Rare Earth Elements Controlled by China
TORONTO – Mining – The Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare Earth Group, the largest rare earth metals mining company in China has bought nine regional mining companies. China’s Rare Earth Metals (REM) industry accounts for over ninety per cent of the global supply. Boutou will, under the new agreement receive a fifty-one per cent stake in each of the companies.
The move is part of China’s plan to consolidate its rare earths industry – which accounts for more than 90% of the world’s supply.
Xinhua, the Chinese State Media reports “This is part of a “long-awaited scheme of consolidation. The government has encouraged six companies – including Baotou Steel to integrate regional resources to improve industrial concentration”.
“The large rare earth groups will get preferential polices to better develop the mineral resources, such as production quota, mandatory plan, mining license,” adds Xinhua.
The move by the Chinese government comes at a time when illegal mines for rare earth metals have been shutdown by the authorities. There were smugglers caught recently trying to extract $2.3 million in rare earth metals out of the country.
The Chinese Government sees efforts by smugglers as harming the country’s efforts to dominate the prices for REE on the world market.
High levels of smuggling have adverse effects on China’s ability to control prices.
China through its domination of the availability of REE also has almost complete control over the global prices for REE.
The price is maintained by the Chinese government setting export and production quotas. China has been lowering those quotas in recent months. China has lowered rare earths quotas to a total of 15,110 tonnes for 2014.
The Chinese Government has identified twenty-eight producers who can share the quota.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) have recently ruled that China’s export restrictions on rare earth metals were not compliant with the organization’s regulations.
China has rejected the ruling and is planning an appeal.
Background – Rare Earth Elements
Cerium (Ce): The element Cerium is used as a catalytic converter for diesel engines. It is therefore widely used in todays automotive and high- end industrial sectors.
Dysprosium (Dy): Rare earth metal Dysprosium is used in the creation of hybrid car engines as it’s use improves the efficiency of the electric engine.
Erbium (Er): Erbium is used in fiber optics.
Europium (Eu): The metal Europium is used in flat screen displays and lasering equipment like LED, LCD and lasers.
Gadolinium (Gd): Shielding of compact discs, dvds, blu ray discs often consist of Gadolinium. The rare earth metal is also used for nuclear reactors.
Holmium (Ho): Of the rare earth metal, homium is a very high- end metal used in powerful magnets and nuclear control rods.
Lanthanum (La): Lanthanum is used in optical lenses and batteries.
Lithium (Li): A metal used in hybrid and electric car batteries, lithium is an increasingly valuable metal.
Lutetium (Lu): In oil refining the rare metal Lutetium is often used to make the oil refining process more efficient.
Neodymium (Nd): Rare earth metal Neodymium is used in hard disks and powerful magnets.
Praseodymium (Pr): In aircraft engines, Praseodymium is used as an alloying agent.
Promethium (Pm): Promethium is a very rare metal used in nuclear batteries and X-ray machines.
Samarium (Sm): Also an appliance used in nuclear technology, Samarium is often used in nuclear reactor safety appliances and laser equipment.
Terbium (Tb): The metal Terbium can be used in low-energy light bulbs.
Thulium (Tm): Just as Promethium, Thulium is often used in portable X- ray devices. The rare earth metal is also used in lasers.
Ytterbium (Yb): A very rare chemical, Ytterbium is applied in earthquake monitoring equipment as well as home appliances like energy saving light bulbs.