Prices of the rare earths used in lasers and plasma televisions more than doubled in the past two weeks as China tightens control of mining, production and exports, according to market researcher Industrial Minerals.
The cost of dysprosium oxide, used in magnets, lasers and nuclear reactors, has risen to about $1,470 a kg from $700 to $740 at the start of the month, Industrial Minerals said in an e-mailed statement. Europium oxide, used in plasma TVs and energy-saving light bulbs, has more than doubled.
China, supplier of 95 per cent of the 17 elements known as rare earths, has clamped down on rare-earth mining and cut export quotas, boosting prices and sparking concern among overseas users such as Japan about access to supplies.
The government may further reduce export quotas, pushing prices higher, Goldman Sachs & Partners Australia Pty said last month.
"China has long said it will consolidate the industry but it's moving more rapidly than many observers anticipated," said Dudley Kingsnorth, a former rare earths project manager and now chief executive officer of Perth-based advisory Industrial Minerals Co of Australia. "There might be an element of speculation but I think the price rises have been driven by people who are desperate for the product."
The world's most populous nation will raise standards for exporters and won't approve new project expansions in an effort to curb overcapacity, illegal mining and sales, the government said last month.
The Ministry of Land and Resources said on Thursday it wants to set aside some rare earth deposits.
Rare earths are used in wind turbines, hybrid cars and missiles. The market for the minerals may double to as much as $6 billion by the middle of the decade, according to an April 21 report by Ernst & Young LLP analyst Michel Nestour.
China's Inner Mongolia Baotou region produces so-called light rare earths such as lanthanum, cerium and samarium.
Heavy rare-earth production, concentrated in the south of China such as Ganzhou, includes the elements dysprosium, gadolinium and terbium.
The price of europium oxide, used for its phosphorescent properties found in plasma TVs and light bulbs, has risen to as much as $3,400 a kg from between $1,260 and $1,300, Industrial Minerals said.
Hitachi Metals said it will pass on the increases to its customers, which include makers of motors used in hybrid cars.
"We adopted a price system to pass on increased costs to buyers," Toshinori Hata, a spokesman for Hitachi Metals, said.
From / Gulf News