Rare Earths Elements: Where in the World Are They?
Rare earth elements are a group of metals that are critical ingredients for a greener economy, and the location of the reserves for mining are increasingly important and valuable.
This infographic features data from the United States Geological Society (USGS) which reveals the countries with the largest known reserves of rare earth elements (REEs).
What are Rare Earth Metals?
REEs, also called rare earth metals or rare earth oxides, or lanthanides, are a set of 17 silvery-white soft heavy metals.
The 17 rare earth elements 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), lutetium (Lu), scandium (Sc), and yttrium (Y).
Scandium and yttrium are not part of the lanthanide family, but end users include them because they occur in the same mineral deposits as the lanthanides and have similar chemical properties.
The term “rare earth” is a misnomer as rare earth metals are actually abundant in the Earth’s crust. However, they are rarely found in large, concentrated deposits on their own, but rather among other elements instead.
Rare Earth Elements, How Do They Work?
Most rare earth elements find their uses as catalysts and magnets in traditional and low-carbon technologies. Other important uses of rare earth elements are in the production of special metal alloys, glass, and high-performance electronics.
Alloys of neodymium (Nd) and samarium (Sm) can be used to create strong magnets that withstand high temperatures, making them ideal for a wide variety of mission critical electronics and defense applications.
|End-use||% of 2019 Rare Earth Demand|
|Glass Polishing Powder and Additives||13%|
|Metallurgy and Alloys||8%|
|Ceramics, Pigments and Glazes||5%|
The strongest known magnet is an alloy of neodymium with iron and boron. Adding other REEs such as dysprosium and praseodymium can change the performance and properties of magnets.
Hybrid and electric vehicle engines, generators in wind turbines, hard disks, portable electronics and cell phones require these magnets and elements. This role in technology makes their mining and refinement a point of concern for many nations.
For example, one megawatt of wind energy capacity requires 171 kg of rare earths, a single U.S. F-35 fighter jet requires about 427 kg of rare earths, and a Virginia-class nuclear submarine uses nearly 4.2 tonnes.
Global Reserves of Rare Earth Minerals
China tops the list for mine production and reserves of rare earth elements, with 44 million tons in reserves and 140,000 tons of annual mine production.
While Vietnam and Brazil have the second and third most reserves of rare earth metals with 22 million tons in reserves and 21 million tons, respectively, their mine production is among the lowest of all the countries at only 1,000 tons per year each.
|Country||Mine Production 2020||Reserves||% of Total Reserves|
While the United States has 1.5 million tons in reserves, it is largely dependent on imports from China for refined rare earths.
Ensuring a Global Supply
In the rare earth industry, China’s dominance</a > has been no accident. Years of research and industrial policy helped the nation develop a superior position in the market, and now the country has the ability to control production and the global availability of these valuable metals.
This tight control of the supply of these important metals has the world searching for their own supplies. With the start of mining operations in other countries, China’s share of global production has fallen from 92% in 2010 to 58%< in 2020. However, China has a strong foothold in the supply chain and produced 85% of the world’s refined rare earths in 2020.
China awards production quotas to only six state-run companies:
- China Minmetals Rare Earth Co
- Chinalco Rare Earth & Metals Co
- Guangdong Rising Nonferrous
- China Northern Rare Earth Group
- China Southern Rare Earth Group
- Xiamen Tungsten
As the demand for REEs increases, the world will need tap these reserves. This graphic could provide clues as to the next source of rare earth elements.
Which Countries Produce the Most Natural Gas?
Natural gas consumption reached a new all-time high in 2021, despite global efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Which Countries Produce the Most Natural Gas?
Natural gas prices have risen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, exacerbating an already tight supply situation.
Making matters worse, Moscow has since cut gas exports to Europe to multi-year lows, sending Europe’s gas price to almost 10 times its pre-war average.
Using data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, the above infographic provides further context on the gas market by visualizing the world’s largest gas producers in 2021.
Natural Gas Consumption at All-Time High in 2021
Natural gas is part of nearly every aspect of our daily lives. It is used for heating, cooking, electricity generation, as fuel for motor vehicles, in fertilizers, and in the manufacture of plastics.
The fuel is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas and non-renewable fossil fuel that forms below the Earth’s surface. Although the Earth has enormous quantities of natural gas, much of it is in areas far from where the fuel is needed. To facilitate transport and reduce volume, natural gas is frequently converted into liquefied natural gas (LNG), in a process called liquefaction.
Despite global efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, natural gas consumption reached a new all-time high in 2021, surpassing the previous record set in 2019 by 3.3%.
Demand is expected to decline slightly in 2022 and remain subdued up to 2025, according to the International Energy Agency.
|Region||2021 Demand in Billion Cubic Meters (bcm)||2022P (bcm)||2025P (bcm)|
|Central and South America||153||147||153|
The Asia Pacific region and the industrial sector are expected to be the main drivers of global gas consumption in the coming years
Natural Gas Production, by Country
The world’s top 10 producers of natural gas account for about 73% of total production.
|Rank||Country||2021 Production (bcm)||Share %|
|#1||🇺🇸 United States||934.2||23.1%|
|#8||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||117.3||2.9%|
|#16||🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||57.0||1.4%|
|🌐 Rest of the World||671.8||16.6%|
|🌐 Global Total||4,036.9||100.0%|
Natural gas accounts for 32% of primary energy consumption in the United States, the world’s largest producer. Russia is the second biggest producer, and also has at least 37 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, the most in the world.
China’s natural gas production grew by 7.8% in 2021, and it has nearly doubled since 2011. This sustained growth in production is partly down to government policies incentivizing coal-to-gas switching.
Europe’s Natural Gas Crisis
Russia has significantly reduced flows of natural gas to Europe since Western nations imposed sanctions on the Kremlin following the invasion of Ukraine. Before the war, the European Union (EU) imported about 40% of its natural gas from Russia.
The gas is transported by the Nord Stream system, a pair of offshore natural gas pipeline networks in Europe that run under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
Russian energy giant Gazprom recently halved the amount of natural gas flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20% of capacity, blaming Western sanctions for a delay in the delivery in a necessary turbine. EU officials say Russia is “weaponizing” its gas supply.
Amid tensions, the EU bloc outlined a plan to phase out dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Lithuania ceased Russian gas imports at the beginning of April. Estonia’s and Latvia’s imports also dropped to zero at the start of that month. Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Poland all announced that they do not intend to renew long-term contracts with Gazprom.
Despite these efforts, Europe remains dependent on Russia for its supply of natural gas, at least in the short and medium term.
Visualizing the World’s Largest Oil Producers
Global oil production averaged 89.8 million barrels of oil per day in 2021. Here are the world’s largest oil producers.
The World’s Largest Oil Producers
The world is in the middle of the first energy crisis of the 21st century.
High energy prices, especially for oil, gas, and coal, are driving decades-high inflation in various countries, some of which are also experiencing energy shortages. Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated the crisis, given that the country is both a major producer and exporter of oil and natural gas.
Using data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, the above infographic provides further context on the crisis by visualizing the world’s largest oil producers in 2021.
Oil Production: OPEC Countries vs. Rest of the World
Before looking at country-level data, it’s worth seeing the amount of oil the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) produces compared to other organizations and regions.
|Region/Organization||2021 Oil Production (barrels per day)||% of Total|
|Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)||13.8M||15%|
|Rest of the World||20.5M||23%|
The OPEC countries are the largest oil producers collectively, with Saudi Arabia alone making up one-third of OPEC production. It’s also important to note that OPEC production remains below pre-pandemic levels after the organization reduced its output by an unprecedented 10 million barrels per day (B/D) in 2020.
Following the OPEC countries, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico accounted for just over a quarter of global oil production in 2021. Nearly 70% of North American oil production came from the U.S., the world’s largest oil producer.
Similarly, within the CIS—an organization of post-Soviet Union countries—Russia was by far the largest producer, accounting for 80% of total CIS production.
The Largest Oil Producers in 2021
Roughly 43% of the world’s oil production came from just three countries in 2021—the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Together, these three countries produced more oil than the rest of the top 10 combined.
|Country||2021 Oil Production (barrels per day)||% of Total|
|Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦||11M||12.2%|
|Russian Federation 🇷🇺||10.9M||12.2%|
|United Arab Emirates 🇦🇪||3.7M||4.1%|
|United Kingdom 🇬🇧||0.87M||1.0%|
|Republic of Congo 🇨🇬||0.27M||0.3%|
|South Sudan 🇸🇩||0.15M||0.2%|
|Equatorial Guinea 🇬🇳||0.14M||0.2%|
|Trinidad & Tobago 🇹🇹||0.08M||0.1%|
|Rest of the World 🌍||1.2M||1.4%|
Over the last few decades, U.S. oil production has been on a rollercoaster of troughs and peaks. After falling from its 1970 peak of 11.3 million B/D, it reached a historic low of 6.8 million B/D in 2008. However, following a turnaround in the 2010s, the country has since surpassed Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producer. As of 2021, though, the U.S. remained a net importer of crude oil while exporting refined petroleum products.
Saudi Arabia and Russia each produced roughly 11 million B/D in 2021 and were the two largest oil exporters globally. In both countries, state-owned oil firms (Saudi Aramco and Gazprom, respectively) were the most valuable oil and gas producing companies.
From Europe (excluding Russia), only Norway made the top 15 oil producers, accounting for 2.3% of global production. The lack of regional output partly explains the European Union’s dependence on Russian oil and gas, worsening the region’s energy crisis.
How the Energy Crisis is Affecting Oil Production
After a deep dive in 2020, oil demand is resurfacing and is now above pre-pandemic levels. Furthermore, supply constraints due to sanctions on Russian oil and gas tighten the market and support high oil prices.
While the impact has been felt globally, European countries have been hit hard due to their reliance on Russia’s fossil fuel exports, with some getting almost all of their energy fuels from Russia.
To combat the oil crunch, the rest of the world is ramping up oil supply through increased production or releasing strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs). U.S. oil production is expected to rise by 1 million B/D in 2022 to a record-high. Simultaneously, Western nations are calling on OPEC members to increase their output to ease prices. However, OPEC nations are sticking to their planned production hikes, with output still below early 2020 levels.
“We had a good discussion on ensuring global energy security and adequate oil supplies to support global economic growth. And that will begin shortly.”– U.S. President Joe Biden on his recent visit to Saudi Arabia
The U.S. is releasing 180 million barrels of oil from its SPR, of which 60 million barrels will contribute to the IEA’s collective release of 120 million barrels. But with oil demand expected to reach a new all-time high in 2023, it remains to be seen whether these efforts to increase supply will be enough to curb the crunch.
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