Rare Earths and the Balance Problem: How to Deal with Changing Markets?
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The balance between the market demand and the natural abundance of the rare-earth elements (REEs) in ores, often referred to as the Balance Problem (or the Balancing Problem), is a major issue for REE suppliers. The ideal situation is a perfect match between the market demand for and the production of REEs, so that there are no surpluses of any of the REEs. This means that the rare-earth industry must find new uses for REEs that are available in excess and search for substitutes for REEs that have either limited availability or are high in demand. We present an overview of the trends in the applications for the different REEs and show that the demand for REEs for use in magnets, catalysts, and alloys is still increasing, while the application of REEs in polishing agents, glass, and ceramics are stable. On the other hand, the use of REEs in nickel–metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries and lamp phosphors is decreasing. These changes in the REE market have an influence on the Balance Problem, ...