Sept 24 Rare earth elements are used in a wide
range of consumer products, from iPhones to electric car
Rising tensions between China and Japan over an embargo on
rare earth elements may spell good news for miners looking to
fund projects outside of China.
Here are some facts on this elusive group of 17 metals:
WHAT ARE RARE EARTHS?
Lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium,
samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium,
erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, yttrium.
WHAT ARE RARE EARTHS USED IN?
Rechargeable batteries for electric and hybrid cars,
advanced ceramics, magnets for electric car motors, computers,
DVD players, wind turbines, catalysts in cars and oil
refineries, computer monitors, televisions, lighting, lasers,
fiber optics, glass polishing, superconductors, and weapons.
THE iPHONE CONNECTION
Rare earths make for smaller, lighter batteries and motors.
The drive to miniaturization was first popularized by the Sony
Walkman personal cassette tape player. Rare earths are now key
to making handheld devices like Apple's iPhone and Research In
China uses 51 percent of the world's rare earths, while
Japan uses 17 percent. Global demand is forecast to grow
rapidly as demand for green products increases.
China produces over 90 percent of global supplies. China
mined 120,000 tonnes in 2008. Molycorp in California produces
3,000 tonnes per year, while Silmet Rare Metals in Estonia
produces 2,400 tonnes per year. There are small amounts of rare
earths mined in India, Malaysia and Brazil.
The demand for dysprosium, terbium, neodymium, praseodymium
and europium is set to grow by a minimum of 8 percent a year.
Electric vehicle demand for dysprosium, neodymium and
praseodymium is set to grow by an average of 790 percent in the
next five years.
MINES UNDER DEVELOPMENT, OUTSIDE CHINA
Great Western Minerals GWG.V, Steenkampskraal, South
Avalon Rare Metals (AVL.TO), Nechalacho, Canada
Molycorp MCP.N, Mountain Pass, U.S.
Lynas Corp (LYC.AX), Mount Weld, Australia
Arafura Resources (ARU.AX), Nolans, Australia
Sources: U.S. Geological Survey, company web sites, Byron
(Reporting by Julie Gordon; Additional reporting by Steve
Gorman and Sonali Paul; Editing by Michael Perry and Paul Tait)