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Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

Posted September 22, 2011 10:54 AM

A while back, China slashed prices for rare earth elements, quickly dominating the market as suppliers around the world found themselves unable to compete. In the last year, however, the country has cut export levels, leading to soaring prices and shortages. Are you or your customers experiencing any fallout from this situation? Do you think the photonics industry will be affected at all? And do you think that mines outside of China will begin operation again, to address the situation?

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#1

Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/23/2011 2:05 AM

Rare earth elements are misnamed. They are not rare by any measure. They are simply too close to each other in the periodic table, to be easily separated. They are produced as byproduct in mining operation. China smartly cornered the market, and insane EPA rules prevent the use of the domestic product. Admittedly, the present separation / refinement process is dirty. It needs an update

Since they - at the present state of technology - are essential to permanent magnets, all industries are affected by price and availability.

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#2

Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/23/2011 8:32 PM

It was China's ability to under cut-prices that caused the rest of the mining industries to suspend operations until now. Now that China has cut back on their exports, thus driving the market price up, it's now economical to go back and reopen the closed mines.This is a quote from Design News dated 9-22-2011, "Several light REOs are the byproducts of iron ore mining, which is one of China's staple industries. The steps required to extract REOs typically involve toxic or even radioactive materials. And in the past, Chinese suppliers have been subject to less stringent environmental regulation than their international competitors, which helped them undercut prices and ultimately capture around 95 percent of the market."

"That approach -- opening or reopening mines outside China -- is already under way around the globe. Molycorp Minerals LLC of Greenwood Village, Colo., has secured permits and $781 million in funding to reopen the Mountain Pass mine in California, which was priced out of the market in 2004. According to a new report from Technology Materials Research LLC of Carpentersville, Ill., sufficient sources exist outside China to compensate for the export cuts as early as 2013 for some elements..."

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#9
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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/26/2011 1:46 AM

In the same vein (pun unintended but accepted anyway), a rare-earth mine may open up on Prince of Wales island next door to me, a short distance from the old Bokan uranium mine. It is supposed to be a "surgical" operation, with rich veins removed rather than open pits or dredging. Excusing another pun, I hope it pans out.

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#3

Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/24/2011 11:30 AM

There is a real easy way for the rest of the planet to stop China from manipulating markets and prices. Stop buying from them.

All China is doing is playing on the knowledge that the rest of the world will run to the cheapest source of anything. Again to give credit where credit is due, it's a brilliant strategy...................as long as the rest of us continue to behave like Pavlov's dogs, it will continue.

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#4
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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/24/2011 11:35 AM

Right - when you are playing a game with fools you use 'fools rules'.

I remember seeing new boots in the Navy getting lessons about shooting craps - the rules (that they didn't know about or understand) were only that the newbie lost.

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#5

Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/24/2011 2:44 PM

This may be off topic, but it's shows China's ability to under cut the market in more areas than just Rare Earth Elements and it really pi$$es me off every time I think about it. And it's the construction of the new East Span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. China is the major supplier of the steel for this project. Why? Because they under cut the price of American made steel. And in doing so, it also gave them the opportunity to refine more Rare Earth Elements while mining and milling the iron ore!!

This project is not only funded at the State level, but also subsidized with Federal money as it is part of the Interstate 80 infrastructure. Shame on our Legislature to allow this to happen at not only the State level but also at the Federal level, with all the Unemployment that this Country has, this should have never happened.

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#6
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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/25/2011 9:40 AM

That's a tough one.

Both the Feds and CA are profusely bleeding red ink. At the same time, US unions want to be able to compete in the global marketplace, and yet refuse to make any concessions. Their packages include covered health care, early retirement, high wages, fat pensions, etc.

Not saying that unions are good or bad, but as states continue to go broke, largely due to unfunded or underfunded pension plans.....................something's got to give.

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#8
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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/25/2011 8:36 PM

It is a bitter pill to swallow. The Bay bridge is a 6.281 billion (+) dollar project that should have stayed here. With that, I have to let it go, otherwise I'll get on my soap box and end up with another heart attack.

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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/26/2011 7:13 AM

Don't do that. It's not worth it.

I won't tell you that the latest numbers are over 7 billion.

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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/26/2011 5:55 PM

I won't tell you that the latest numbers are over 7 billion. I know, that's why I try to minimize it as $6.281 billion,it just seems easier to swallow It's another one of those Government projects that has an open check book Dan

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#7
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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/25/2011 10:32 AM

Generally different mines.

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#11
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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/26/2011 5:31 PM

There was a time, when the American Colonies did undercut the british manufactured goods for good reason, and well proven techniques. Relearning histories lessons is seriously advisable. Hint: nothing new under the Sun.

Heart attack is a very serious thing, not worth risking. It is a biochemical problem, not a sudden anger over anything. Write privately, if interested.

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#14
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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/27/2011 4:12 PM

I do appreciate your concern for me leveles, I was using "Heart Attach" as an expression, but my blood pressure will rise about 10 points when I think about how Government pull a fast one on us.

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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/26/2011 6:15 PM

On a different thread, now, there was a lament by the europeans about the high price of the chinese finished rare earth magnets. they cost 50x - 80x of the raw materials. Good. And there seem to be a decision to open up a mine in Greenland.

What about besoiling that pristine wilderness? That is all I have heard from them. For a few pennies advantage to their pockets? How low and cheap!

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#15

Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/30/2011 12:21 AM

There still be some hope yet, USGS just released this about Afghanistan mineral Studies including REEs

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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/30/2011 7:31 AM

I can already hear the protestors screaming, "No blood for minerals".

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#17
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Re: Will High Prices of Rare-earth Elements Affect the Photonics Industry?

09/30/2011 1:45 PM

Hi Mark, I was thinking the same thing when I was reading the studies. It probably be one of those situations, where there is so many protesters, they will tell you,

"Go take a number and stand in line, if you want to be heard"

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