Critical Metals Vital to Our Lives in Tight Supply
We begin 2012 similar to how we started 2011 when it comes to rare earth, rare technical metals and rare industrial metals. China has over 90% of production and refining. The US and EU governments are scrambling to legislate, source, produce, open and reopen mines. The West has decided to continue down the road of the idea that the markets will take care of the supply and price of these metals. What is alarming is how easily the West was lulled to sleep by China´s ability to supply the world its metals cheaply and efficiently. The West concentrated on making money trading stocks and futures that dealt with these commodities. China concentrated on building the most extensive mining industry in the history of man. Here in 2012 the Department of Energy in the USA has approved a spending bill that includes $20 Million to focus on the supply issues of these metals.
The metals I am speaking about are so vital to our everyday lives. These metals are found in your mobile phones, computers, LCD and LED TV´s, hybrid cars, solar power, wind power, nuclear power, efficient lighting and medical technologies. Here is a list of metals that have been deemed critical.
- Indium RIM (Solar, Mobile Phones, LCD)
- Tellurium RIM (Solar, Computers, Semi-conductors)
- Gallium RIM (Solar, Mobile Phones, LED´s, Fuel Cells)
- Hafnium RIM (Processors, Nuclear, Lighting, Plasma Cutting Tools)
- Tantalum RIM (Capacitors, Medical Implants, Mobile Phones, Nuclear)
- Tungsten RIM (Nuclear, Armaments, Aviation)
- Yttrium REE (Lighting, Medical Technology, Magnets in Hybrids)
- Neodymium REE (Magnets in Wind power, Super Magnets, Hybrid Vehicles)
- Dysprosium REE (Computers, Nuclear, Hybrid Vehicles)
- Europium REE (Lighting, LED´s, Lasers)
- Lanthanum REE (Hybrid Vehicles, Magnets, Optics)
- Cerium REE (LED´s, Catalytic Converters, Magnets)
RIM=Rare Industrial Metal REE=Rare Earth Element
The supplies of these metals could hold back the production of green technologies. According to the latest report by the Department of Energy, ¨Supply challenges for five rare earth metals may affect clean energy technology deployment in the years ahead¨. If Green technology is to become main stream, the costs of these technologies have to reach cost parity with traditional energy sources. As long as there are serious supply issues with these metals the costs can´t reach these levels. The other option is finding alternatives like Graphene and Nanotechnologies.
The US and EU need supply chains of the metals that include both mining and refining of these metals. Relying on sovereign states for critical metals such as these, leave a nation vulnerable to outside influence in both politics and economics. Environmentalists have succeeded in influencing politicians to close mines throughout the West. Politicians have legislated the mining industry into the position it is in today. The Western nations must start now to build its supply chain or continue to be at the mercy of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations for its metal needs.
The best the West can do now is provide, enough metals to meet its own demands. China has reached a point where it can now demand that certain industries produce their products there. If a company decides to try to produce the product in another country China will make producing that item cost prohibitive outside of China by raising the prices of the metals.
The demand for the products these metals are used to produce, are showing few signs of slowing down even in a so-called recession. Governments are subsidizing Green technology, people are buying mobile phones across the planet and everybody wants a nice flat screen TV. Will 2012 pass without countries truly taking this opportunity to fix the problem or will they step up and make the hard decisions which can put the countries back in control over their own destiny.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.