REEs are important in many green and high tech applications, and particularly important in rare earth magnets. These magnets are much stronger than iron based magnets and are used in electric motors and generators, which again are used in electric cars and wind generators. REEs are thus crucial for the ongoing energy transition away from fossil fuels.
The most important rare earths for green energies are neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, terbium and samarium and REEtec has a vision of contribution to the green energy transition by producing these elements in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.
REEs are also used in a range of other applications such as medical equipment and electronics like smart phones.
There are a total of 16 naturally occurring rare earth elements. 14 within the chemical group called lanthanides, plus yttrium and scandium. The latter are considered rare earth elements because they tend to occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides, and exhibit similar chemical properties. REEs are found as components in several minerals, the most important sources being bastnäsite, monazite, xenotime and ionic clay.
These minerals typically comprise several percentages by weight of REEs. Dependent on the specific ore, the distribution between the different REEs may differ substantially. The 16 REEs all tend to occur together in the same mineral deposits. To separate them into single elements of high purity is challenging and expensive due to their chemical similarity.