Revolutionising Rare Earth Element supply chains:Groundbreaking study advocates circular economy approaches

Researchers have developed an innovative integrated model to evaluate the revolutionary potential of circular economy approaches on global supply chains for essential rare earth elements (REEs) such as neodymium, dysprosium, and terbium. This is part of a groundbreaking study co-led by Newcastle University.
According to the report, addressing the shortage and limited availability of rare earth elements (REEs), applying circular economy techniques might lead to a considerable rise of 701 kt in secondary supply and a commensurate drop of 2,306 kt in demand over the next three decades.

Many low-carbon energy and transportation technologies depend on rare earth elements (REEs), and the production of conventional REE mining is constrained. Strategies based on the circular economy show promise in resolving supply chain issues. The research team attempts to evaluate the potential impact of circular economy policies on global supply networks of rare earth elements and how these supply chains relate to climate pledges.

Revolutionising Rare Earth Element supply chains

Revolutionising Rare Earth Element supply chains

The study’s author, Professor Oliver Heidrich of Newcastle University School of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, stressed the value of the researcher’s ability to shed light on supply, demand, geopolitical dynamics, and climate goals – thereby offering a The investigation highlights a notable discrepancy in regional and element-specific supply, demand, and in-ground reserves, especially for heavier rare earth elements. A major obstacle to reaching net-zero emission targets is this imbalance.

Restructuring global REE supply chains requires the application of circular economy strategies like reduction, substitution, reuse, and recycling. According to the report, implementing these strategies will boost the amount of rare earth elements (REEs) available from urban mines over the course of the next three decades, decreasing the need for conventional mining techniques. In other areas, like the EU, closed-loop REE supply networks may also result from the concepts of the circular economy.

The study was conducted in partnership with organisations such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Urban Environment, Peking University, Leiden University in the Netherlands, and others. The results, which were published in Nature Geoscience, provide a solid scientific basis for worldwide collaboration in the advancement of circular economy approaches for rare earth elements, thereby aiding in the fair and universal transition to a low-carbon economy.

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