The role of China in the market of Rare Earths require little introduction. It is the restrictive policies of trade of China that makes the rest of the world think again for their own policies and explore the other resources for rare earths in other nations except China. The US government and other European nations are now trying to develop many strategies so that they will secure their supply for rare earths.
There are two options for holding the rising prices of rare earths and easing the shortage of supply. The first option is recycling and the second is stockpiling. The new buzzword for recycling today is urban mining. This includes the extraction of rare earths from the e-wastes. This process, however, is very complex and expensive too.
European Commission or EC is investing $23 million for the research that will improve the underground technology and find rare earth substitutes. European Commission hopes that the techniques used for recycling will be improved so rare earth will become economically viable. Countries such as US, Japan and Germany are also working on the technologies for recycling rare earth. Mitsubishi and other large players are working together in making recycling a viable option.
On the other hand, China is planning to create a national rare earth stockpile which will surely increase the prices of rare earths. Also, they are planning to change their status – from being an exporter to importer of these rare metals. This move will absolutely lower their export quota further and squeeze the supply globally even more.
There are organizations that spoke against stockpiling. They instead support the research approach for recycling, wind turbines, solar power equipment and electric cars. They also discussed some supply options such as the development of the substitutes for rare earth and the international cooperation. The experts believe that if all the nations will join their hands in developing new mines, they will be able to reduce the dependence on the monopoly of China. The unofficial ban of China to Japan’s rare earth shipments last year forced the world to view them with suspicion. It has become a necessity to search for alternate sources. South Korea, Japan and other neighbors of China have already started stockpiling these metals. In fact, some of them are planning to spend millions of dollars in the coming year for the creation of stockpile with 1,200 tonnes.
To combat China’s monopoly in the rare earth market, Lynascorporation created their state-of-the art plant for processing rare earth elements so as to provide more economically viable sources of rare earth to the world. Lynas Malaysia received a back to back victory after their plant received the environment safety approval. This is backed by the Parliamentary Select Committee which also urged for the Temporary Operating License’ release.
The rare earth metals are sold now in private markets. And because of this, it becomes difficult for us to monitor the prices of rare earths. However, we can also consider their purity to price them.