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Global Demand For Rare Earths On The Rise

Nov - 8 - 2012

You’re living in the 21st century, and life wouldn’t be the same without rare earth metals. Hybrid cards, iPhones, notebooks, and numerous products are functioning due to these metals. These metals include rare earth elements, 17 elements in the periodic table.

A report by the Congressional Research Service shows that the global demand for rare earths is estimated to be 136,000 tons per year, and projected to increase to at least 185,000 tons per year by 2015.

The rising demand is coming from high-tech and renewable energy industries which can’t function without these metals. Metals such as terbium, dysprosium and Neodymium are necessary ingredients in computer hard drives and wind turbine magnets. Rare earths are also used in nickel-metal hydride rechargeable batteries, fuel cells, iPhone screens and many other products.

Metals such as neodymium, which has no substitute in low-weight magnets for generators and electric motors, are expected to be explored successfully. However, heavy rare earths, such as dysprosium, are hard to explore.

Three companies are ramping up production to complement the growing demand. The first one is Molycorp. On August 27, it announced the start-up on its new Project Phoenix heavy rare earth concentration facilities. At these facilities, production of heavy rare earth concentrate from freshly mined Mountain Pass ore will take place, which will then be processed into high-purity heavy rare earth products. The company is also expected to begin producing next-generation sintered NdFeB permanent rare earth magnets early next year.

The second company Great Western Minerals Group. On August 30, the company announced it was on track to finish off the refurbishment of rare earths mine Steenkampskraal, in the North Cape province of South Africa, by half of 2013. The surface refurbishment project is moving towards the scheduled completion with the installation of the containment ponds, and the finalized decision of electrical equipment, headgear and winder.

If you look at the Lynas Malaysia profile of Lynas Corporation, the company is ramping up production. Lynas announced in August that it has completed Phase 1 of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant in Malaysia. The company has also undertaken to ensure that all the materials, which are causing major concerns to the Malaysian public community, are removed through conversion into co-products, and are in accordance with all the country’s regulations and international conventions to be exported in an acceptable form for the international markets. The Phase 2 expansion of the LAMP is also under construction, and is expected to complete early by 2013.

Due to their widespread need in global manufacturing and no substitutes, rare earths are set to increase in value overtime.

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