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The trade war between the US and China raised concerns about global metal trade where both the sides used multiple measures in their fight. China is the leading producer of most rare earth metals and it used its status in the trade negotiation against the US that is its leading buyer. The rare elements are difficult to process and get in the desired concentration in the ores and some have radioactive properties, which require assorted procedures for storing and processing. China continues to control 85 to 95 per cent of the production and supply of such metals. There are multiple uses of some of the elements which are used in cell phones, portable computers, cameras, pollution control equipment and others.
The common precious metals are rarest metals found in the earth’s crust that include iridium, palladium, gold, platinum, rhodium, osmium, ruthenium, tellurium and rhenium.
Californium 252 is one of the rarest – man-made elements, which sell for $30,000,000 a gram. Only 8 gm of the ultra-expensive element can be found on the earth – while it can last in the earth’s environment for not more than 5 years.
In natural metals gold, iridium and palladium can be found in the price range of over $1300 to $1400 an ounce, platinum value (per ounce) is $860.95, silver (per ounce) is around $22 and Osmium is worth over $400 a troy ounce.
The platinum group metals are chemically similar to each other and they are widely used in many everyday applications. They are often found in the form of mineral deposits in the automatic catalytic converters, investments, jewellery and advanced electronics. Gold and platinum are used in fields like jewellery due to high lustrous and resistance properties and in medical devices, dentistry, aeronautics and weaponry. These are known for hardness and low reactivity.
Iridium has a super high melting point and is one of the densest of rare metals, which is also corrosion-resistant. It is widely used in automobiles and medicine fields.
Osmium is most stable and can be found in mines along with copper-nickel and iridium. Osmium can be a by-product of the mines and was earlier used in fountain pen nibs and record players due to the electrical properties. Iridium is rare on earth but can be found in abundance in the universe, hence, is linked to extraterrestrial impacts responsible for bringing the metal into the earth’s atmosphere.
Palladium is widely used as a catalytic converter. Ruthenium is used to harden platinum/ palladium alloys as it is highly resistant, in terms of, electrical conductions and can be used for plating.
Rhodium was exchange-traded at stock markets and its price was at the peak level of USD 10,000 per ounce in 2008. It was then one of the most expensive metals on the earth. It is mostly available in a brittle form for physical investment and not in the form of bars of coins.
Tellurium is mostly found with gold, lead or copper. It is very difficult to estimate its reserves but is widely used in the production of fibre optic cables and the modern telecommunication systems.
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