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Cerium: Multipurpose Rare Earth Element

Prepared as Background Material by the Staff of Lynas Corporation

Cerium exists as the most abundant and one of the most widely useful of the chemical elements known as rare earths. Although found in significant amounts in the earth’s crust, these elements are “rare” because scientists typically find them difficult to extract from the their ores. First identified in the early 19th century and named after the asteroid Ceres, cerium occurs as a soft, silvery substance in its pure state that turns iron gray in most commercial applications. With an atomic number of 58, it holds a key position among the lanthanides on the periodic table, and when combined with its sister element, lanthanum, plays an important role in the manufacture of catalytic converters.

Moreover, cerium and other rare earths perform vital functions in the high technology and energy industries, including as a glass-polishing and glass color-removal agent in optical equipment manufacturing, a catalyst in petroleum refining, an alloy, and, under high pressure, an effective semiconductor. In combination with lanthanum and other relatively flammable rare earths, it holds a place as an essential component of Misch metal, used to create lighter flints. Carbon arc and projection lights for movie sets also rely on cerium for their manufacture.

A fast-growing company dedicated to the environmentally and socially responsible mining and marketing of rare earth elements, Lynas Corporation operates a mine in Western Australia and a plant in Malaysia.

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