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Sustainability & Endangered Elements

Description of Contents

I.  "Rare Earths: Resource Sustainability". Abstract of an article to be published in The Rare Earth Elements: Fundmentals and Applications (October 2012). The article describes the issues related to the unsustainable consumption of the Rare Earths (the lanthanide elements). This is not just a problem of resource depletion. The unique properties of the Rare Earth elements are the basis of a multitude of routine, daily-use products, and are irreplacable components in existing and emerging Green Energy technologies.

II. Endangered Elements Periodic Table. This version of the Periodic Table provides an assessment of the  of the elements that will be in short supply, "endangered", over the next 100 years. The Periodic Table was produced by Mike Pitts, Director of Sustainability at Chemistry Innovation ( Chemistry Innovation is a knowledge-sharing network provided by Open Innovation _connect. The _connect website provides access to a wide range of networks related to science, technology, and industry (

To obtain a copy of the Endangered Elements Periodic Table (shown below) and to get more information on this subject see:…

III. Publications about Endangered Elements

A. "Let's take better care of our rare earth elements", Mike Pitts, New Scientist, Issue 2799, February 2011. (The Article is attached below). Also available at:…

B. "Endangered Elements" Chemistry World, Critical Thinking Section, Emma Davies, Subheading: "As our supply of some essential elements dries up, it's time to start urban mining"}, January 2001. (The Article is attached below). Also available at:…

C. "Endangered Elements", The Chemical Engineer, Mike Pitts, October 2011 (This is a great article on the subject but it does't appear to be accessible throuhg UK).

IV. Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network (Sustainability and Chemistry)This is a network in the _connect organization. It provides information and guidance to chemistry-using industries (not just the "chemical industry") in four key priority areas: 1) Sustainable Water Management, 2) Sustainable Energy, 3) Resource Efficiency, and 4) Sustainable Land Management and Food Production.


I.  "Rare Earths: Resource Sustainability"

Chapter in The Rare Earth Elements: Fundamentals and Applications, October 2012

David A. Atwood, Department of Chemistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY, 40506-0055;


Rare earth elements have unique electronic, optical, luminescent, and magnetic properties that make them critically important in a broad range of products and applications. For example, rare earth elements are used as catalysts, in manufacturing, medicine, ceramics, and glasses. They are fundamentally important in the generation of clean energy and carbon-free means of transportation.  Projected growth rates of rare earth element demands will, for some elements, exceed production capabilities within several decades. Moreover, rare earth elements are currently mined, concentrated, and used in an unsustainable manner that will make these critically important elements unavailable for future generations. Achieving rare earth sustainability requires a careful economic assessment and a determination of environmental and societal impacts.  New chemical and engineering technologies will be required to achieve this goal, beginning with the recycling and reuse of the many products that currently utilize rare earth elements. Ultimately, products and applications should be designed so that rare earth elements can be immediately and economically reused.

Keywords: Sustainability, Strategic Elements, Endangered Elements

Article Contents:

  1. Overview
  2. Introduction
  3. Endangered Elements
  4. Resources and Consumption
  5. Markets, Products, Applications
  6. Reduced Use and Recycling
  7. Fate and Disposition
  8. Conclusions
  9. Future Outlook
  10. Abbreviations and Acronyms
  11. Glossary
  12. References (listed here)
  1. McDonough, W., and Braungart, M. “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things”, North Point Press, New York, 2002.
  2. Kingsnorth D. J. “Rare Earths Supply Security: Dream or Possibility” Industrial Minerals Company of Australia (IMCOA) Presentation, April 2012, available online at:… (Accessed May 5, 2012).
  3. The role of REE in clean energy technology was the subject of a recent U.S. Senate Hearing: Rare Earths, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Energy of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate, 111th Congress, 2nd Session, To Examine the Role of Strategic Minerals in Clean Energy Technologies and Other Applications, as well as Legislation to Address the Issue, Including S. 3521, The Rare Earths Supply Technology and Resources Transformation Act of 2010; September 30, 2010 (62-707 PDF).
  4. D. J. Hanson, “Rare Earths for Security”, Chemical & Engineering News, December 2011; pp 33-34.
  5.… (Accessed May 5, 2012).
  6. E. Davies, Endangered Elements, Chemistry World, 2011, January, 50-54.
  7. United States Geological Survey, 2011 Mineral Yearbook and Mineral Commodity Summary, (Accessed April 20, 2012).
  8. A very detailed forecast of REE supply and demand can be found in: E. Alonso, A. M. Sherman, T. J. Wallington, M. P. Everson, F. R. Field, R. Roth and R. E. Kirchain, Evaluating Rare Earth Availability: A Case Study with Revolutionary Demand from Clean Technologies, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2012, 46, 3406-3414.
  9. T. G. Goonan, Rare Earth Elements-End Use and Recylability, United States Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011-5094.
  10. Rare Earth Elements, British Geological Survey, Natural Environment Research Council, November 2011, p. 21.
  11. J. Kemsley, Metal Recycling Falls Short Chemical & Engineering News, May 30, 2011; p 9.
  12. T. E. Graedel, J. Atwood, J.-P. Birate, B. K. Reck, S. F. Sibley, G. Sonnemann, M. Buchart, C. Hagelüken, Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report, United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) 2011, A Report of the Working Group on the Global Metal Flows to the International Resource Panel.
  13. J.-F. Tremblay, Managing a Dearth of Rare Earths, Chemical & Engineering News, April 2, 2012, pp 14-15.
  14. M. Pitts, “Let’s Take Better Care of our Rare Earth Elements” New Scientist, February 15, 2011, Issue 2799, pp 26-27.

II. Endangered Elements Periodic Table