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Bolsonaro wants Brazil to cash in on the world’s rare-earth obsession

Brazil is home to vast deposits of so-called rare-earth minerals, which are used in a variety of modern technological applications. Extracting these metals, however, poses grave risks to the environment

Bolsonaro wants Brazil to cash in on the world's rare-earth obsession
Tapira mining site, in Minas Gerais, owned by Vale. Photo: Edson Silva/ Folhapress

While silicon may have been responsible for the revolution in the microchip industry, the human race would never have reached such a degree of sophistication in electronics if it was not for a class of often overlooked elements.

The 15 lanthanides — displayed offset below the rest of the periodic table — along with scandium and yttrium make up the so-called “rare-earth elements,” which are present in a wide range of devices used today, from smartphones to jet engines. And these metals are now more in demand than ever.

A report from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) revealed, in...

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