SYDNEY (Reuters) - China has curtailed exports of rare earths, causing offshore consumers to consider alternative supply sources for the minerals which are used in everything from TV screens and computers to mobile phones and toys.
China supplies about 95 percent of the world’s rare earths.
Following is a list of winners and losers if China’s rare earths exports dry up:
* Industrial manufacturers in Japan and Korea, which consumed a fifth of the world’s rare earths last year, would be hardest hit by reduced Chinese exports. Sectors that would bear the brunt of restricted supplies would be makers of metal alloys, magnets, catalytic converters and polishing compounds.
* In the United States, manufacturers of catalytic converters would suffer the most, followed by the metal alloying and ceramic-making sectors.
* European Union consumers would face shortages mainly in manufacturing of catalytic converters, given the high concentration of auto-making in the region.
* Some new and mothballed rare earths producers would likely get the green light to proceed if China’s exports dried up. Many of these projects did not make economic sense while China completely dominated the market. The major projects are:
* Mountain Pass, located in the United States and owned by Molycorp Minerals (MCP.AX): once the world’s largest producer of rare earths, the mine ceased removing ore from its open pit in 2002. Molycorp has continued some production from existing stocks and plans to restart mining an annual rate of 18,000 tonnes in 2012.
* Hoidas Lake (Canada, Great Western Minerals Group GWG.V): the project is at an advanced exploration stage with start-up tentatively scheduled for post-2014 at an annual rate of 3,000-5000 tonnes a year.
* Nechalacho (Canada, Avalon Ventures Inc (AVL.TO)): early exploration and costing work is underway to develop a project in about five years producing 3,000-5,000 tonnes a year.
* Mt Weld (Australia, Lynas Corp (LYC.AX)): due to start up in 2011, initially producing about 10,500 tonnes, rising to 21,000 tonnes annually in 2013.
* Dubbo Zirconia (Australia, Alkane Resources (ALK.AX)): could be activated as early as 2013 at an annual rate of 2,500 tonnes.
* Nolans (Australia, Arafura Resources (ARU.AX)): tentatively scheduled to be in production in 2014 and operating at an annual rate of 20,000 tonnes.
* Kvanefjeld (Greenland, Greenland Minerals & Energy (GGG.AX)): the mine is being designed to produce 20,000 tonnes of rare earths as a co-product to uranium. No start date has been disclosed.
Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Mark Bendeich