Substitution continues to plague the rare earths market as our high-tech metals index fell from its already low, entrenched lull.
Many manufacturers have found non-rare earth elements to use in battery, magnet and other applications or found a way to reuse and extend the life of the rare earths they already buy.
Rare Earths Light
Lanthanum, dysprosium, cerium oxide and europium oxide have all steadily fallen in price since 2011. These lighter rare earths were certainly helped down the slope by China ending its export quotas for rare earths but, honestly, the slide happened way before that thanks to substitution and reuse.
Cerium, for instance, is used to polish glass and silicon wafers commonly used in photovoltaic solar panels. Solar manufacturers have found ways to collect it and reuse it. Simple reuse has cut demand for cerium by 70%. This has been happening since roughly 2012 and cerium’s price has fallen in lockstep as purchasers stretched their cerium further.
The monthly Rare Earths MMI® registered a value of 24 in July, a decrease of 7.7% from 26 in June and close to its all-time low of 23 last year. Yes, our lowest index fell nearly 8%.
Molycorp Files Chapter 11
This substitution problem is the bane of the only US-based rare earths miner, Molycorp, Inc., whose business is based almost entirely on light rare earths. The heavy rare earths, such as yttria, are scarcer and have more specific uses. It came as no surprise, then, to regular MetalMiner readers that Molycorp filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month.
Molycorp has secured interim financing and is still operating, paying employees and selling product to clients such as Siemens AG for its wind turbines, but, long-term, it will need to sell products that can’t be as easily substituted or reused if it is to survive.
Actual Rare Earths Prices, Light and Heavy
Europium oxide prices fell 16.1% to $209.34 per kilogram. After falling 8.6%, neodymium oxide finished the month at $42,674 per metric ton. The price of praseodymium neodymium oxide fell 7.4% to $42,191 per metric ton. A 5.9% drop over the past month left yttria at $5,153 per metric ton.
Following a 5.9% decline in price, samarium oxide finished the month at $2,577 per metric ton. The price of terbium oxide closed the month at $539.46 per kilogram after dropping 5.6%. A 5.1% decline for dysprosium oxide left the price at CNY 1,500 ($241.55) per kilogram. At $1,852 per metric ton, cerium oxide was down 4.2% for the month.
Following a 4.1% decline in price, neodymium finished the month at $56,845 per metric ton. After falling 3.8%, lanthanum oxide finished the month at $2,013 per metric ton. Praseodymium oxide prices fell 3.4% to $59,099 per metric ton. Terbium metal closed the month at $740.76 per kilogram after dropping 2.1%.
Rare earth carbonate traded sideways last month, staying around $4,026 per metric ton. Yttrium experienced a flat month, staying around $43.48 per kilogram.
The Rare Earths MMI® collects and weights 14 global rare earth metal price points to provide a unique view into rare earth metal price trends over a 30-day period. For more information on the Rare Earths MMI®, how it’s calculated or how your company can use the index, please drop us a note at: info (at) agmetalminer (dot) com.