The rare-earth elements (REE) are a set of 15 metals of the lanthanide series on the periodic table. These are: lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb) and lutetium (Lu). In addition to these, yttrium (Y) and scandium (Sc) are also known as REE.
Despite their name, these elements aren’t that rare in the earth’s crust. Cerium, for instance, is the 25th most abundant element overall. They are called “rare” earth elements because it is uncommon to find them in their pure form.
They are mostly found within alkaline igneous rocks, carbonatites, placer deposits with monazite-xenotime mineralisation and ion-adsorption clay deposits.
While the rare earth elements may not exactly be household names, their uses are numerous, and they have become an integral part of many industries. In fact, they are especially crucial in many high-tech and “greener” technologies. Experts suggest that the use of rare earth elements in computers has grown almost as fast as cell phones.
With the ever-increasing demand for high-tech gadgets and devices, the need for REEs continues to rise, especially amid growing concerns for energy independence and climate change. With the metals becoming highly valuable, with the global market seeking new sources outside of China, where the majority of REEs are mined.
Ellipsis’s current project in the greater Aghracha area in southern Morocco is exploring the region for both vanadium and rare earth elements, and shows great promise.