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Keywords

rare earth elements, hubbert curve, united states, china

Abstract

This paper intends to apply the Hubbert curve to the production of rare earth elements by the United States, China, and total global production. The goal of this research is to see if the production of rare earth elements follows the predicted production forecasted by the Hubbert curve and to observe if the curve can create usable predictions of future production. Global demand for rare earth elements has drastically increased in the modern era due to their unique properties. Global production has increased as well to meet this increased demand. Rare earth elements are a collection of seventeen chemical elements that are used in the production of advanced technologies. The demand for rare earth elements has increased in the modern era with new applications for them being discovered and the increasing demand for green energy which requires rare earth elements in its production. The United States was chosen to be examined due to its long history of producing rare earth elements. The United States was also the largest supplier of rare earth elements before China overtook them in rare earth element production. Ever since China became the top producer of rare earth elements, the United States’ production of rare earth has declined. Production reached zero in 2016 due to the lone company that mines rare earth elements in the country filing for bankruptcy. This caused their only mine to be put on care and maintenance. This meant that the United States had to import all of the rare earth metals it requires until the mine reopens or until new mines are created. China was chosen as the other country to analyze because it has the largest known reserves of rare earth metals and is the largest supplier of rare earth elements in the world market today. China’s supply of rare earth metals for the market is also affected by its own increasing demand for rare earth due to its rising industrial sector and their government trying to preserve their reserves of rare earth metals. It was concluded that observed REE production does follow the trend predicted by the Hubbert curve, but the Hubbert curve does not create accurate predictions of future REE productions due to its simplicity. The first section of this paper is a literature review that scrutinizes previous research done about rare earth elements and the Hubbert curve. The reasoning behind this analysis is to get a better understanding of the state of the rare earth elements market and to create a basis for the research of this paper to be conducted on. Correspondingly in this section, the equation of the Hubbert curve and the theoretical implications of its results will also be discussed. The data and regressions will be described that look at the application of the Hubbert curve to the United States’ rare earth element production, China’s rare earth element production and global rare earth production in the next section. The results of this research will be thoroughly described in the conclusion alongside what implications these results have as well. A bibliography citing all material used within this project will be the last part of this paper.

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