<<At some point, rare earth elements will be plentiful again...speculators may be shooting themselves in their collective foot.>>
I think they figure that out late last fall, which is why the price started dropping. Prices got so high that more and more engineers at all levels of the food chain started looking for alternatives, Which may demand drop. All of a sudden, The speculators got worried they'd be stuck with a bunch of metal in a warehouse, so they started dumping inventory onto the market.The price of both neodymium and dysprosium are severalfold higher than they were in 2010, even, but they're down 30 and 40% from where they were at the height last summer.
Good points, Kristin. Saudi Arabia is facing a similar fate. They have voiced concerns that if oil stays above $80 per barrel, the world will seek alternatives. They apparently wanted to keep oil down at $80, but they have been unsuccessful. At the high rates, they're correct, the world will find alternatives.
It's amazing the influence that commodity markets is playing on design and manufacturing. It would be great if supply and demand, rather than external factors, would be the driving force in the cost of materials such as rare earth magnets. Anything close to an 8-9% increase in the price of servomotors for 2012 would be significant.
I agree, Roddalitz. The advantage of replacing the materials is that they could find a replacement that is readily available and perhaps superior. If there's one thing we're learned from oil, shortages will just keep coming back and coming back.
Rare Earth "Shortage" ???Rare earths are NOT rare, to the contrary, most are more common in the earth's crust than Copper. However, 'rare earths' are in the Lanthanum group of elements and therefore their ores are often comingled with radioactive elements such as Uranium and Thorium.As environmental rules were enacted in the 70's and 80's, rare earth refining was foolishly outsourced to nations without pesky EPA and OSHA regulations.
Our "Free Trade" policy exacerbated this outsourcing, so that today 90% of the refining capacity has migrated to nations that frankly don't care about worker exposure to radiation or what environmental damage is wrought when the tailings are dumped in streams and rivers.
A 'Green Tariff' on imports which are produced in facilities which do not abide by effective environmental or workplace safety regulations would level the playing field between offshore and domestic suppliers, and the increased competition would prevent artificial 'shortages' of these strategic materials.
RE materials, such as neodymium and dysprosium (magnet material), are very rare in practical minable reserves (period). Yet, the small number of electric vehicles and wind turbines with high performance PM motors has been one reason for making the price of these RE materials increase dramatically. If EV and Wind turbines become more common as anticipated, there is question whether all the practical minable reserves (including reopening mines) can satisfy the demand. This is the subject worth looking into!
The green tariff is a pretty good idea, David. I could create a playing field that is closer to level. Yet I can't see it happening in our current political environment. Like any commodity, rare earths will sort themselves out as mines across the world are sparked into action by higher prices.
The thing to keep in mind is that the mineral pricing is a two way street, especially when you are talking about the fact that we in the US have some of the largest deposits of some of these rare earths. The associated problem, and something that we can do do something about to minimized the games that other countries are playing, is to encourage the development of our own natural resources. The current environment is not conducive to that.
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