By Rosemarie Szostak, Ph.D., Nerac Analyst,
Originally Published: June 29th, 2015
Rare earth metals are crucial for the manufacturing of everything high tech from advanced military equipment to off-shore windmills to smart phones and catalytic converters. Japan and the US are the primary users.
In 2010 China had a near monopoly in the global rare earth industry supplying 97% of the world’s rare earth elements. China could mine and process rare earths at low cost due to cheap land, energy and labor along with limited environmental protection requirements undercutting other mining and refining operations around the world. In 2010 the unthinkable happened. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced its decision to reduce China’s global rare earths exports by 40%. Prices quickly quadrupled.
And then the world adjusted. As they say, the best cure for high prices is high prices. Free markets have generally managed to adapt when faced with shortages of critical materials.
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