Rare Earth Elements Markets Worldwide

Jun 1, 2011
172 Pages - Pub ID: SB6066525
Abstract Table of Contents Search Inside Report Related Reports

This research report presents an in-depth analysis of the production, market, development, applications, and trends for rare earth elements (REE). The 17 different rare earth elements are used extensively in a wide variety of applications to make technologies lighter, stronger, more efficient, and easier to use. Product applications run the gamut from the very technical to the mundane. For example, REEs are used to make super strong permanent magnets that increase the efficiency of wind generators while significantly reducing their weight. They are used extensively in electric vehicles to increase battery capacity and reduce weight (and they are also essential in producing catalytic converters for gasoline powered automobiles). REEs are used in medicine for small, portable X-ray devices as well as lasers that can treat glaucoma and other conditions. In some instances REE directly treat some forms of cancer. They make the phosphors that give color to television sets and LED lighting as well as flints for cigarette lighters. These are but a few of the many current uses of rare earth elements and new applications are being developed on a routine basis, such as for the treatment of water and for magnetic refrigeration.

Contrary to their name, rare earth elements are no so rare. They are found in abundance worldwide and are more common than tin in some cases and almost as abundant as copper. All rare earth elements are far more abundant that silver or gold. However, to date only a relatively few deposits have been found with sufficient REE concentrations to make mining them economical. The United States produced most of the world’s REE up until about 1985, at which time China began to become a major supplier. Today, China produces about 97% of the world’s rare earths. Problems stemming from this (virtually) single source include supply constraints, reduced shipments and outright embargos, environmental problems, and rising prices. Since the 1950’s there was very little exploration for new REE sources (except in China) but many countries and mine operators are now actively seeking new REE deposits and developing existing ones.

This report provides a comprehensive assessment of rare earth element production, demand, applications, and economic and cost considerations that have limited production and exploration for new sources, their growth over the past several years, potential opportunities for additional growth, and an assessment of developing technologies, alternatives, and market trends. Projected REE growth through 2020 is provided including discussion of economic conditions, environmental impacts, business demand, stakeholder concerns, and government activities as they affect growth rates. The report also profiles producers of rare earths and the strategies they have adopted to maximize growth and profitability.

Scope and Methodology

This report includes both primary and secondary research. Secondary research data have been obtained from government sources, trade association publications, business journals, and company literature. Statistical data are included for industry revenue, on a global, regional, and country-level scale. The market size for rare earths is projected from 2011 to 2020.

Potential applications, development trends, environmental issues, government behavior, and business considerations are also reviewed and analyzed. Market size estimates and forecasts are based on government and secondary sources, and the impact of factors such as health and environmental concerns, economic considerations, and business demand for rare earth oxides and metals.

How You Will Benefit from this Report

If you drive a car, invest in energy (alternative or otherwise), design electronic systems, work in healthcare, manufacture lighting systems, play sports, or analyze satellite photography you are affected by rare earth elements. Their use in myriad everyday products affects virtually everyone to one degree or another. The quest for alternative energy systems, particularly wind generation systems and battery storage, are highly dependent upon the use REEs. Space technology, defense systems, computer memory, DVD players, and other advanced electronics are also reliant on REEs. Whether you are a manufacturer trying to plan future production requirements, an electric utility or independent power generator planning for the use of alternative energy and the Smart Grid, an importer, exporter, or retailer of consumer electronics, or a small business that could be impacted by the supply and use of rare earth elements, this report provides a comprehensive package of information and insight about rare earth element production, supply, and future growth that are not offered in any other single source. You will gain a thorough understanding of why rare earths are necessary, what technologies are most affected by their use, and how to make sense of a market dominated by a single source but looking to diversify at a breathtaking rate. You will also gain a thorough understanding of technology trends, particularly as they apply to alternatives to REE. Projected rare earth market growth through 2020 is also presented.

This report will help:

  • Research and Development Professionals remain abreast of emerging REE concerns, exploration initiatives, product applications, and the demand and development of REE alternatives.

  • Manufacturing production planners, alternative energy producers, and users of REEs understand where the REE market is headed, potential supply problems, political and geo-regional issues, and anticipated future REE costs. This report will provide an awareness of the REE market to help users react effectively to projected future market conditions by seeking alternative REE sources, modifying production processes and product composition, and projecting future requirements.

  • Advertising Agencies working with clients who manufacture products with REE, import or export products containing REE, or sell products using REEs to more effectively promote, inform, and market such products when faced with limited REE supplies and rising costs.

  • Retailers who sell consumer electronics, computer systems, sporting equipment, and other durable goods understand the potential effects on consumer demand should REE supply become problematic or if prices continue to increase.

  • Information and Research Center Librarians provide market researchers, brand and product managers, and other colleagues with the vital information they need to do their jobs more effectively.

  • Marketing Managers identify market opportunities and develop targeted promotion plans for products made with REEs.


Additional Information

Rare Earth Elements Market Value Expands as Supplies Contract

New York, June 28, 2011 - While demand continues to expand, rare earth (RE) element supplies have begun to contract largely due to reduced export quotas from China. Since 2005 China has restricted rare earth exports, reducing them each year. Thus far in 2011, they have been reduced by 35 percent from 2010. The 17 rare earth elements comprise the largest chemically coherent group of elements in the periodic table.

Since the beginning of 2010, RE prices have increased dramatically. Demand for rare earths continues to grow, particularly for alternative energy applications such as wind energy, battery storage, and hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) motors. Rare earths are also critical for myriad advanced technology systems and are essential materials for the manufacturing of consumer electronics such as cell phones, computers, display systems, and DVDs. Rare earth elements are also used as phosphors in LCD panels and fluorescent and LED lighting. REEs are widely used in batteries, ceramics, fuel cells, and superconductors. While REs are essential ingredients for these and other advanced technologies, they are also required for such things as flints for cigarette lighters.

The hybrid vehicle application market is perhaps the largest RE growth market. Demand for crude oil supplies is greater than the alternative energy technologies that are being developed. Increasing demand for crude oil supplies is also affecting the price of gasoline, which makes driving more expensive. In addition, the adverse environmental effects of fossil fuels are becoming more problematic as more automobiles are put in service. Hybrid and electric vehicle markets significantly impact rare earth demand because these vehicles use a considerable amount of rare earth materials in mass application.

For most of the 21st century, the size of the rare earth market was about $1 to $2 billion. With the recent and rapid price increases originating from Chinese export restrictions and absence of other RE resources, the value of this market is now about $10 billion, and is expected to keep rising. Historically, China began producing rare earths cheaply in large quantities in the 1990s. This market led to the Mountain Pass mine in California, which had been a preeminent ¬resource of REEs for over 50 years, to close down in 2002.

That the Mountain Pass mine is gearing up to reopen, set for late 2011, in the current RE market is not surprising. It will be the first non-Chinese rare earth mining operation to become operational in this new and competitive market. Presently, there are more than 150 other active projects worldwide seeking to develop new sources of rare earths. The time and money to develop a rare earth mine remain market challenges.

"Molycorp (the owner of Mountain Pass mine) needed $533 million in new funding in July 2010 to bring Mountain Pass back into active production - and that is for a mine that used to supply most of the world's needs for rare earth elements," says Bernie Galing, SBI Energy analyst and author of Rare Earth Elements Markets Worldwide, an SBI Energy market research report.

"And it can take up to 15 years to develop a site for mining. As a result, only a relatively few new REE mining operations will enter production before 2016. By 2020, however, a number of rare earth mines outside of China should be in operation. The shake out," says Galing, "is too many rare earth mines can adversely affect the entire industry by driving prices down. As such, only about half a dozen or so large rare earth mining operations(outside of China) will be sustainable over the long term. Long project development time and steep capital mean economic feasibility will be limited to only the highest producing mines."

SBI projects the demand for rare earths will increase through 2020 for all seventeen rare earth elements. Demand for rare earth magnets will be strong as large rare earth magnets are critical in the design of the most modern on- and off-shore wind turbines, both of which are seeing significant growth worldwide. Wind turbines development is estimated to grow at over 13 percent CAGR through 2020, while the hybrid and electric vehicle market is expected to grow almost 50 percent by 2015-2016.

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