Kristen, thanks for the overview on rare earth metals and specifically the background on what's causing the shortages. I think the three scenarios you keyed in on at the end of your post could be really instrumental for engineers looking for alternatives to these materials or at least a strategy for lessening their dependence on them for their designs. Given the state of the world economy and global tensions, constant price spikes seem to be the new order. I'm sure I speak for our audience when I say I'd love to hear more about each of those three strategies and I'm hoping subsequent posts in your series hit on these tactics.
Nice article, Kristen. And it's an important subject. I know Molycorp had come back online -- now that rare earth elements command a significant price again, but I didn;t realize that dysprosium would not come online for years yet. I know Australian mines have come back online. Will Australia help with some of these shortages?
As apresher says, excellent article. This is the type of issue that forces design engineers to adapt an find alternatives. This is a good thing for all. Whether the price increases are due to supply shortages, environmental costs other factors, we are often forced to explore alternatives. Somtimes this efforts leads to better designs.
Kristin, thanks for a fascinating article. It was interesting to learn that the price increases were brought about by speculation, rather than the Chinese export limits. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.
Great article. We all know the effect of speculation in the oil market, but most of us never think about speculation in the rare earth materials market. The fact that neodymium speculation could create such volatility surprises me.
While working on a design we always strive to use components and materials that will be widely available throughout the life of a product. It's astonishing to see that we now must not only examine the actual supply, but also examine whether the material will be wildly traded by speculators because it becomes so popular that it has visibility to investors, instead of inventors.
@Rob Spiegel: Molycorp is planning to ramp up rare-earth production by the end of the year. There are insignificant quantities of dysprosium (Dy) and other heavy rare earths at their Mountain Pass deposit in California. The situation is a little better with the Mount Weld deposit in Australia, owned by Lynas Corp ( assuming they can get past the problems of rolling out their separation facility in Malaysia ) - but still, they will not be producing significant amounts of heavies. There are however some promising sources of heavies in Australia, including the Dubbo Zirconia Project owned by Alkane Resources; in the near term we should see some heavies from the Steenkampskraal mine in South Africa, owned by Great Western Minerals. But it will be a number of years until we have significant new quantities online. See www.rareearths.org for info on specific advanced projects that might be of interest.
Technology Metals Research, LLC
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