Articles in Category: Minor Metals

China’s rare earth (RE) oxides market is a controlled market — or at least it is today.

There was a time it was the mining equivalent of the wild west with multiple operators. There were once zero controls and, as a result, the sector’s operations led to massive environmental damage.

The authorities stepped in, consolidated the operators and enforced licences.

Become part of the MetalMiner LinkedIn group and stay connected to trends we’re watching and interesting metal facts.

Managing the rare earth oxides market

rare earths loaded on cargo ship in China

tab62/Adobe Stock

Today, Beijing’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) with the Ministry of Natural Resources sets quotas every half year for how much can be produced.

Market prices remain volatile, though. A half yearly quota set by government officials is not the optimal system to match supply, demand and prices. As the economy bounced back last year, the rare earths market was caught on the hop and prices rose strongly.

Some light rare earths, like praseodymium-neodymium (PrNd) oxide, reached multiyear highs.

As a result, the MIIT relaxed quotas this year. It raised the quota from 66,000 tons in the second half of 2020 to 84,000 tons in the first half of 2021. Prices continued to rise as global demand roared back. China’s exports are also controlled (the country still produces something like 90% of global supply). Grateful producers elsewhere have made up the shortfall.

MetalMiner tracks Chinese rare earths prices on a daily basis and produces a rare earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) displayed above. After rising strongly in Q1, the index took an unexpected reversal in April and again in May, as my colleague Fouad Egbaria posted at the time.

The index has dropped again for the start of June. This suggests the MIIT’s loosening of production limits has had the desired impact and availability is proving sufficient to meet demand.

Last year, rare earth element refiners operated at just 45% of capacity, the Global Times reported. Even with higher output this year, there is still substantial spare capacity. With exports likewise controlled, producers’ enjoyment of higher output permits look like they will be mitigated by lower prices.

Each month, MetalMiner hosts a webinar on a specific metals topic. Explore the upcoming webinars and sign up for each on the MetalMiner Events page.

rare earths

metamorworks/Adobe Stock

In a rare example of joined up governmental thinking, the announcement by Pensana Rare Earths that it has submitted a planning application for a $125 million rare earth oxide refining facility. The facility would be near Hull in northeast England and would plug a gap in an ore-to-finished-turbine manufacturing landscape developing rapidly in the U.K.’s northeast.

U.K.’s rare-earths-to-turbine supply chain

In November, Innovate UK, a government agency, awarded funding in November to Less Common Metals (LCM), a rare earth alloys producer. The funding is aimed at conducting a feasibility study into establishing a fully integrated supply chain for rare earth permanent magnet production in the U.K.

The sense of momentum is already palpable.

Pensana would produce rare earth oxides used to manufacture the powerful magnets that drive the motors of offshore wind turbines and electric vehicles. The firm cites the proximity of one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms at Dogger Bank as an attraction.

However, in reality it is the turbine factory GE has proposed that is the real draw.

Metaphorically sitting in between Pensana and GE’s turbine plant would be LCM based in Ellesmere Port near Liverpool and the only rare earth magnet alloy producer in Europe, according to the Financial Times. Encouraged by the U.K. government’s Innovate UK, LCM is also moving into metal production. It would no doubt welcome a domestic raw material supplier and a turbine customer, both nearby.

You want more MetalMiner on your terms. Sign up for email updates.

Read more

The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) gained 18.2% for this month’s index value.

January 2021 Rare Earths MMI chart

Become part of the MetalMiner LinkedIn group and stay connected to trends we’re watching and interesting metal facts. 

$2.3T pandemic aid, government spending package includes rare earths research funds

Late last year, President Donald Trump signed a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and government funding package that included more than $800 million in funds for rare earths research and development.

Trump signed an executive order in September 2020 calling out the threat to dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals. The president also signed a similar executive order in 2017 that called for the secretary of the interior to identify critical minerals. Ultimately, the process produced a list of 35 critical minerals.

Section 7001 of the 5,593-page bill outlines funding related to critical minerals.

The bill text calls for the secretary of energy to “develop and assess advanced separation technologies for the extraction and recovery 17 of rare earth elements and other critical materials from coal and coal byproducts” and “determine if there are, and mitigate, 20 any potential environmental or public health im21 pacts that could arise from the recovery of rare 22 earth elements from coal-based resources.”

The bill called for authorization to appropriate $23 million for the aforementioned efforts in fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

MP Materials revenue rises 52%

In late November, California-based MP Materials released its Q3 and year-to-date financial results.

The firm announced Q3 revenue of $41 million, marking a 52% year-over-year increase.

Read more

aluminum ingot stacked for export

Olegs/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news: the Department of Commerce announced the rollout of a new Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis system; meanwhile, in steel, ArcelorMittal announced added capacity in Canada for the production of automotive structural and safety components; and finally, the United States Geological Survey reported mine waste in the eastern Adirondacks could be a source of rare earth element materials.

Upcoming negotiation on your aluminum buy? Make sure you know how your service centers will negotiate with you.

DOC announces creation of Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis system

A development for which the U.S. aluminum sector has long been waiting is finally here.

The Department of Commerce announced today the imminent launch of a new Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis (AIM) system. The system will facilitate the DOC’s collection and publication of aluminum import data.

The system is modeled after the system for steel imports, the Steel Import and Monitoring Analysis (SIMA) system.

“AIM represents yet another step forward for the Administration’s America First trade agenda,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said. “The new program will enable Commerce and the public to better detect potential transshipment and circumvention involving aluminum products – helping to ensure that domestic producers can compete on a level playing field.”

The DOC said the Aluminum Import Monitoring and Analysis system will be available online beginning Jan. 25, 2021.

Read more

The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) surged 26.9% for this month’s reading.

December 2020 Rare Earths MMI chart

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.

European Raw Materials Alliance initiative aims to strengthen supply chain

The European Commission recently launched the new European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) earlier this year.

Last week, ERMA kicked off the first “cluster” aimed at strengthening the domestic supply of rare earths magnets and motors.

“The first Cluster of ERMA deals with one of the most critical value chains for many key EU industrial ecosystems: rare earth elements (REE) used in high performance magnets and motors,” ERMA said in a Dec. 9 release. “ERMA supports a multi-sourcing strategy of REEs from feasible, responsible sources (primary and secondary) to ensure resilient supply chains and increase European industrial competitiveness. In addition, Europe’s capacities need to increase in magnet making as well as resource efficient and smart product design for the Circular Economy.”

Over 100 ERMA partners participated in the first meeting — held online — of the Rare Earth Magnets and Motors Cluster.

“The first draft of a rare earth action plan for Europe developed over the last months by a group of stakeholders from the REE sector was also presented during the meeting,” the ERMA release continued. “The work on this action plan continues within the ERMA Rare Earth Magnets and Motors Cluster through specific task forces that will identify challenges and regulatory bottlenecks along the value chain and develop recommendations and actions for Europe.”

Read more

The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) held flat once again this month.

November 2020 Rare Earths MMI chart

The MetalMiner 2021 Annual Outlook consolidates our 12-month view and provides buying organizations with a complete understanding of the fundamental factors driving prices and a detailed forecast that can be used when sourcing metals for 2021 — including expected average prices, support and resistance levels.

China export control law to take effect Dec. 1

China’s legislature last month approved a new export control law that will go into effect Dec. 1, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported last month.

“China may take countermeasures against any country or region that abuses export-control measures and poses a threat to China’s national security and interests, according to the law,” Xinhua reported.

“The law also clarifies that technical documentation related to the items covered by the law is also subject to export-control stipulations.”

The law could impact exports of rare earths, for which China overwhelmingly dominates the global market.

As we have noted in this column before, the U.S. — especially the Pentagon — has long sought to diversify its rare earths supply chain. The U.S. earlier this year approved Phase 1 contracts with MP Materials and Lynas Corporation for work to develop rare earths separation facilities in the U.S.

South Korean-Australian joint project produces praseodymium, neodymium

Continuing the theme of various countries’ efforts to wean themselves off of rare earths dependence on China, Forbes recently reported on a joint venture between South Korea and Australia that has showed some promise.

The joint mineral processing project, Forbes notes, has so far produced neodymium and praseodymium. The two elements are used in permanent magnets in electric vehicles and, for praseodymium, renewable energy apparatus, like wind turbines.

Read more

In this month’s Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) news: Texas Congressmen introduced the RARE Act; the European Commission unveiled its own raw materials action plan; and Chinese rare earths to the U.S. could plunge this year.

The Rare Earths MMI gained 8.3% for this month’s MMI reading.

September 2020 Rare Earths MMI chart

Sign up today for Gunpowder, MetalMiner’s free, biweekly e-newsletter featuring news, analysis and more.

Texas Congressmen introduce bill aimed at curbing U.S. dependence on China for rare earths

Congressmen Lance Gooden (R-TX) and Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX) recently introduced the House’s version of a bill that seeks to decrease the U.S.’s dependence on China for rare earths.

The bill, dubbed the Reclaiming American Rare Earths (RARE) Act, aims to establish tax incentives for domestic production of rare earths.

“The United States is more dependent than ever on the importation of the resources that drive our economy, enable us to build advanced technology, and ensure our national security,” Gooden’s office said in a release. “Thirty-five of these rare earth minerals are designated by the Department of Interior as ‘critical’, and we source fourteen of them entirely from foreign suppliers. China is a leading supplier for twenty-two of the thirty-five. The RARE Act is specifically designed to change that.”

Earlier this year, Sen. Ted Cruz introduced similar legislation, dubbed the Onshoring Rare Earths Act of 2020, or ORE Act.

In late July, Australian rare earths firm Lynas Corporation announced it had signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense for Phase 1 work on a heavy rare earths separation facility in the U.S.

Like U.S. RARE Act, Europe presents critical minerals action plan

In a similar vein, the European Commission also recently announced its own action plan related to its raw materials supply security.

The plan also includes an updated list of those materials deemed critical.

The 2020 list includes heavy and light rare earths elements, in addition to raw materials like coking coal. New materials added to the 2020 list that were not on the 2017 list were titanium, lithium, bauxite and strontium.

The list contains 30 materials, up from the 11 materials included on the 2011 list.

“The supply of many critical raw materials is highly concentrated,” the European Commission said in a release. “For example, China provides 98 % of the EU’s supply of rare earth elements (REE), Turkey provides 98% of the EU’s supply of borate, and South Africa provides 71% of the EU’s needs for platinum and an even higher share of the platinum group metals iridium, rhodium, and ruthenium. The EU relies on single EU companies for its supply of hafnium and strontium.”

Chinese rare earths exports to the U.S. could be on the decline

The South China Morning Post reported China’s rare earths exports to the U.S. could fall by anywhere between one-fourth and one-third this year.

For instance, Adamas Intelligence forecast global consumption of NdFeB alloys could fall by as much as 9.3% this year. The figure comes on the heels of growth at a CAGR of 6.4% from 2015-2019.

However, Adamas did offer a silver lining.

“However, with the ongoing re-opening of key demand markets through the end of 2020 and into 2021, we expect demand for most end-uses and applications to rebound strongly in 2021 and 2022 and thereafter rise steadily through the end of the decade and beyond,” the research firm said.

Actual metals prices and trends

The Chinese yttrium price rose 1.8% month over month to $32.83 per kilogram as of Sept. 1. Terbium oxide 9.0% to $722.31 per kilogram.

Neodymium oxide surged 16.1% to $52,896.23 per metric ton.

Europium oxide fell 2.7% to $31.37 per kilogram. Dysprosium oxide fell 2.3% to $259.74 per kilogram.

Want more from MetalMiner? We offer exclusive analyst commentary in our weekly, monthly, or quarterly updates – all metals, no sales fluff. 

U.S. and Canada

ehrlif/Adobe Stock

This past week’s metals news covered everything from silver price movements to the copper price rise’s slowdown to the reimposition of tariffs on some Canadian aluminum.

We also broke down President Donald Trump’s recent proclamation with respect to reimposing the Section 232 tariff on some Canadian aluminum. MetalMiner’s Stuart Burns delved into the concern expressed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford: could Trump target Canadian steel next?

As our readers know well by now, Trump imposed Section 232 tariffs on imported steel and aluminum of 25% and 10%, respectively, in 2018. During the course of negotiations with Canada and Mexico over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — the successor to NAFTA — the U.S. rescinded the tariffs in May 2019.

Now, at least for unalloyed aluminum from Canada, the tariff is back.

The Aluminum Association called the tariffs the “wrong approach.”

Furthermore, the tariff comes in a time when beverage makers are struggling with an aluminum can shortage.

For the buyers out there, if you are under pressure to generate cost savings in aluminum, steel or anything else, make sure you are following these five best practices.

But the tariff storyline is but one thread in the world of metals.

Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was:

MetalMiner Week in Review, Aug. 10-14

Want more from MetalMiner? We offer exclusive analyst commentary in our weekly, monthly, or quarterly updates – all metals, no sales fluff. 

The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose 9.1% for this month’s reading.

Read more

The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) ticked up 4.8% this month.

Read more

1 2 3 92