Disruptive Discoveries Journal

REEs

Infrastructure for the 21st Century: Building a Non-Chinese Rare Earth Supply Chain

Chris BerryComment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

For a PDF copy of this note, please click here.  

 

 

  • After a tumultuous few years unleashed by geopolitical rivalries in Asia, the rare earth sector has mean reverted with rare earth element (REE) prices having fallen by as much as 90% from their peak in 2011.
  • It is interesting to note that the core issue which drove exponential gains in rare earth prices – supply chain dependence on China – is still a reality.
  • In the wake of Molycorp’s (MCPIQ:OTCBB) spectacular implosion and bankruptcy and the financial struggles of Lynas (LYC:ASX), many are questioning whether or not a REE supply chain outside of China is even feasible.
  • While the collapse in REE prices has rendered most non-Chinese deposits uneconomic, a weaker local currency coupled with government support may be enough to begin to establish a reliable source of saleable REE products outside of an increasingly unstable China.
  • Additionally, reports have emerged that many REE producers inside China are operating at a loss.
  • Thanks to these market inefficiencies, this industry is set to consolidate. Expect to see M&A and co-opetition as the industry adjusts to a new normal of lower prices despite healthy demand.
  • This white paper looks at the current state of the REE sector and aims to present a vision of what a REE supply chain might look like in this new macroeconomic environment.

Rare Metals on a Collision Course - Book Review of "The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age" by David Abraham

Chris BerryComment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

For a PDF of this note, please click here

 

In the Autumn of 2011, my father and I were approached to present to a group of faculty and undergraduate environmental studies majors at a major university here on the East Coast of the United States. The topic was rare earths. What struck me was the fact that nobody was taking notes using a pen and paper – each student was typing away on his or her Mac or PC. While the presentation went well, we were astonished at the lack of knowledge the students had regarding the global supply chain risks inherent in many of the metals and minerals used in the technology that we take for granted. Were the students aware that the cobalt in their computer was quite likely not ethically sourced? This generated several questions. Would they be willing to pay more for a product if they could be sure people weren’t being exploited along the entire supply chain? What about the fact that many of these metals and minerals are critical for national defense and China (a strategic adversary) essentially controls the bulk of production of many of them? There were no easy answers to these questions then and there are none today. But the general ignorance of the supply chain dynamics and the strategic and tactical threats have likely increased despite a horribly depressed metals market.

Unfortunately, these students were likely a microcosm of the broader populace who are unaware of the destabilizing effects of foreign mineral dependence on supply chains for rare metals. For this reason, David Abraham’s excellent new book titled “The Elements of Power – Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age” couldn’t have come at a better time.

Lithium Extraction Technology: Last Best Hope or a False Dawn?

Chris BerryComment

By Chris Berry (@cberry1)

 

For a PDF version of this note, please click here.

 

As the commodities markets continue to struggle, I’ve been outspoken for some time now on the need for companies across the entire value chain to focus on ways to lower costs to remain competitive. While Selling, General, and Administrative (S,G,&A) expenses are likely the easiest places to start “cutting to the bone”, there is a limit here. Having a top tier deposit and great management team is no longer enough when you look at the supply gluts for many of the metals mentioned frequently in our regular commentary.

For an aspiring junior mining company to join the ranks of producers in the lithium space, for example, the project will either need to match or beat the financial metrics of the majors.