Rare Earths in a waiting position
Minmetals, one of China’s leading rare earths producers has announced a cut in production in
numerous factories due to economic losses.
Although prices for some of the rare earth elements are showing some uptrend these days. Indeed higher prices have been reported for Cerium and Lanthanum, both dominantly being used by the catalyst industry. And the same applies for so-called magnet metals praseodymium and terbium.
The increasing popularity of electric vehicles will lead to a significant growth in demand for neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium. Terbium could also benefit from this as similar to Dysprosium does it contribute to increase the temperature stability in permanent magnets. For Europium, however, Roskill does expect a further downtrend as new phosphors will continue to use less Europium in their formulations. Rhenium at a crossroads For some time now prices for Rhenium have shown a continuous downtrend. However, this indeed applies for the spot market only which has been faced with some over-supply, mainly coming from secondary material. But due to a lack of profitability some of these factories have been closed what should help the market settle down. In fact the big consumers usually cover most of their Rhenium demands in long-term agreements with the producers of primary material. In the long term, however, there is no doubt that the expected growth in aircraft industry will lead to a significant growth in demand for this metal.
Outlook Rare Earths
Roskill Information Services have published the 16th edition of their Rare Earths report on global industries for supply and demand. In the short- to mid-term growth will be driven by catalysts and magnets. But despite growth in catalysts the needed elements cerium and lanthanum will remain in substantial surplus. It is, however, a different situation with the magnet metals, where demand is going to outstrip supply.
The increasing popularity of electric vehicles will lead to a significant growth in demand for neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium. Terbium could also benefit from this as similar to Dysprosium does it contribute to increase the temperature stability in permanent magnets. For Europium, however, Roskill does expect a further downtrend as new phosphors will continue to use less Europium in their formulations.
New application for indium
A brilliant new blue pigment that contains yttrium and indium has entered the market recently. Its unique characteristics offer a lot of advantages to the industry for a wide range of coatings and plastics. Due to its increased infrared reflectivity it may play an important role in energy efficiency. Used in paints it can help keep buildings cool. In contrast to many other pigments it is made of nontoxic ingredients only and has a very good durability.
Resources outlook into 2035
On July 4 th , 2016 a conference of DER (Deutsche Rohstoffagentur) was held in Berlin to present results about the long term supply of critical raw materials.
In a study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Economics, the Fraunhofer Institute for System and Innovation Research has provided an overview on the criticality of certain raw materials for Emerging Technologies. For some metals the demand for selected technologies could even be more than double primary production in 2013.
Consequently, there is some concern that supply will not keep up with this growing demand.
For which metals a short supply is expected?
Many of so-called Emerging Technologies will push up demand of strategic by-metals. From today’s perspective a short-supply is expected mid- to long-term for a number of those metals. For that reason, there is some threat for price explosions as already seen in 2010 and 2011. According to the Fraunhofer Institute the biggest threat is on Dysprosium, Neodymium, Praseodymium, Rhenium, Tantalum and Terbium.
What is driving demand?
The inexorable growth in population and prosperity will push up the hunger for High-Tec products. Apart from this demographic change as well as increasing age of our society will drive demand for such products. In the years ahead autonomous driving will bring back mobility to older people who today are scared to drive in everyday traffic.
What exactly are Emerging Technologies?
Among others they include renewable energies, LED and OLED, Aerospace, information and communication technology as well as micromechanics. In the field of energy technology, it is mainly wind and solar technology where the scientists see biggest potential. This also applies for Lithium-ion high-performance storage devices. As most sensitive to critical raw materials, Fraunhofer has identified electro mobility. No matter if hybrid, electro or fuel cell drives.
Rising demand for displays
Approximately 80% of today’s Indium supply is consumed for display technologies. It is predicted that by 2035 the amount of such ITO (Indium-Tin- Oxide) displays will double to 5 billion units. No matter if being used for LCD television, smartphones and tablets or for next generation OLED displays. They are all based on the same coating technologies.
Germanium – a critical metal
Today about 35% of the world’s supply is used in infrared optics. Alongside the fields of electronics, solar and phosphors about 20% is being used for fibre optics. However, due to the rapid rise in information and communication technology the proportion of fibre optics will become as high as 81% in 2035. Consequently, there will be a significant risk for short-supplies.
In this context it is important to know that about 65% of the world’s Germanium is produced in China.