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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
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  • Company “Solves” REE Shortage… By Moving Manufacturing to China

    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.

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  • What the Auto Industry, Rare Earth Elements have in Common

    In a June 27 piece from Business Insider, Jim Powell, a technology and strategic metals analyst with Laurentian Bank Securities, attempts to clear up the confusion over the future supply and demand of critical metals. His interview with The Critical Metals Report highlights the struggle between China and the rest of the world over Rare Earth Elements (REEs). Powell explains briefly that the major demand for these elements is for use in “technology-type applications” such as “batteries for cars” like “GM’s Volt.”

    The U.S. Administration has been advocating for greener technologies in the automotive industry over the past few years, encouraging American consumers to do their part by purchasing plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles.  During his State of the Union speech in January, President Obama announced that he wants 1 million of these alternative cars on our roads by 2015.

    What does the U.S. auto industry have to do with Rare Earth Elements? The current grip-hold China has on the REE market could easily impact the cost of the products the President is urging American manufacturers to make more of and asking consumers to purchase. Rare Earth elements essentially make all of these emerging technologies work.

    Rare Earths are used in a number of automotive applications such as catalytic converters and other auto parts. The batteries that power plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles (such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf) require some REEs in combination with Neodymium permanent magnets, which is a light Rare Earth element. However, manganese (not a REE but 100 percent imported by the U.S. due to lack of our own deposits) is most commonly found in newer lithium-ion batteries.

    Right now, China provides 97 percent of global Rare Earths production.  The U.S. provides a fraction of one percent.  But shift to known reserves – the potential to provide future supply – and the numbers tell a different story:  China has 36 percent of known reserves, with the U.S. accounting for 13 to 15 percent.

    With China keeping more and more of its Rare Earth elements off of the world market, how does the Administration expect the automotive industry to reach its goal in four years without exploring the resources available to us in America?

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  • Rhodia, Areva team up to develop REE and Uranium

    Rhodia Rare Earth Systems, one of only two rare earths producers in Europe, has entered into a cooperative agreement with French nuclear group Areva, according to AFP. The agreement between the two companies spells out a plan to jointly develop and exploit previously untapped deposits containing a mix of uranium and rare earths elements (REEs). [...]
  • Video: An academic perspective on rare earths

    The rare earth topic we have been covering on our blog is no longer a niche topic discussed solely by industry types and commodity traders. The latest issue of Technology Review India, published by MIT, also features the rare earth crisis and its implications.  While access to the full version of the article requires a [...]
  • China tightens rare earths export quotas

    Adding fuel to the fire of the rare-earth crisis we have been following on our blog, the Australian Associated Press reports that the Chinese government announced today its decision to further tighten rare earths export quotas, previously applied to “pure” rare earths only, to include iron alloys containing more than 10 percent of rare earths [...]
  • Is Alaska the key to solve U.S. Rare Earths crisis?

    Recent decisions by China, the world’s leading rare earths producer, to tighten export restrictions and raise taxes have set off a flurry of global activity as nations are looking for ways to respond to these new realities. In the United States, policy initiatives aimed at securing an ongoing supply of these mineral materials are being [...]

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