Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 186, Issue 3, pp 1499–1513 | Cite as

State of rare earth elements in different environmental components in mining areas of China

  • Tao Liang
  • Kexin Li
  • Lingqing Wang


China has relatively abundant rare earth elements (REEs) reserves and will continue to be one of the major producers of REEs for the world market in the foreseeable future. However, due to the large scale of mining and refining activities, large amounts of REEs have been released to the surrounding environment and caused harmful effects on local residents. This paper summarizes the data about the contents and translocation of REEs in soils, waters, atmosphere, and plants in REE mining areas of China and discusses the characteristics of their forms, distribution, fractionation, and influencing factors. Obviously high concentrations of REEs with active and bioavailable forms are observed in all environmental media. The mobility and bioavailability of REEs are enhanced. The distribution patterns of REEs in soils and water bodies are all in line with their parent rocks. Significant fractionation phenomenon among individual members of REEs was found in soil–plant systems. However, limited knowledge was available for REEs in atmosphere. More studies focusing on the behavior of REEs in ambient air of REE mining areas in China are highly suggested. In addition, systematic study on the translocation and circulation of REEs in various media in REEs mining areas and their health risk assessment should be carried out. Standard analytical methods of REEs in environments need to be established, and more specific guideline values of REEs in foods should also be developed.


Rare earth element Chinese REE mining areas Environmental behavior 



This study was sponsored by the Key Project of the Knowledge Innovation Program of IGSNRR (2012ZD002), the Special Fund for the Public Interest Research of China MEP (no. 201209012), the National Key Project for Basic Research (no. 2012CB417004), and the National Natural Scientific Foundation of China (no. 41171390).


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CASBeijingChina

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