Today in Cleantech

What’s going on with the rare earth materials market? This morning, reports emerged indicating that China — which accounts for the vast majority of worldwide production of rare earth elements critical for many green technology and high-tech equipment — will be increasing its taxes on rare earths come April, from less than 3 yuan per ton to 30 to 60 yuan per ton. Just how that will affect rare earth prices is unclear, but however it does, it will be coming on top of a massive price rise over the past year of increasing export restrictions from China. Reuters reports that prices for rare earth exports from China reached $109,000 per ton in February, up almost ninefold from prices of $14.405 on average per ton recorded in July. That price rise has come as China has cut export quotas of the 17 rare earth metals and raised export tariffs, with the biggest rise coming between January and February. Whether it will keep rising is less clear, however, considering that Japan, which takes about one-third of China’s rare earths exports, is recovering from this month’s earthquake and tsunami and is still coping with an ongoing nuclear power plant crisis. Of the 750 tons China exported in February, 281 tons went to Japan, at a price of $138,406 per ton. In the meantime, the rest of the world is racing to restart their own rare earths mining and processing capabilities, with companies such as U.S.-based Molycorp, Canada’s Rare Element Resources and Neo Material Technologies and Australia’s Arafura and Lynas set to reap the rewards — though not for some time.

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