Articles in Category: Public Policy

The Rare Earths Monthly Metals Index (MMI) rose by 1.7% for this month’s reading.

January 2022 Rare Earths MMI chart

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China consolidates trio of rare earths units

As Beijing has sought to control its domestic metals production in the form of state-directed company consolidation, it has also done so in the rare earths sector.

According to the state-run Xinhua, China established the China Rare Earth Group Co., Ltd. late last month in the country’s Jiangxi province.

Aluminum Corporation of China, China Minmetals Corporation and Ganzhou Rare Earth Group Co., Ltd. established the new company jointly.

Companies aim to develop REE-making technology

Last month, Energy Fuels Inc., the U.S.’s top producer of uranium, announced a memorandum of understanding with Nanoscale Powders LLC to develop novel technology for the production of rare earth element metals.

“We believe this Technology, which was initially developed by NSP, and will be advanced by the Company and NSP working together, has the potential to revolutionize the rare earth metal making industry by reducing costs of production, reducing energy consumption, and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Energy Fuels said in its announcement. “Producing REE metals and alloys is a key step in a fully integrated REE supply chain, after production of separated REE oxides and before the manufacture of neodymium iron boron magnets used in electric vehicles, wind generation and other clean energy and advanced technologies.”

Among its other operations, Energy Fuels produces mixed rare earth element carbonate. It also recovers uranium from natural monazite sands.

“The Company is also moving quickly toward producing REE Oxides at the Mill using proven solvent extraction technologies,” the firm added. “The Mill has over 40 years of experience producing uranium and vanadium oxides using SX technology.”

Companies, industry groups weigh in on Section 232 neodymium magnet probe

Last September, the Department of Commerce announced the initiation of a Section 232 investigation covering neodymium magnets.

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India is trying to save some export bucks in the new year where specialty steel is concerned.

In 2022, India plans to focus on increasing per capita steel consumption enhancing steel raw material security.

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India seeks investors under PLI scheme for specialty steel


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In line with its announcement in mid-2021, the Government of India (GoI) recently invited applications from investors looking to invest under the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for specialty steel. The deadline for all submissions is March 29, 2022, as per the Ministry of Steel announcement. The incentive payout could well be over U.S. $840 million over five years for those companies participating in the scheme.

Specifically, specialty steel is a variety of the alloy that is enhanced by coating, plating, heat treatment, etc., to transform it into high-value steel for numerous strategic sectors, such as defense, space, power and automobiles, among others.

With the PLI scheme, India aims to become less dependent on special steel imports into India.

The PLI scheme aims to promote the manufacture of specialty steel grades in India. Furthermore, it seems to help the steel industry rise to the top of the value chain through technology development.

The broad five target categories for the scheme are: coated/plated products, high-strength/wear-resistant steel, specialty rails, alloy steel products and steel wires, and electrical steel.

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Chinese authorities recently presented a draft plan to reduce heavy metal emissions by 5% by 2025.

As noted previously here, the move comes after Beijing moved to stabilize surging coal prices. The government moved to increase both coal imports and domestic output.

The Dalian coking coal price surged to $694 per metric ton in late October. However, the key steelmaking input has plunged by approximately 33% since then. Coking coal this week week fell to $464 per metric ton.

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China’s metals emissions plan

China map

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The government posted the plan on the Ministry of Ecology and Environment website, inviting the general people to comment.

The plans includes language indicating it will take efforts to eliminate obsolete and excess capacity in the heavy metals sector, Chinese tabloid the Global Times reported.

China will accelerate the transfer of professional electroplating companies to special industrial parks, the Global Times reported.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Much of China’s emissions come from coal-fired power generation.

In October, as we noted in previous reports and the Monthly Metal Outlook (MMO), Beijing moved to stabilize the coal market amid supply fears. As a result, China increased imports and ramped up domestic output.

Long road ahead on emissions

China’s State Council, however, seems a little skeptical about the new anti-pollution targets.

A report by news agency Reuters recently said in a report that China had a long road ahead on environmental protection.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that according to the State Council, while there had been some improvement in the country’s ecological situation since the launch of its anti-pollution campaign, it would be tough to tackle pollution and ensure that carbon emissions peaked in 2030. Furthermore, China has also pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

Data by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment show that China’s emissions of heavy metals in waste water decreased from 167.8 tons in 2016 to 120.7 tons in 2019. That marked a decline of 28%, the Global Times reported.

Some of the heavy metal pollutants on China’s control and prevention list include lead and mercury. Those are largely used by the electroplating industry, the chemical manufacturing industry and the leather tanning business.

Pollution problem

Environment pollution has been troubling China for a long time. A study by a USC-led team in 2020 illustrated the severity of the problem.

The team had found that emissions from coal-fired power plants in China were “fertilizing” the North Pacific Ocean with a metal nutrient important for marine life.

“This work shows fossil fuel burning has a side effect: the release of iron and metals into the atmosphere that carry thousands of miles and deposit in the ocean where they can impact marine ecosystems,” said Seth John, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of Earth sciences at USC Dornsife. “Certain metal deposits could help some marine life thrive while harming other life.”

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Inflation is currently a hot topic on Wall Street and in Washington. For many, it’s a much more immediate issue than other major issues, like the impact of climate change.

A recent Financial Times post in the paper’s Trade Secrets newsletter posed a somewhat controversial but not inappropriate question: could removing tariffs be the answer to lowering inflation?

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Inflation and tariffs

inflation definition highlighted

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Tariffs are certainly in the spotlight, the Financial Times suggests.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai was apparently asked by reporters in a roundtable last week if removing the Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports was now under consideration. The U.S. Consumer Price Index showed a 6.2% gain in October from the previous year, its fastest increase since 1990. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair, acknowledged this week that removing the tariffs would provide a one-off supply chain cost reduction that would “make some difference.”

Inflation is clearly a concern. However, why would you conflate one issue – protecting domestic intermediate product manufacturing – with the separate issue of wider economic inflation?

Then and now

There is little evidence that the original Trump tariffs resulted in inflation in the wider economy. Certainly, within the metals supply chain costs were passed directly down the line. Costs filtered down from either importers or by domestic mills opportunistically raising prices to the level of imports. But the impact proved relatively minor on the cost of a finished washing machine or an earth mover, the Financial Times reported, citing research results.

In our currently much more supply chain constrained and inflationary economic environment, removing the tariffs would result in a one-off modest drop in prices for many goods. The post makes an observation that savings rates remain high. The public has not spent all the savings accumulated during the lockdowns. Furthermore, the inflationary global logistics constraints abated. As such, demand in a constrained environment is likely to persist for some time.

In short, inflation isn’t going away any time soon.

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This morning in metals news: U.S. President Joe Biden signed the over $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law Monday; meanwhile, import prices rose by 1.2% in October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today; and, lastly, manufacturers’ and trade inventories increased in September.

MetalMiner has launched a full suite of precious metals as part of the MetalMiner Insights platform. This includes a complete suite of catalytic converter precious metals, which are particularly useful for automotive end-use applications.

Biden signs infrastructure bill

city skyline

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In a ceremony Monday, President Joe Biden signed the infrastructure bill most recently passed by the House of Representatives on Nov. 5.

The bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, includes $550 million for infrastructure improvements, from roads and bridges to electric grid improvements.

“This law makes this the most significant investment in roads and bridges in the past 70 years,” Biden said during remarks on the South Lawn on Monday. “It makes the most significant investment in passenger rail in the past 50 years and in public transit ever.

“So, what — what that means is you’re going to be safer, and you’re going to get there faster, and we’re going to have a whole hell of a lot pollution — less pollution in the air.

“The bipartisan law will modernize our ports, our airports, our freight rail to make it easier for companies to get goods to market; reduce supply chain bottlenecks, as we’re experiencing now; and lower cost for you and your family.”

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a look back at the week that was and the metals storylines here on MetalMiner, including softening steel prices, the House’s passage of the over $1 trillion infrastructure bill and more:

steel production

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Week of Nov. 8-12 (steel prices, infrastructure bill and more)

  • Limited inventory and semiconductor shortages continue to weigh on U.S. automotive sales.
  • The House of Representatives voted to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act last Friday. President Joe Biden will sign the bill during a ceremony Monday, Nov. 15.
  • MetalMiner’s Nichole Bastin delved into recent copper market trends.
  • Steel prices have started to soften.
  • Earlier this week, we broke down the infrastructure funding categories within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • U.S. steel capacity utilization fell to 83.4% last week, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported.
  • Meanwhile, U.S. construction spending dipped in September, the Census Bureau reported.
  • A strong aluminum market has been a boon for Novelis, as reflected by its most recent quarterly report.
  • The Consumer Price Index rose by 0.9% in October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Furthermore, the index is up by 6.2% over the last 12 months.
  • The Greenland parliament this week voted to ban uranium mining and exploration, effectively halting the Kvanefjeld project.
  • Automotive sales in China fell by 9.4% year over year in October, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers reported.
  • The Global Precious MMI rose by 5.8% for this month’s reading.
  • Lastly, German firm Aurubis AG announced plans to invest €300 million to build a metals recycling plant in the U.S.

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After months and months of debate, the House of Representatives on Friday voted to pass an over $1 trillion infrastructure bill to repair the country’s roads and bridges, improve the rail system, and expand clean water access, among other investments.

The vote proved bipartisan, with a number of Republicans voting in favor of the bill. Ultimately, the bill passed the chamber by a vote of 228-206.


Newport Coast Media/Adobe Stock

The spending package includes funding for a variety of critical infrastructure, from roads and bridges to broadband and electric grid improvements.

“Generations from now, people will look back and know this is when America won the economic competition for the 21st Century,” President Joe Biden said.

So, what’s in the bill, exactly?

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Funding for roads, bridges

Although the country’s roads and bridges did not get as much traffic as usual on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 — with many workers trading their commute to the office for remote work — motorists these days are seeing traffic levels return to pre-pandemic levels.

On that front, the bill includes $110 billion in funding for roads and bridges. Furthermore, the White House said the funding will go in part toward rebuilding the country’s “most economically significant” bridges, plus thousands of smaller bridges.

According to a report earlier this year by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, more than 220,000 U.S. roads and bridges are in need of repair or replacement.

“ARTBA finds that while the number of structurally deficient (SD) bridges declined 2.5 percent last year to 45,000, the number of bridges falling into fair condition grew more than 3,600 to almost 295,000,” the association said.

“At the current pace, it would take 40 years to repair the current backlog of SD bridges.”

Further driving the point home, the American Society of Civil Engineers in March gave U.S. infrastructure a C- grade.

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This morning in metals news: the House of Representative on Friday passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, sending the bill to the desk of President Joe Biden; meanwhile, the American Iron and Steel institute reacted to the infrastructure bill’s passage; and, lastly, nonfarm payroll employment rose by 531,000 in October.

MetalMiner has launched a full suite of precious metals as part of the MetalMiner Insights platform. This includes a complete suite of catalytic converter precious metals, which are particularly useful for automotive end-use applications.

House passes $1.2T infrastructure bill


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After a long and winding road, the House of Representatives voted to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

The bill includes funding for roads, bridges, broadband, lead pipe replacements and the electrical grid, among other things. The bill passed Friday by a bipartisan vote of 228-206.

In comments Saturday morning, President Joe Biden said the bill helps put the U.S. on the right path to win the “economic competition” of the 21st century.

AISI comments on infrastructure bill

The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) touted steel’s role in the infrastructure bill’s projects.

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This morning in metals news: the U.S. and E.U. have struck a deal that will see to the former resuming imports of duty-free steel and aluminum from the E.U.; battery storage applications have shifted, the Energy Information Administration explained; and, lastly, compensation costs increased during Q3 2021.

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US, EU reach deal on Section 232 tariffs

tariffs text on top of US currency


In a move toward deescalating transatlantic trade tensions that have simmered since the Trump administration imposed Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs in 2018, the Biden administration announced a deal over the weekend that will see to the U.S. once again importing duty-free European steel and aluminum.

In March 2018, former President Donald Trump used Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, citing national security concerns. Canada, Mexico and the E.U. initially had exemptions to the tariffs. However, those exemptions eventually expired.

As a result, tensions between the U.S. and E.U. grew, as the latter imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods.

On Saturday, however, the parties announced a step toward trade deescalation.

“The agreements announced today delivers on President Biden’s vision to repair relationships with our European partners while also helping to ensure the long-term viability of our steel and aluminum industries, the communities they support, and most importantly, the workers in these industries on both sides of the Atlantic,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said. “In addition to the EU eliminating the retaliatory tariffs against the United States, we have agreed to suspend the WTO disputes against each other related to the 232 disputes.

“With this dispute behind us, we are in a stronger position to address global overcapacity from China with an enhanced enforcement mechanism to prevent leakage of Chinese steel and aluminum into the U.S. market. And the deal is a significant win on one of President Biden’s top priorities – fighting climate change.”

The U.S. will resume importing duty-free free aluminum and steel from the E.U. “in line with historical trade flows.”

Changing battery storage applications

Battery storage applications have shifted, the Energy Information Administration reported today.

For example, utility-scale battery storage for frequency regulation accounted for 59% of total battery capacity reporting this use.

“Frequency response is a service that maintains grid frequency as close to 60 hertz (Hz) as reasonably possible,” the EIA said. “Deviations below 60 Hz can lead to protective generator trips that result in a subsequent decline in system stability. Batteries are particularly well suited for frequency regulation because their output does not require any startup time and batteries can quickly absorb surges.”

Compensation costs rise

Compensation costs during the quarter ending in September rose by 1.3%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Wages and salaries increased by 1.5% from June 2021. Meanwhile, benefit costs increased by 0.9%.

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Talk of trade meetings are usually met with a yawn and click to the next news item. However, last week’s meeting between the E.U. and the U.S. in Pittsburgh may be one event worth following.

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.

E.U., U.S. and the fate of Section 232

tariffs text on top of US currency


The inaugural Trade and Technology Council (TTC) meeting was attended by both Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, while the EU delegation included trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis.

So, in theory at least, that is enough political heft to have meaningful negotiations.

And what is there to negotiate, you may ask? In short, those Trump-era U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminium.

Back in 2018, former President Donald Trump imposed hefty duties on imports of steel 25% and aluminium 10% from Europe and other countries based on national security grounds (using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962). While a solution has been reached with Canada and Mexico, there isn’t one with Europe, a recent Financial Times report states.

Back in May this year, the two sides reached a detente. Europe agreed to delay the ratcheting up of its retaliatory tariffs on clothing, bourbon, and motorcycles until Dec. 1.

But the clock is ticking.

E.U. trade chief Dombrovskis is says the E.U. needs to decide what it’s going to do about that deadline by early November.

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