Cerium, for example, is the 25th most abundant element at 68 parts per million, very similar to copper in fact. What gives them the name Rare Earth Elements is a result of their dispersal in the earth’s crust. REE are typically widely dispersed and rarely found in concentrated and economically viable mining concentrates. Hence it was this apparent scarcity that gave them the name rare earths.
The first such mineral to be discovered was gadolinite. This is a compound of cerium, yttrium, iron, silicon and other elements. This mineral was first extracted from a mine in the village of Ytterby in Sweden and many of the rare earth elements bear names derived from their location.
Modern mining techniques and the big demand for the Rare Earth Elements in the electronic industry has now made it much more economically viable to mine. The important Rare Earths are:
China was quick to grasp the importance of many of these metals back in the 90’s when it out-priced global competition, causing massive mining / refining closures in developed Western nations.
They understood early that the advancement of technology was not only dependent on typical base elements, but rather on rare metals which can maintain higher durability ratings.
Today, China control over 95% of the world’s and are firmly set on keeping the status quo. Over the last year, they’ve had a slash fest. In 2010 they cut a whopping 72% of their RIM export quotas for the last part of the year. In December, they again whittled 35% off the quota for the first half of this year. Some analysts believe that China will completely shut out the world by 2014 in order to secure their own demand and manufacturing dominance. Obviously this is creating somewhat of an international crisis. Nations with technology backbones are currently taking heed and hedging themselves with alternative suppliers – and they’re limited.
Only recently, The Korea Times reported that their Ministry of Knowledge and Finance is slated to add Indium to its critical substances list because the nations’ heavy hitters like Samsung and LG, are dangerously dependent on the element. Rare metals are one of the most important basic necessities for all of the world’s industries. For example, German industry, is one of the top exporters of cars, medical equipment and many other products, is acutely aware of the increasing prices and limited, diminishing, supply of these high demand rare industrial metals.
One of the major influences affecting the demand and supply of these rare metals is the booming Chinese local and export market. It is well known that China has signed many mining contracts with countries in Asia, South America and Africa in order to maintain and control access to these high demand metals.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of the Federation of German Industry forecast that the demand for these rare metals and their prices will continue to rise due to the economic growth of the BRIC countries: (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The BRIC’s need a huge amount of these rare industrial metals for the construction of their infrastructure and industry.
China alone is one of the biggest consumers of rare industrial metals. According to assessments by experts, China will need about one quarter of all the rare industrial metals available globally for its future economic growth and will need to import these metals by 2013.
Due to the fact that the exploitation of new deposits can take many years, mining enterprises are unable to increase their supply in the short run. The shortage of supply, bottlenecks and the current upheavals in global financial markets will help boost rare industrial metal prices for the foreseeable future.