AEC Industrial Magnetics Manufacturing

4699 Interstate Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45246

What Are REEs?

Permanent & Electromagnets for Automation | AEC Magnetics

Rare Earth Disks 300The soundtrack from Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, a video game that's set in a Cold War in 2025, includes a great cut called "Rare Earth Elements." Coincidentally, rare earth elements (REEs) are actually a pawn in real life gamesmanship between the U.S. and China.  China is king of the REE mountain. It mines and makes about 90 percent of the world's REEs, and it has, at least tacitly, threatened to withold it from the U.S. to gain advantage in the tariff standoff between the two countries.

periodic table rare earthsWhat are REEs?  Rare earth elements, the 15 lanthanides, plus scandium and yttrium--see the periodic table to the left, for your convenience--are naturally-occuring elements that have unique properties, such as magnetism and phosphoresence. These are mined, processed and sold to manufacturers and governments worldwide. Some are made into the tiny permanent magnets enable our smartphones to have color screens, speakers and the ability to vibrate.  Electric vehicles and hybrid cars use permanent magnets in their batteries. Guided missiles and satellite systems use permanent magnets. China owns the market, no rare earths are mined in North America. 

Mountain PassRare earth minerals are plentiful. You can probably go out in your neighborhood and find all 17, but you'd have to dig an awful lot of dirt to get enough to make a permanent magnet.  The process is extensive, expensive and harsh on the environment, so you might not want to try this at home. In fact, no one does, or almost no one, except China. The only working U.S. site went bankrupt two yeas ago; located in Mountain Pass, California, mining has ramped up again but the product is shipped to China for production. is possible to recover rare earth elements from coal mining waste.  

Finding high REE concentrations in five U.S. coal basins so far is hopeful news for the U.S., given its REE dependence on China. You may read about it here. President Trump recently ordered the Pentagon to look for alternate sources of REEs since permanent magnets are so crucial to U.S. defense. There are other ideas to wean the U.S. from REE dependence in the works, some exciting discoveries, others changes, improvements and alternatives iin manufacturing. It is believed, however, that any disruption will be an inconvenience until other methods evolve.

Bill on phone office 300AEC Magnetics maintains very close relationships with the best, most trustworthy and dependable permanent magnetic materials suppliers in the world.  We work night and day to ensure the quality of materials, price and supply are the best the industry offers for its customers.  See our selection rare earth magnets and if you don't see exactly what you want or need, please call us. We are here to help you select the correct magnet. Our application specialists will save you time trying to figure out which magnet is best for the job.  We don't want you to spend your valuable time guessing, we want you to have the correct magnet for your application out of the box.

If it's magnetic, it's AEC!