Definition of Rare Metals

A rare metal refers to ① a specific metal that is and will be in high industrial demand, among metals that are rare, economically valuable, yet difficult to extract, or ② a metal whose supply is unstable and unpredictable because its reserve and production are confined to only a handful of countries or its entire supply depends on a specific country.

In Korea, 35 types and 56 metal elements are defined as rare metals given their current demand and future industrial demand that is expected to grow along with technological innovation.

Types of Rare Metals

Types of Rare Metals
Types Classification Elements Numbers of Types
Rare Metals Alkali/alkali earth metals Li, Mg, Cs, Be, Sr, Ba 6
Semi-metal elements Ge, P, As, Sb, Bi, Se, Te, Sn, Si 9
Iron group elements Co, Ni 2
Boron group elements B, Ga, In, Tl, Cd 5
High melting point metals Ti, Zr, Hf, V, Nb, Ta, Cr, Mo, W, Mn, Re 11
Rare earth elements REE (희토류원소): 17종 1
Platinum group elements Ru, Rh, Os, Pd, Ir, Pt 1
Totals 35

Note 1) Platinum group elements (six types) among noble metals are classified into the first group of PGM.
Note 2) Seventeen rare earth elements are classified into the first group (RRE, Rare Earth Element).

Criteria for Classification

Classification criteria vary depending on regions (countries) and historical time periods.

Japan: 31 types of rare metals

  • Five elements less than Korea (excluded Magnesium, Cadmium, Phosphorus and Silicon)
  • 16 rare earth elements (excluded Scandium, unlike Korea) and 2 PGM elements (Palladium, Platinum)

USA: 33 types of rare metals

  • Excluded six elements (Magnesium, Nickel, Phosphorus, Arsenic, Antimony and Tin)
  • Added five elements (Calcium, Rubidium, Thorium, Uranium and Plutonium)

Comparison between Rare Metals and Petroleum

Comparison between Rare Metals and Petroleum
Features Petroleum Rare Metals
Limits Reserves: one trillion and 237.9 billion barrel
Outputs: 29.8 billion barrel ('07)
Reserves: 1.8 billion and 50 million tons
Outputs: 52 million tons ('06)
* 10 core elements
Reserves: 172 million tons
Outputs: 2.7 million
Distribution Middle East/Asia: 61% Top 3 countries' share of reserves/outputs
- Elements over 60%: 20 elements/25 elements
- Elements over 90%: 6 elements/8 elements
Price volatility 1st ('73) and 2nd ('78) oil shocks
Steep increase in oil price in 2007 and 2008
Frequent price hikes in different metals
Price hikes in most cases from 2002 to 2008
Differences Crisis awareness High individual awareness of crisis Relatively low awareness
Chain of values Simple value chain Complex value chain
Impossible with current technology Diverse technologies of regeneration