According to Electronics Design, Strategy, News we could face material shortages and challenges because of China cutting the exports of rare earth materials by 72% as of July.
The price of rare-earth materials increased on average with 700%. The world’s two largest reserves of Rare Earth materials outside of China are in Mountain Pass, California and Mount Weld, Australia. Neither of these deposits are currently in production. While there are a number of smaller and lower grade deposits of Rare Earth materials around the world, they are yet to be shown to be economically viable and generally not of a size and quality that would result in a significant impact to global supply on an individual basis.
The rare-earth-materials producer, Colorado-based Molycorp Minerals (MountainPass), issued an initial public offering of stock in July, raising $390 million to restart its California mine and ramp up processing to counter world shortages.
Worldwide shortages are now occurring. “The world outside China uses a collective 50,000 tons annually,” says Jim Simms, director of public affairs at Molycorp Minerals. “[China] reduced its exporting in 2010 to about 30,000 tons. Since China supplies about 97% of rare-earth materials, the world has to depend on what China exports.”
Lynas Corp (Mount Weld) a rare-earth-materials supply company in Australia, expects to increase rare earths delivery in 2011 to 11,000 tons per year.
The cutbacks have resulted in shock waves through the electronics industry and could force design changes in the near future. This shortage is just another reason to rethink the life cycle of electronics and to take action on e-waste. For example, Hitachi announced that it has developed a new, more efficient system to recycle the rare earth magnets from discarded technology. The company plans to get 10 percent of its rare-earth needs through recycling when the business begins operating in fiscal 2013, according to spokeswoman Satoko Yasunaga.