The Impact of the Ukrainian-Russian War on Rare Earth Elements and the Space Industry


The ongoing Ukrainian-Russian war has had far-reaching consequences across various industries, including the global space sector. The shortage of Rare Earth Elements (REEs), vital for advanced equipment production, has emerged as an unanticipated crisis. With the space industry heavily reliant on these elements, disruptions in the supply chain have impeded progress in space missions and created logistical challenges.

The Rare Earth Elements Shortage

Rare Earth Elements, consisting of 17 scarce minerals essential for modern equipment, are integral to the functioning of guidance systems, lasers, radars, and sonars. Currently, the United States heavily depends on China for the majority of its REE supply, with logistics chains also extending through Russia. The strain on these supply routes, caused by the war, has led to a scarcity of REEs for specific projects, affecting the space industry significantly.

Implications for the USA, China, and Ukraine: The United States relies on China for the import of 31 out of 35 strategic raw materials, including eight REEs. With 14 materials completely absent and inadequate domestic extraction, any disruptions in logistics pose a threat to space programs and can trigger economic crises. While the United States previously sourced palladium from Russia, the war has imposed sanctions, highlighting the need for diversified resource suppliers.

Opportunities from Ukraine

Despite the challenges, Ukraine holds potential as a strategic resource provider. Besides existing supply routes, Ukraine boasts substantial deposits of lithium oxide, a crucial component in electric battery production. Expanding collaborations and sourcing materials from Ukraine could enhance resource security and mitigate the impact of REE shortages on the space industry.

What we think

The Ukrainian-Russian war has caused a shortage of Rare Earth Elements, adversely affecting the space industry. This highlights the need for the United States and other global stakeholders to diversify their supply chains and reduce dependence on a single source. Exploring alternative resource-rich regions such as Ukraine can help mitigate the challenges posed by REE scarcity and ensure the resilience of the space industry.

By diversifying supply chains, exploring new sources, fostering collaborations, and promoting resource efficiency, Global Materials can contribute to ensuring the resilience and sustainability of industries reliant on REEs. Together with industry stakeholders, Global Materials can help navigate the challenges and pave the way for a secure and stable supply of critical resources.