REDUCED WORLD RARE-EARTH MARKET RESEARCH
Rare-earth metals mineral base
The main sources of rare-earth metals are minerals bastnaesit (fluorine carbonate of rare-earth metals), monazite, loparite and ion-absorptive ores. But there are only few of these minerals profitable for mining Most part of world economic resources of rare-earth materials is concentrated in bastnaesit deposits in PRC (China), the world share – 42%. Major resources of rare earths relate to monazite deposits in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Malasia, South Africa, Sri-Lanka, Thailand and the USA. Other resources relate to xenotime, ion-absorptive ores, loparite, phosphorites, apatites, secondary monazite, eudialyte, cheralite and to liquid wastes of uranium production. It is worth to mark that major resources of rare-earth metals are on the territory of CIS, in amount of 22% of world resources.
The biggest resources of rare-earth metals in the world are in China. According to USGS, for the end of 2009 there were more than 42% of all world resources of rare-earth metals. China has special position on the market of rare-earth metals which is based both on the resource scale of raw materials and on the variety of their types: there are bastnaesit, monazite and ion-absorptive ores. The main resources of south China are concentrated in iron-niobium-rare-earth metals deposits in Inner Mongolia. On the south of the country the resources are connected with bastnaesit ores in provinces Sichuan and with ion-absorptive ores in provinces Tsanzi and Guandun.
The biggest world resource of rare-earth raw material is Bayan Obo deposit, on which lies the main part of all natural resources of rare-earth metals in China. Bastnaesit concentrates which contain mainly
light rare-earth metals are produced as by-product of iron ore mining in this deposit. Extracted in the south of China ion-absorptive ores are rich in yttrium and heavy lanthanides.
On the second place in the world in rare-earth raw material resources now is Russia with world share 22% of world resources. Raw earths in Russia lie on loparite deposit on Kolskiy peninsula. Beside this Russian Katuginskoe deposit has ore, rich in yttrium. Among CIS countries there are raw earths resources in Kirgistan on the deposit in Ak-Tuz.
In Australia there are major resources of rare-earth metals in heavy mineral sands and laterite soils. The exploitation of major deposit Mount Weld is expected. It is one of the richest in rare earths deposits and it has monazite with low radioactivity. Supposed reserves in this place amount 1,87 mln of ore which contains 18,39% of rare-earth metals (344000 tonnes). And beside that active exploration works are organized in the country.
There are major resources of monazite in heavy mineral sands which occurred in two southern states of the country – Kerala and Tamiland. As early as 1927 monazite-containing sands were extracted and exported from the country till 1947 when their export was prohibited.
Monazite resources on coastal alluvial deposits of Brazil are estimated in 42000 tonnes and on placer deposits – 40000 tonnes. Coastal resources of rare-earths are concentrated mainly in states Rio-de-Janeiro (26700 tonnes), Bahia (10200 tonnes) and Espirito-Santo (4100 tonnes). Placer deposits are in states Minas Gerais (24400 tonnes), Espirito Santo (11800 tonnes) and Bahia (3500 tonnes).
There are rare-earth resources in provinces Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Quebec in Canada that are interesting for several exploration and extractive companies.
Major bastnaesite deposit in USA is Mountain Pass (state California), which is not being developed at the moment. There are exploration works in state Wyoming on the major deposit Bear Lodge that contains all metals from lanthanides group and yttium.
Extraction of rare-earth metals
World extraction of rare-earth metals
Rare-earth industry is divided into mining sector and sectors connected with raw material processing and production of intermediate and products and refined products, represented by mixed and divided (individual) rare-earth metals.
For concentrates production, which contain 60-70% of mixed rare-earth metals, ore mined is usually processed with the usage of flotation technology and technology of division. From concentrates intermediate products can be obtained such as mixed chlorides of rare-earth metals, which usually serve as starting point for the simplest technology of division – extraction from solution. Defining and division of lanthanides from each other is difficult. Because of similarity of metals division is primary done on subgroups, which afterwards are divided into individual elements by further extraction from solution. Individual rare earths usually settle down in the form of oxalates, which are burnt till oxide obtaining. Very high oxide purity can be reached by usage of ion-exchange technology.
World extraction of rare earths for the last one and a half decade has been increasing rather quickly. For the period from 1990 to 2004 it increased approximately twice – from 53,2 to 102,0 thousands of tonnes.
Processed rare-earth products are produced in a number of other European countries. For example, in Austria there is one of the main and oldest European producer – company Treibacher Auermet Produktions GmbH (TAU), which produces rare-earth metals and their oxides. It was informed that TAU has acquired assets of British company Meldform Rare Earth Ltd for the purpose of customer base developing. Estonian company AS Silmet processes intermediate raw materials from Russia.
Mining in China
It was expected that as a result of tightening of ecology legislation and abolishment of discount on rare earths export duty (metals, oxides, chlorides) the extraction of rare earths in China will decrease. But according USGS, in 2005 it increased greatly (on25% - to 118,7 thousand of tones) and the share of China in world production amounted 96,7%. In 2009 according to USGS extraction in China amounted 120 thousand tones although decrease of the extraction to 86,5 thousand began to show.
Chinese extractive rare-earth industry historically was divided into 2 sectors – northern and southern. Northern sector was based on bastnaesite deposits in Baotou (Inner Mongolia) and in province Sichuan, southern in ion-absorptive ores deposits in provinces Jiangxi and Guangdong. To provide more equal development of the industry in 2003 National Committee of economics and trading of China organized reorganization of rare-earth industry of the country (both of extractive and processing industries), officially divided it into 2 regional groups: Northern Rare Earth Group and Southern Rare Earth Group, combining companies correspondingly of northern and southern sectors. In northern group the leader was Baotou Rare Earth (Group) Co., Gansu Rare Earths Corp. and Sichuan Rare Earths Group. In southern group the leader was Aluminum Corp. of China, its members were also 7 processing companies.
It is worth to note that for the last decade many attempts were undertaken to form control body for coordination of the activity of rare-earth companies in north and south of the country, but all of them were unsuccessful.
Rare-earth industry in China is plural. There were a lot of small plants producing only concentrates and mischmetall and at the same time there were major state and private companies exploiting several enterprises. In the country there are only few profitable enterprises and many producers suffer from losses and some leave the market. As a result there will be only few producers and the situation with oversupplies of some types of rare-earth production will normalize to some extent. At the present time a number of small and medium companies have closed because of legislation tightening but the scale of production continue to grow. At that not only extractive sector is developing, China has become the biggest producer of processed and refine rare earths and some of high-technology products as well.
The biggest processers of rare-earth raw materials in China are Inner Mongolia HEFA Rare Earth Science& Technology Development Co, Gansu Rare Earth Corp., China Rare Earth Holdings and Yue Long Non-ferrous Metal. Precise data concerning the number of Chinese plants of processed rare-earths production are missing but according to METALRESEARCH analysts estimation there are about 100. Some enterprises at the present time have flexible technological process, which allows to switch from rare-earths production to production of undivided products depending on market requirements. Some
plants like western producers have opportunity to distribute separator capacities between separate chemical elements.
As a whole Chinese rare-earth industry has big advantages for natural resources, volume of production capacities, low costs of production that creates extensive capabilities for development. But at the present time the main problem is still rise in profitability of national industry connected first of all with necessity of development of products quality for competitive advantage from western analogues (first of all it is subject to production of materials for sphere of high technologies). Moreover foreign competitive companies in conditions of internationalization of industry for production costs reduction have moved their rare-earth enterprises from Japan, France, Canada and USA to China. As far as these companies have modern technologies and significant experience in management, financial matters and marketing, they have taken more serious position on the market than Chinese companies. Thereby for successful competing with foreign producers national Chinese enterprises in near 3-5 years are to modernize the structure of production output (particularly by upgrade of equipment and adoption of modern technologies), develop external trade, hasten brand creation and solve ecological problems connected with raw materials extraction.
Beside this it is necessary to develop greatly the consolidation of industry. Otherwise Chinese rare-earth industry will lose its advantages from major natural resources and low costs of production. Beside this, there is not enough attention paid in the sector to evaluation of market value when investing into production capacities developing. It is resulted in glut of supply in the market and it puts brakes on development of products with added cost.
Production in Japan
Apart from countries extracting rare earths, output of refine rare-earth products is made by a number of other producers, that use in their production import raw materials. One of the leaders of the world process rare-earth industry is Japan. In the country wide assortment of refine rare-earths is produced in a form of metals and their compounds.
The main Japanese companies producing refine rare-earth production with a usage of import raw materials are: Shin-Etsu Chemicals Co.Ltd, Nippon Yttrium Co. Ltd (70% Mitsu Mining & Smelting Co Ltd, 30% Tokin Corp.), Anan Kasei (joint venture, the partners of which are Rhodia and Santoku Metal Industry).
Rare-earth metals trade
World rare-metals imports geography
It is worth to note that in 2009 the world trade of rare-earth metals concerning import in physical terms has decreased on 34% to 8,5 thousand tones. It happened mainly because of decrease in import in Japan, that is the main customer of rare-earth metals on the world market in annual average values on 24%. Import volume in money terms has decreased on 51%, indicating one more reason of import decrease in physical terms – decrease in prices on 17%. Main countries, which were customers of rare-earth metals of the world market was still Japan, which has share more than 50% in general figures. Major importers of rare-earth metals are also France, Belgium and India. Russia imports rare-earth metals on a relatively low level. Nevertheless import of rare-earth metals in initial forms in 2009 in Russia increased several times to 49 tonnes.
Main exporters of rare-earth metals are China with the share in general volume of export 46%, and the USA with the share 35% in the world export. At the same time these countries exported in 2009 more than 81% of rare-earth metals. Export volume of rare-earth metals in money terms in 2009 decreased as import volume on 51%. Export volume in physical terms increased in spite of decrease in import due to rather active increase of export from the USA from 1,2 thousand of tones in 2008 to 4,1 thousand of tones in 2009. Noticeable suppliers of rare-earth metals on the world market are also Hong Kong, Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, India, Norway and others. Russia takes the lowest place among exporters with the world export share of less than 0,01%.
China’s trade geography
China is the biggest major supplier of rare-earth metals on the world market in spite of the fact that export volume of rare-earth metals from China in 2009 decreased by 23% to 5,3 thousand tonnes. The main customer of Chinese export is Japan. Export volume from China to Japan in 2009 decreased by 24% to 4,5 thousand tonnes. Noticeable customers of Chinese rare-earth metals are also Belgium, India, the USA, Great Britain, Iran, Netherlands and other countries.
Chinese import of rare-earth metals is very small compared to export. In 2009 import volume decreased by 85% to 31 tonnes. Main supplier of China in 2008 was Japan, in 2009 – Russia.
Japan’s trade geography
Japanese market of rare-earth production has rather low activity. Having import of rare-earth metals in the biggest volume from China, export is characterized by small volume. Rather big amount of rare-earth metals is consumed in the country for production of high-technological products. Main supplier of rare-earth metals for Japan is China, supplies volumes of which to Japan decreased in 2009 by 30% to 4,4 thousand tonnes. Apart from China Vietnam supplies rare-earth metals to Japan as well but in much smaller amount. Japanese export of rare-earth metals is rather small. Main customers of Japanese rare-earth metals were in 2008 Singapore, Philippines, the USA. In 2009 export decreased by 10 times to 23 tonnes.
World trade balance
It is worth to note that in 2009 balance of world market of rare-earth metals wasn’t matched. Export of rare-earth metals on the world market in 2009 increased by 5% to 11,7 thousand tonnes whereas import decreased by 31% to 8,5 thousand tonnes. Balance of world market of rare-earth metals amounted 3,2 thousand tonnes surplus. It is worth to note that mismatch of world-wide figures of world import and export indicates about inclusion of export volumes and exclusion from import volumes the production which relates to the market of rare-earth metals and accounting of this production in other commodity classification.
REDUCED RUSSIAN RARE-EARTH MARKET RESEARCH
Predicted resources of rare-earth metals in Russia are estimated as big. Most part of resources is predicted in Krasnoyarskiy region.
Resources of rare-earth metals in Russia keep it on the second place after China. Almost three quarters of the resources are concentrated in Murmanskaya region and about 16% - in Republic of Saha (Jakutia).
In most Russian deposits the content of trioxides sum of rare-earth elements is lower than in foreign deposits: it is rarely more than 1%, while average content of TR203 in ores of mines in China – 5%.
Almost 82% of balance reserves of rare-earth metals in Russia are apatite ores which contain rare-earth metals, including more than 70% resources which connected with apatite-nepheline ores of deposits in Hibinskaya group in Murmanskaya region, where average content of ∑TR203 is not more than 0,4%. Rare-earth elements are not extracted from extracted here ores; they stay in mill tailings, stored in mine dumps of concentrating mills.
Rare-earth elements in Russia are extracted in minor amounts, during the period 2004-2009 their extraction stabilized on the level of about 80 thousand tonnes. Most part of ores containing rare-earth elements are extracted in Murmanskaya region on apatite-nepheline deposits of Hibinskaya group, the development is organized by JSC “Apatite”.
Rare-earth metals are extracted only from loparite ores of Lovozerskoe deposit. On this object LLC “Lovozerckiy mining and beneficiation complex” extracts 3,6 thousand tonnes of rare-earth metals oxides mainly of cerium group. Ore benefication and obtaining of loparite concentrates (complex titanium-tantalum-niobium-rare-earth) is organized directly on the place of extraction.
Import and export rare-earth elements by metals
Russian trade of rare-earth metals is import oriented. In 2009 import volume of rare-earth metals increased by several times to 49,1 thousand of tonnes. Basic metal imported to Russia is cerium. Import volumes in 2009 increased by several times to 38,5 tonnes and metal had 78% of general figures of import. Neodymium takes second place in import with the share in total volume 12%. It is worth to note that in 2009 neodymium import decreased by 62% to 5,9 thousand tonnes. Samarium was imported to Russia during 2008-2009. In 2009 import volumes of samarium to Russia decreased by 500 tonnes to 1000 tonnes. It is worth to note that in 2009 import of above mentioned metals was expanded by praseodymium, dysprosium, terbium, yttrium and lanthanum. In the first half of 2010 there was no import of above mentioned metals apart from lanthanum, which import volumes have increased from 1kg to 2 tonnes. In general according to preliminary evaluation of analysts METALRESEARCH import volume of rare earth to Russia is going to decrease in 2010 by several times to 5 tonnes.
Rare-earth metals export from Russia is low due to small production volumes. Rare-earth metals export in 2009 increased by 13 kg to 54,4 kg. In the first half of 2010 export volume was 27,1 kg. Main segments of rare-earth metals export from Russia are holmium and copper alloys with volumes of 87% in general figures. Beside this in 2010 there was also export of erbium (together with nickel). In 2009 together with mentioned elements was export of scandium.
Rare-earth metals import by countries (sellers) and by companies (buyers)
Main country –importer of rare-earth metals to Russia is still Netherlands with import volume 45% in total. Beside this Hong Kong delivered rather big amount of rare-earth metals to Russia. The third supplier became China with import volume 18% out of total Russian.
Main companies receivers of rare-earth metals in Russia are several companies. One can note among them LLC “New perspective products Technology”, LLC “ Storage terminal Research and Production Enterprise”, LLC “VEND”, LLC “TOMUS”, LLC “RM PLUS”
Rare-earth metals export by companies (sellers) and by countries (buyers)
Export volumes of rare-earth metals from Russia are insignificant. Export is mainly organized by State run Educational Institution of Higher Professional Education “Moscow Energy Institution, CJSC “Ecology of environment” and CJSC “Metallurgy of aluminum scandium titanium”. In 2008 export was made by CJSC “Mast”, LLC “Element 21” and LLC “Megaimpulse”. Russian rare-earth metals are mainly sent to the USA and Germany.