Rare metal does not equal rare earth

For example, the silver-grey metal tantalum is used in mobiles as a powder which helps regulate voltage, which would otherwise drop as temperatures rose. Its abilities have been vital to reducing the size of mobiles.

However, China produces around 97% of the world\’s supplies, much of it coming from small mines operated by criminal gangs.

Hafnium is a key ingredient of Intel\’s computer chips.

Erm, no.

Repeat after me, rare metal does not equal rare earth or rare earth metal.

The rare earths are (as the piece does say) the 15 lanthanides (Ce, La….Dy, Eu etc) plus Y and Sc. They are indeed 97% produced in China.

Ta is a rare metal but not a rare earth. Major producers are Brazil and Australia, Canada being a possible one and DR Congo, which everyone moans about, 8% of global supply.

Hafnium, in its metallic form, is indeed rare, because we don\’t have that many uses for it. But it\’s actually abundant. Just about all zirconium ores are 1-4% Hf. And we use a lot of zirconium (usually as the oxide) and we don\’t bother to extract the Hf because to do so is a right pain in the arse. In fact, just about the only time we do is when we want Zr for nuclear reasons, when we must extract the Hf. And that\’s what supplies the world: but there\’s huge amounts more there, if we could be bothered.

Repeat: rare metal does not equal rare earth.

4 comments on “Rare metal does not equal rare earth

  1. I think you forget the key equation S=hJ + lU

    where S = story, hJ = halfwit journalist and lU would be limited grasp of science.

    Regards,
    MrA (technically Dr of Chemistry, but we don’t talk about it much)

  2. The first paragraph is pure bollocks.

    Tantalum allows the manufacture of physically small capacitors. These capacitors were around decades before mobile phones and are used extensively throughout the electronics industry. Tantalum has no role in voltage regulation which in any case is not required in battery operated devices. Battery voltage positively correlates with temperature, it being the result of a chemical reaction.

    Other than that, spot on.

    Tim adds: An email to the reporter did get the “Ah, I screwed up did I? Sorry, will alter” response.

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