Followers of ARPN have known since long before the U.S. Government issued its first comprehensive Critical Minerals List in 2018 that rare earth elements are in fact critical minerals.
However, more often than not, the group composed of scandium, yttrium and the lanthanides has been treated as a homogenous group considered critical for producing electronics, optical technologies, alloys and high-performance magnets.
While their indispensability is widely acknowledged, the homogenous grouping fails to do the individual REEs justice and prevents a much-needed discourse on the supply chains for these materials – a fact that was recognized by USGS in its latest update for the U.S. Government critical minerals list, in which it individually listed each REE as a separate Critical.
Amidst the group of 17 is one element, which according to Jack Lifton, editor in chief, critical minerals for InvestorIntel.com, and a seasoned technology metal expert, may be one of the most critical of all metals – dysprosium.
In a recent column for InvestorIntel.com, Lifton argues that while he pointed to the importance of the metal a little over a decade ago, dysprosium today is “more critical than ever and just as scarce as ever.”
According to Lifton, without dysprosium “the modern automotive powertrain would lack the ability to have reliable stable electric motors and generators ‘under the hood’ where dysprosium-modified neodymium-boron-magnets provide high coercivity (magnetic field strength) maintenance through repeat cycles of heating and cooling, and, also, the miniaturization of the automobiles power options, power steering, and a variety of motor management sensors.”
But while the automotive industry was aware of the material’s importance and a shortfall was beginning to form, today, the approximately 1000 metric tonnes of dysprosium produced annually come almost exclusively from China, according to Lifton.
With the growth of the automotive industry and especially the EV segment relying on “large electric traction motors of the rare earth permanent magnet type” the shortfall is not only here, it is alarming, and in light of its supply scenario, there is good reason the material makes an appearance on the list of “Defense Criticals”promulgated earlier this month by ARPN.