Coal and Mining Sector

Industry urges govt. to establish ‘India Rare Earths Mission’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Rare earth elements

Mains level: Not Much

To counter India’s reliance on China for imports of critical rare earth minerals, industry has urged the government to establish ‘India Rare Earths Mission’.

What are Rare Earth Metals?

  • The rare earth elements (REE) are a set of seventeen metallic elements. These include the fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table plus scandium and yttrium.
  • Rare earth elements are an essential part of many high-tech devices.
  • They have a wide range of applications, especially high-tech consumer products, such as cellular telephones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, and flat-screen monitors and televisions.
  • Significant defense applications include electronic displays, guidance systems, lasers, and radar and sonar systems.
  • Rare earth minerals, with names like neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium, are crucial to the manufacture of magnets used in industries of the future, such as wind turbines and electric cars.


Applications of REMs in various fields:

  • Electronics: Television screens, computers, cell phones, silicon chips, monitor displays, long-life rechargeable batteries, camera lenses, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), baggage scanners, marine propulsion systems.
  • Defense Sector: Rare earth elements play an essential role in our national defense. The military uses night-vision goggles, precision-guided weapons, communications equipment, GPS equipment, batteries, and other defense electronics. These give the United States military an enormous advantage. Rare earth metals are key ingredients for making the very hard alloys used in armored vehicles and projectiles that shatter upon impact.
  • Renewable Energy: Solar panels, Hybrid automobiles, wind turbines, next-generation rechargeable batteries, bio-fuel catalysts.
  • Manufacturing: High strength magnets, metal alloys, stress gauges, ceramic pigments, colorants in glassware, chemical oxidizing agent, polishing powders, plastics creation, as additives for strengthening other metals, automotive catalytic converters
  • Medical Science: Portable x-ray machines, x-ray tubes, magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) contrast agents, nuclear medicine imaging, cancer treatment applications, and for genetic screening tests, medical and dental lasers.
  • Technology: Lasers, optical glass, fiber optics, masers, radar detection devices, nuclear fuel rods, mercury-vapor lamps, highly reflective glass, computer memory, nuclear batteries, high-temperature superconductors.


Metals such as cadmium, lead are often used in manufacturing plastic and over time can enter coastal waters. These are acutely harmful for coastal wildlife and humans.Different kinds of plastic releases different kinds of metals  that may release when exposed to water and UV lights.

What are the challenges in accessing Critical minerals?

  • Deposits in geopolitically sensitive regions: Reserves are often concentrated in regions that are geopolitically sensitive or fare poorly from an ease of doing business perspective.
  • Controlled production:  A portion of existing production is controlled by geostrategic competitors. For example, China wields considerable influence in cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo through direct equity investments and its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Agreements in advance from outside: Future mine production is often tied up in off take agreements, in advance, by buyers from other countries to cater to upcoming demand.

MineralsA step taken by Indian government for sourcing strategic minerals

  • For sourcing of strategic minerals, the Indian government established Khanij Bidesh  India Limited (KABIL) in 2019 with the mandate to secure mineral supply for the domestic market.

 India Rare Earths Mission

  • Industries in India have urged to set up a Mission, manned by professionals, like the India Semiconductor Mission and make their exploration a critical component of the Deep Ocean Mission plan of the government.
  • It would seek to encourage private sector mining in the sector and diversify sources of supply for these strategic raw materials.
  • The industry group has mooted making rare earth minerals a part of the ‘Make In India’ campaign, citing China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative that focuses on new materials, including permanent magnets that are made using rare earth minerals.

Why such move?

  • Though India has 6% of the world’s rare earth reserves, it only produces 1% of global output, and meets most of its requirements of such minerals from China.
  • In 2018-19, for instance, 92% of rare earth metal imports by value and 97% by quantity were sourced from China.

What lies ahead?

  • There is a need to harness the potential of the country’s own rare earth reserves.
  • This would help build domestic capability and broad-base supply sources for such an important and strategic raw material.


Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch