Another example of what happens when one country dominates supply of a resource, California-based phosphor maker Intematix, relying on rare earths to produce phosphors used for fluorescent light bulbs and white LEDs, has decided to move some of its manufacturing to China. The news comes on the heels of Japanese metals fabricator Showa Denko announcing the relocation of its production site to China in an effort to mitigate steep cost increases resulting from Chinese REE export restrictions.
In the mid-to long run, the Chinese geopolitical rare earths power play will undoubtedly accelerate efforts to develop rare earths outside of China (see for example our recent posts about the Alaska priority permits or the promising REE prospecting site in Nebraska). In the short term, however, we’ll likely see more manufacturers follow the rationale of “if the metals won’t come to you, you’ll have to go to the metals.”
U.S. policy makers should see Intemax’s decision for what it is – a bellwether move for other critical metals and minerals, many of which we could source at home but currently fail to develop, thus perpetuating our dependence on foreign resources. Once again, one need to look no further than page six of the USGS Mineral Commodities Summaries – it sure isn’t a pleasant story, but it should be required reading.