China’s Rare Earth Near-Monopoly Could Last 15-Years

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The U.S. Department of Energy yesterday released a 171 page report titled “Critical Materials Strategy which mainly deals with the availability of critical rare earth elements. Xinhuanet web site.

The U.S. and China began their yearly series of trade talks on December 14.

The following is quoted from the executive summary of the DoE report:

“Several clean energy technologies including wind turbines, electric vehicles, photovoltaic cells and fluorescent lighting-use materials at risk of supply disruptions in the short term. Those risks will generally decrease in the medium and long term.

Clean energy technologies currently constitute about 20 percent of global consumption of critical materials. As clean energy technologies are deployed more widely in the decades ahead, their share of global consumption of critical materials will likely grow.

Of the materials analyzed, five rare earth metals (dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium and yttrium), as well as indium, are assessed as most critical in the short term. For this purpose, “criticality” is a measure that combines importance to the clean energy economy and risk of supply disruption.

Sound policies and strategic investments can reduce the risk of supply disruptions, especially in the medium and long term. Data with respect to many of the issues considered in this report are sparse.”

The report states that the DoE strategy has three main goals.

  • First, develop new sources.
  • Second, research and develop substitutes.
  • Third, put more effort into recycling rare earth elements.