ECOVAP is proud to have provided a financial/environmental win-win to a large producer in the rare earth mining business (see Mining Case Study). This article summarizes the growing environmental importance of rare earths as critical elements in wind and solar power, EV cars and energy storage, and in dramatically reducing the weight of all transportation vehicles. On the other hand, rare earth mining itself is very environmentally challenging, particularly in the water of tailings ponds: "for every ton of rare earth produced, there are 2,000 tons of mine tailings”. As a result, 95% of the industry has migrated to the relatively lax or unenforced environmental regulations in China. However, as China increasingly addresses these environmental challenges, the concern is that rare earth costs will increase significantly such that green, renewable power becomes less competitive.
Rare Earth Elements: A Resource Constraint of the Energy Transition