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What Is Rhenium

Rhenium was discovered in 1925 and was the last naturally occurring stable element discovered. It is extremely rare and is usually found in a mineral known as columbite as well as in some ores like copper and molybdenum, and often in conjunction with platinum.

Rhenium is a metallic chemical element with a silvery-white appearance; it is quite heavy and dense and has the third highest melting point of any element. Commercially it is usually available in powder form. Protective clothing should be worn when working with rhenium as the powder can be an irritant and the fumes can cause dizziness.

What Is Rhenium Used For?

As it is a very rare element with low availability and is quite costly to mine (according to the average price exceeds US$6,000 per kilogram) rhenium has limited applications. It is mostly used with nickel superalloys in jet engines and as a catalyst in the chemical industry.

Due to its high melting point rhenium is used as a filament in photoflash lamps and in electrical contacts. Its isotopes are used in the treatment of liver cancer as they are radioactive.

Where Is Rhenium Mined?

Rhenium is extremely rare and does not occur in a pure native form, it is usually found with deposits of ore. The world’s largest rhenium reserve is in Chile where it is found amongst the copper ore deposits. Other countries producing rhenium are America, Peru and Kazakhstan.


With its rarity and high costs, rhenium is mainly used as an alloy and as a chemical catalyst. Found combined with ores, this metallic chemical element is part of the transition elements in the periodic table. Chile has the largest rhenium reserves in the world.

If you would like to learn more about minerals and mining visit our Mining and Metals page.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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