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The mining of rare earth metals has been a sticking point in the movement toward an EV future. Even though we know, there’s a limited supply of metals that can be mined from the Earth, those considered rare earth metals are in short supply. Most of these materials were thought to only be located in China, but a new discovery in Turkey could change the story.

What country has the most rare earth metals?

A Mining Operation in China
A Mining Operation in China | Shutterstock

China tops this list for productions and reserves of elements considered to be rear earth materials. Currently, 140,000 tons of these metals are mined in China, with more than 44 million tons in reserves. Some of these metals are deep under the surface, requiring complicated mining operations to extract them.

Turkish metals could be used in EVs soon

A Turkish Mine in Kardemir
A Turkish Mine in Kardemir | Shutterstock

The Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources reports that the country found a supply of 694 million metric tons of rare earth metals. This would put Turkey right behind China, with the second-largest reserve in the world. These deposits are reportedly close to the surface, which would simplify the extraction process, and include ten of the 17 rare earth elements.

The country expects to begin mining and refinement this year and anticipates the capability to produce 570,000 metric tons annually. This number is nearly double the global demand anticipated for 2030.

Which country exports the most rare earth metals?

The 2024 Chevy Blazer EV parked on pavement
2024 Chevy Blazer EV | Chevrolet

The numbers collected from 2020 indicated the top five countries exporting these materials as:

  • Myanmar
  • China
  • Malaysia
  • Japan
  • United States

To date, China has the largest deposits of these metals, which poses a bit of a challenge in the auto industry.

Why is an EV future challenging if China controls most of the rare earth minerals?

Ford F-150 Lightning fuel economy worst EV
Ford F-150 Lightning | John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

China is often thought of as a country with which most free and democratic nations have difficult relationships. Dependence on China for materials isn’t appealing to some automakers, which could be part of why BMW and some other automakers leave rare earth metals out of their current EV models.

If the new deposits in Turkey are verified, this could change things dramatically.

Which rare earth metals are used in the auto industry?

A technician marking a catalytic converter with license plate numbers to prevent theft in Huntington Beach, California
A technician marking a catalytic converter | Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Although other metals are currently used in them, Cerium has long been used in catalytic converters. Permanent-magnet DC motors, found in some electric vehicles, use dysprosium, neodymium, and samarium. Gadolinium is a useful element for both motors and batteries. Of course, we can’t forget the materials needed to produce lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, lanthanum and yttrium are used in alternative battery chemistries.

Could future EV prices decline with additional rare earth metal supplies?

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The GMC Hummer EV parked in front of a future Pilot electric vehicle charging station | GM

Currently, this would be entirely speculation, but the typical rules of supply and demand could impact the materials used to make future electric vehicles. Suppose the Turkish deposits are verified and accurate. In that case, this could push supplies from other countries, especially China, to be sold at lower prices, thus decreasing the cost to build electric car batteries and motors.

Even if supply costs decline, there are no guarantees that automakers would decrease the price of vehicles, but it’s certainly something to be hopeful of for our EV future.

Next, find out why Toyota is nearly out of Federal EV tax credits, or learn more about the Turkish discovery in the video below:


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