Limited supplies of five rare-earth minerals pose a threat to increasing use of clean-energy technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels, a U.S. Energy Department report found.
The 2011 report studied 16 elements and related materials, including nickel and manganese, which are used to make batteries. The analysis of so-called critical elements began after rare-earth prices jumped following imposition of export restrictions in 2010 by China, the world’s major producer.
Rare earths became a political and legislative issue after China moved to reduce export quotas in July 2010 by 40 percent. The country accounts for 95 percent of rare-earth production, according to the Energy Department.