Move Over China, Turkey Has All The Rare Earth Minerals Our EVs Need

A massive deposit of rare earth minerals recently discovered in Turkey could dramatically affect the electric car industry.

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Four old guys behind a podium and in front of a mine, wearing safety vests
These four dudes love two things: Safety vests and rare earth minerals.
Photo: Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources

Electric cars are awesome and will go a long way towards improving our air quality worldwide as they become more common, replacing internal combustion vehicles. Of course, getting from where we are now to a perfect utopian future with clean air and universal access to Enya music isn’t exactly a straight line, because making EVs requires a ton of resources — especially rare earth minerals, and many of those minerals reside in places like China.

That could be changing, though, as a massive deposit of rare earth minerals was recently discovered in Turkey, according to a report published on Wednesday by The Drive. The find’s size is slightly smaller than the estimated reserve in China, and it only gets better from there. The mineral stash in Turkey contains 11 of the 17 rare earth minerals, and they’re relatively close to the surface, meaning extraction should be cheaper and easier. Some experts are putting the total annual production of the Turkish sites to be around twice the estimated global demand in 2030.

That’s all rad, but what does it mean for you, anonymous EV shopper? Well, in theory, it means that the democratization of electric vehicles could happen sooner thanks to lower prices. It also means that manufacturers will have more choice in where they source their raw materials and, therefore, more stability. When it comes to materials sourcing for car companies, stability is a good thing — something we’ve really begun to appreciate during the current global semiconductor shortage.

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EV battery pack and motors in a factory
None of this — battery, motors, computers — happens without rare earth minerals.
Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance (Getty Images)

As to what it means for the country and, more importantly, the people of Turkey, that’s a little more complicated. The part of the world in which Turkey lives isn’t necessarily known as the most geopolitically stable, and this massive new cache of highly valuable natural resources could strain that stability further. Also, mining – particularly strip mining – isn’t exactly known for being gentle on the environment, which could have health impacts on the Turkish populace. Of course, that’s all wild-ass speculation, so we’ll have to see how things shake out.

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Other important resources for EVs – like lithium for battery cells – are also becoming more valuable, and therefore people are finding new places and techniques for extracting them. One especially cool example of this is a series of proposed lithium extraction plants for California’s Salton Sea that could not only drop lithium prices but also mean economic rejuvenation for one of California’s poorest communities. Hopefully, Turkey can expect the same.