The Metals Report: Alex, what is your overview of the rare earth element (REE) space?
Alex Knox: The highlight is that two large deposits of light rare earth elements (LREEs) are coming into production: Molycorp Inc.'s (MCP:NYSE) Mountain Pass and Lynas Corp.'s (LYC:ASX) Mt. Weld deposit. The considerable increase in LREE production has eliminated the need for any market niche for these types of deposits, at least for the short-term.
I see a dramatic need for development of heavy rare earth element (HREE) deposits in the western world, now that China's crackdown on illegal mining has presumably cut into its production of HREEs. A number of companies have reached pre-feasibility or preliminary economic assessment (PEA), and one already has a feasibility study. Overall, I believe this space offers the most potential growth and the most potential to add new deposits.
China's export quotas triggered the investment rush for rare earth elements (REEs). John Kaiser of Kaiser Research Online summarized the first chapter of the REE story in his no-nonsense April 24 interview, "Rare Earth Juniors Have a Five-Year Window."
John Kaiser: Historically, REE prices have been very low due to China's abundant resources and its ability to produce them very cheaply. China is aware that it could become the world's biggest polluter when its economy eclipses that of the U.S. China is very concerned about making sure it has the raw materials on hand to assure its clean-energy future. The supply restrictions China introduced a couple of years ago were part of a campaign to clean up and consolidate its high-pollution industries. Those restrictions resulted in spectacularly high REE prices for export and substantially higher prices within China. Since July 2011, the drop in demand and China's inability to control smuggling resulted in a pullback in REE prices. To some degree, I think China wants its monopoly to end. China's ambitions go far beyond squeezing a few profits out of a market it controls. Continue reading "A Critical Year in Review: What's Next?"→
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