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Rare earths: the new oil in 2011

Right now, you are viewing the results of rare earths. They are used in monitors, mobile phones and many other daily applications. Crucially, they are also essential for most new green energies too, such as solar panels. So we all need them. But 97% of the world's supply rests currently in the control of one country. How will this play out? We ask an expert in the area.

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The few elements on the periodic

table which makes hybrid vehicles,

electric vehicles, wind turbines,

solar panels, MRI machines,

and a number of those clean

energy technologies, possible.

Today, China provides 97%

of the world’s rare earth materials.

Not only do they provide

the rare earth material,

they also provide the final application.

They make the turbines, the battery

technologies and the electronics.

Rare they aren’t. If you took a shovel

and dug a hole in your back yard,

you’d probably find rare earth.

We have more than enough supply,

potentially, today.

It became a story.

Well, stories bring confusion,

especially in a new science area.

What is rare though, is finding

them in economic quantities,

in terms

of the concentrations required

because there are

rather unique technologies

to extract what you’re looking for.

Prices have risen over the last

several years on rare earth

as new applications

were coming into being,

and more recently the Chinese

have imposed export quotas

on the supply of their rare earth.

They wish to improve

their environmental practices.

They also have a very large

growing demand internally

and want to satisfy

that domestic demand first.

It’s not a matter of price,

but of availability.

At times, the market got

caught up in some of the prices.

The prices could be managed.

It is strategic.

New technologies and directives are

to implement

green energy technologies,

get off oil and clean up

the environment, et cetera.

There have been

political incidents recently,

with a fishing boat incident

in Japan and China,

that through administrative or policy,

slowed up the delivery of rare earth.

The Chinese have

been encouraging them

for the last five years. They have said:

We’re going to put embargoes,

we have our own demand,

hurry up and get going.

The private sector has been

doing the majority of this.

In terms of organisations

like Molycorp, Avalon,

Lynas Corporation,

a number of corporations

have recognised this need.

The Japanese companies,

the Toyotas and the Hitachis,

recognise it,

have been taking the action.

Governments have

been rising to the occasion:

Wait, there are broader issues.

strategic trade imbalances,

trade embargoes, currency, pricing.

There are ample resources.

This is a relatively small sector,

anticipated by 2015

to run about 185,000 tonnes a year,

not a very large one, and by four, five,

maybe half a dozen producers

in the West should be ample

to drive further technology.

This is not copper,

this is not diamond,

and it’s end use,

it’s the value added it gives,

the enabling capabilities it brings

to these other technologies.

Even if you found a reserve today

it takes 10 to 20 years

to bring it into production.

On a good day.

The few elements on the periodic

table which makes hybrid vehicles,

electric vehicles, wind turbines,

solar panels, MRI machines,

and a number of those clean

energy technologies, possible.

Today, China provides 97%

of the world’s rare earth materials.

Not only do they provide

the rare earth material,

they also provide the final application.

They make the turbines, the battery

technologies and the electronics.

Rare they aren’t. If you took a shovel

and dug a hole in your back yard,

you’d probably find rare earth.

We have more than enough supply,

potentially, today.

It became a story.

Well, stories bring confusion,

especially in a new science area.

What is rare though, is finding

them in economic quantities,

in terms

of the concentrations required

because there are

rather unique technologies

to extract what you’re looking for.

Prices have risen over the last

several years on rare earth

as new applications

were coming into being,

and more recently the Chinese

have imposed export quotas

on the supply of their rare earth.

They wish to improve

their environmental practices.

They also have a very large

growing demand internally

and want to satisfy

that domestic demand first.

It’s not a matter of price,

but of availability.

At times, the market got

caught up in some of the prices.

The prices could be managed.

It is strategic.

New technologies and directives are

to implement

green energy technologies,

get off oil and clean up

the environment, et cetera.

There have been

political incidents recently,

with a fishing boat incident

in Japan and China,

that through administrative or policy,

slowed up the delivery of rare earth.

The Chinese have

been encouraging them

for the last five years. They have said:

We’re going to put embargoes,

we have our own demand,

hurry up and get going.

The private sector has been

doing the majority of this.

In terms of organisations

like Molycorp, Avalon,

Lynas Corporation,

a number of corporations

have recognised this need.

The Japanese companies,

the Toyotas and the Hitachis,

recognise it,

have been taking the action.

Governments have

been rising to the occasion:

Wait, there are broader issues.

strategic trade imbalances,

trade embargoes, currency, pricing.

There are ample resources.

This is a relatively small sector,

anticipated by 2015

to run about 185,000 tonnes a year,

not a very large one, and by four, five,

maybe half a dozen producers

in the West should be ample

to drive further technology.

This is not copper,

this is not diamond,

and it’s end use,

it’s the value added it gives,

the enabling capabilities it brings

to these other technologies.

Even if you found a reserve today

it takes 10 to 20 years

to bring it into production.

On a good day.

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