulation. The renewable energy sector uses boron in permanent magnets and fibreglass for wind turbine blades and borosilicate glass for solar panels.

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