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Credibility 101 - Or What The Rare Earth Elements Are NOT

Over at the RareMetalBlog a couple of months ago, we had a general discussion as to which elements should be considered as rare earth metals. The general consensus, both in that discussion, and elsewhere, is that they include the 15 lanthanoid elements and one or both of the elements yttrium and scandium.

What they do NOT include, we're pretty certain, are metals such as beryllium, cesium or rubidium, although to read a number of news releases in the past couple of months, you might not be so sure. For the record, beryllium is an alkaline earth metal, and cesium and rubidium are alkali metals [it might take approximately eight seconds or less to confirm these categories via the use of that new-fangled contraption, the search engine]. They also do not include the other elements mis-identified as rare earth metals with concerning frequency of late.

I can understand why the average man or woman in the street is not all that aware of the various elemental families within the Periodic Table - or why they should even care. I am less understanding of certain parts of the mainstream media who, having an obvious responsibility for disseminating factually correct information to their readers, seem on occasion to "wing it" on the "rare earth element fact-checking" front. Still - such journalists are not technical specialists, and so while they do not get a pass when they screw this stuff up, it's not entirely surprising - though I say this with weary resignation and apparently rather low expectations.

What I do not understand, what really is not excusable, is when junior mining and exploration companies get it wrong - folks who should know better, folks who really have no excuse for not knowing their rare earths from their alkaline earths. These are the folks apparently out there searching for the right stuff in the ground, who are supposedly evaluating their results and who then post the results for the world to see. While the vast majority of the explorers obviously get it right, in the past few months alone I've seen at least three or four companies in the minor metals space, make some basic and frankly egregious Periodic Table 101 errors - the latest [described in my second paragraph above] published just 36 hours ago.

I won't name names. It is not for me to publicly embarrass individual companies. It is entirely possible that the errors come from over-zealous investor relations firms who don't know the difference between rare metals and rare earth metals [my unsolicited advice: find one that does]. Whatever the reason though -  it only takes a few error-ridden press releases to damage the credibility of the management team signing off on them.

Even worse, is the further confusion sown into an already complex and confusing media and information space, one that is difficult enough when dealing with the accurate information, let alone the information that is not.