The increased global interest in minor metals will shape the Commodities Review and Outlook ferroalloys and minor metals’ presentation at the 2012 Investing in African Mining Indaba, says commodity research and consultancy company Core Consultants.
Feature speaker, Core Consultants MD Lara Smith, tells Mining Weekly the company will particularly highlight minor metals cobalt and tantalum, as well as rare earths, as these metals are increasingly used in everyday technology and are experiencing an increase in demand.
“Cobalt, for instance, is used in lithium batteries and, with the manufacturing of electronic devices booming, we are seeing greater demand for cobalt as most electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops, rely on this type of battery for power,” she explains.
Further, she notes that 50% of global cobalt reserves are along the Copperbelt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia, with only 5% of copper refined in the DRC and the rest refined in China.
However, Smith highlights that, although cobalt represents an opportunity for Central Africa through global demand, supply will be a challenge.
“Mining licences have been granted in the DRC but logistics are still a major concern,” she says.
Nevertheless, Smith predicts the price of cobalt will increase if supply is disrupted.
Meanwhile, tantalum, which is used in the production of capacitors for automotive and electronic equipment, is also experiencing increased demand.
“Supply of tantalum was traditionally supplemented by secondary sources, including DLA inventory sales and recycling. However, in 2007, the DLA ceased selling tantalum.
“Recycling has become increasingly costly as, in many instances, the recovery costs outweigh the extraction of tantalum owing to the miniaturisation of electronic devices.”
Also experiencing high demand are rare earths, the bulk of which are concentrated and produced in China.
Smith says substantial funds have been raised by Japan and invested in the research and development of rare earths recycling methods, as more countries attempt to diversify away from reliance on Chinese rare- earth material.
She notes that the introduction of new rare earths producers in other countries will be costly, compared with China, where the orebodies are more favourable and amenable to extraction and capital, and labour and environment costs are lower.
Smith will also provide Core Consultants’ price projections for these metals to attendees of this year’s Mining Indaba.
By: Reggie Sikhakhane
The following essay was written over New Year’s weekend, 2011-12. My theme is that the rare earths supply frenzy has exposed an irreversible shift in the demand/supply picture for all technology materials, not just the metals, but also the energy minerals, and the minerals necessary for agriculture. The only mining ventures today that have the potential to be profitable on a stand-alone basis are those that can produce at the lowest cost in the global marketplace and the breakeven point of which is low enough to so they can maintain production at very low levels thus holding on to their customers.
America’s technology materials mining industry can prosper now only by vertically integrating to supply the domestic market first. Surplus production can be exported from several points of a total supply chain thus reinforcing capacity flexibility and dropping the breakeven point for the whole supply chain. This is smart globalization. Just as an aircraft flight attendant tells you to connect your oxygen first before trying to help anyone else I am telling you to build total supply chains for technology materials domestically to ensure that you can help yourself before you try to help others.
Note that by “American” I mean North American. The North American market for producing end use technology materials is 90% in the USA, but the production of those materials and at least half of the requisite supply chains can be constructed in Canada. There has never been a better opportunity to make NAFTA into the basis for a world class technology materials production economy.All that is really needed now is insightful finance and much better educated legislators driven by something other than re-election and greed. Call me a cynic, but Happy New Year.
The unprecedented and unexpected growth in total demand for technology materials for the production of fabricated goods, energy, and food since the beginning of the 21st century has changed the dynamic of the global materials market.
The response of American and European style capitalism to this sudden rush of demand has until now been to treat it as a problem to be resolved along traditional lines by raising the prices of the affected “commodities” until the “opportunity for profit” thus created resulted in additional supplies to relieve, or at least, to limit, the upward price pressure. “Demand will create supply” and “shortages will be ameliorated by surpluses” were among the responses I heard from American and European industrial procurement and planning managers. I was among those who then raised the “security of supply” issue only to be told that it was a non-issue due to the fact that the amounts of all materials in the earth’s crust made the potential supply infinite.
It was impossible at first, and it is not much easier now, to explain to industrialists and financiers that only resources the mineral deposits of which are concentrated enough to be recovered and purified by known and economical technologies can be called even potential supplies. The greed, short-sightedness, and poor general science education of our current politicians, industrialists, and financiers has let America and Europe sit back and not only observe but actually assist our economic competitors to gain such an advantage over us through focused acquisition and management of natural resources that the USA and Europe, in order to survive economically, must now restructure our financial as well as our remaining industrial assets in the hope of salvaging some competitive advantage through maintaining a lead in technological innovation.
Yet like the Mahdi’s soldiers who wore talismans to ward off bullets our financial, industrial, and political elites raise the banner of an outmoded form of independent operator capitalism to ward off the advances of a differently structured and focused Asian capitalism wedded directly to the finances and centralized direction of an immense nation able to drown the individual western capitalists in a tsunami of money not for the sole purpose of acquiring more money but mainly to acquire ownership and control of critical natural resources so as to make their home nation(s) self-sufficient in natural resources and energy.
The western capitalists serve the purpose of the eastern capitalists by choosing to concentrate on short term gains while the Chinese, for example, acquire resources for their use to create products and jobs not for speculation.
The problem of course arises from the fact that this growing demand for natural resources has not been created by the USA, Europe, or Japan, but almost solely, at this point, by a new player on the world trading stage, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).
I believe that 2012 may finally see a recognition by western strategic investors that the long term outlook for the global demand for technology materials is one of continued high net growth and that the present rate of supply of these materials already is at the point where it cannot even now keep pace.
Junior miners, which are basically exploration companies, playing the same old game of appearing to be on the cusp of “rushes” are really just bit players in the new world of natural resource supply. The economic cycles and turmoil in the old capitalist societies of the west and of Japan have taken precedence in the news over the dramatic growth of overall demand for technology materials, but the focus on short term gain from trading junior mining shares in a casino atmosphere is no longer viable when looking at ensuring the security of supply of technology materials.
Ownership of ore bodies and other such natural resources are only of long term value when they are developed to the stage where they contribute directly to Increases in the rate of production of technology materials. This requires years of planning and continual development. This cannot be achieved just by issuing shares to raise capital. The share market for technology materials’ producers is rapidly becoming a sideshow. China seems today to be the only nation-state with both an existing industrial policy and the capital and command organization to carry it out. Like the Soviet Union before it the PRC plans its economy in five-year tranches. Also, like the Soviet Union before it the PRC sets higher production targets for goods and services with each successive five-year “plan.” But the PRC also measures the success of a five year plan by the increase in employment and improvement in the standard of living it brings about. The Soviet Union pretended that it was always at full employment. The planners of the PRC do not seem to follow this tradition.
The key to future wealth is the ownership and control of total supply chains for the production of technology materials. There are no short cuts.
In the western markets tumbling share prices and suspension of IPOs on news of temporary declines in demand or temporary oversupply are simply casino gambling, and if that is the best that the so-called free market can do then China will be the clear long term winner in the technology materials’ self-sufficiency stakes. In order to be a competitive economy it is necessary for a nation to have access to the natural resources it needs so that its economy can grow. The development of such resources can no longer be left to short term planning. It is necessary to commit both capital and intellectual capital to the long term development of adequate and sustainable production rates of natural resources. Base lines must be established for nations and the development of the resources necessary to maintain those baselines and allow for growth must be a priority of the nation’s markets.
This didn’t come about overnight. This situation has been building since the making of money for the sake of having more money eclipsed the making of money from increasing productive commerce
The economic cause of the transfer the world’s trading and manufacturing center from America to China has been American capitalism, which seeks the lowest cost for all resources, goods, and services in a system of as much global free trade as is compatible with minimizing national and international taxation, i.e. maximizing profit. American style free market capitalism does not believe in natural resource exhaustion except as a scare tactic to drive share or commodity prices. In fact it is the maximization of the rates of production of natural resources that is the problem from the point of view of the long term allocation of capital for most, non-energy, extractive industries.
Increasing the rate of production of extractive resources is capital intensive and time consuming, which means, of course, that it must be a low profit endeavor when ranked against speculation.
Twenty-five years ago when the transfer of labor intensive repetitive operations to low labor cost countries was begun in earnest the main driver for American industrialists was cost control as a method for the retention of market share in a very competitive market place then just beginning to feel downward price pressure from Asian, predominantly Japanese, imports. A second, no less important, driver at the time was the maintenance of the industrial company’s share price. This was in the era of blue-chip stocks, which were defined as those of the largest producers of raw materials, energy, or finished goods in an era when banks were service industries. Money was to be made through profit margins on goods and services. Banks were providers of the service of lending money to blue chips mainly for cash flow or working capital purposes. Investment “banks” took new ventures public and the partners in those banks had their own money at risk first of all.
The until now unnoticed political driver that allowed the transfer of low cost manufacturing to China, in particular, was the desire of the ruling communist party of the People’s Republic of China to use the situation (the desire of the capitalists for low cost labor) to literally force-start and then accelerate China’s development into a modern military-technological-industrial state. As Deng Xiaoping had put it succinctly the idea was to make China “strong and rich.” A version of capitalism was to be allowed albeit one with Chinese characteristics so that the nation could be put onto a path that would lead it to being able to provide its average citizen with the safety, health, and material well-being already achieved by the nations of the west of which the paragon is the USA. Of course this would come after or at the same time as China grew in strength to “resume” its natural place among nations.
On Friday, December 30, 2011 the Chinese government announced that China would put men on permanent duty in an orbital space station before 2020. Such an announcement in 2000 would have been considered “crackpot” at best. What a difference a decade of GDP growth at 10% per annum makes!
I have thought, and I have been trying to point out for many years now that apocalyptic theories of supply shortages and of subsequent rampant price inflation supposedly due to peak natural resources, i.e., the exhaustion of natural resources, are based on the type of reasoning that confuses the disease with the symptom. The disease is the financialization of capital, which means that the majority of investments made in the west today are completely detached from any relation to the production of commerce at all. Money is being used primarily for pure speculation. The purpose of such types of investments is solely to make more money. The confusion between wealth creation (jobs, goods, and services )for productive purposes and the simple making of money, for no other reason than to make more money, by the press, the politicians, and the ordinary citizen has masked this societally suicidal frenzy until it has now resulted in the downgrade of the American standard of living for the vast majority, and the placing on the path to extinction not only the contemporary middle-class but also the pathways to entering and remaining in that class.
The American governing classes have purposefully joined the financial elites and insulated themselves from this downgrade, which has now moved beyond their understanding. They have assigned the solution of the financialization crisis to those whose lack of interest in the well being of the nation is manifest, the bankers, who in fact brought on the American abandonment of wealth creation for productive purposes as a status game enshrined in the corrupted phrase, “Him who has the gold makes the rules.”
American industry literally taught the world how to build and equip workshops to economically mass produce consumer goods. The industry was financed by a capitalism, which counted success as the marketing of mass produced products made at the lowest cost that could be sold at a profit.
America’industrialists never worked under a national industrial policy, so that when the opportunity arose to lower costs simply by exchanging the American for a lower cost labor workforce there was no ethical barrier. The short term goal of maximizing profit was paramount. No one was concerned with the long term consequences of such a move to the workforce much less to the country as a whole.
Keep in mind that financiers backed the moving of millions of jobs to low cost labor countries while politicians never even gave a thought to the effect on the economy of the ensuing unemployed masses. As I recall we were told that “service” jobs here would replace those lost to low labor cost countries. It was never clear exactly what the economic pundits were defining as service jobs. We now realize that was because they didn’t know what they would be either.
So why should investors in natural resources care about the sad history of American corruption, greed, and sheer stupidity. It’s because one of the totally unforeseen long term consequences was the shift to Asia of the demand for not only the final assembly and the manufacturing of the parts necessary for such assembly, but ultimately of the TOTAL SUPPLY CHAIN BEGINNING WITH AND INCLUDING THE MINING AND REFINING OF THE MINERALS. This shift has meant the loss of not only the physical plant for total supply chains but the withering away by the attrition of non-use of the intellectual basis of such industrial processes.
The rare supply earth situation, which has been highlighted in the USA for the last few years, is just the tip of the iceberg the body of which is the loss or collapse of the capability to build or operate a total supply chain for a given critical material when the first steps of that supply chain have been moved off-shore.
Clueless and engineering-ignorant American environmentalists for whom mining and refining are simply evil incarnate have managed over the last generation to force re-election-only driven legislators to favor the closing of sites producing natural resources for energy and manufacturing and the imposing of regulations that make such production simply too time consuming as well as adding enormous costs .
The dwindling proportion of capital targeted to increasing productive capacity remaining in a system being squeezed dry of such capital by pure financial speculators seeking short term gain has now made it more productive to move entire supply chains off-shore to where the raw materials CAN being mined and refined rather than to waste capital on endless regulations and battles with the ignorant and suicidal (or ignorant and rich). The result has been at best to increase the cost of re-starting a supply chain and at worst to make it intellectually impossible if only domestic resources are to be utilized.
I note in passing that America’s most important remaining engine of wealth creation is its innovative high-tech industries. These industries, such as electronics and healthcare, have been responsible for more improvement in the standards of living and lifestyle of the peoples of the world than any other intellectual force in history. The American electronics, aerospace, and nuclear industries have held out off-shoring their research and development, but sadly they have only managed to do that by enticing the best of the Asian students to come and work in the USA.
For a generation this worked well, because such individuals for the most part preferred to stay in the USA to utilize their American honed and learned skills to enjoy a better life style than they could at “home.” And to have the opportunity to create their own businesses. Today that situation has changed as places like China and India have improved enough in opportunity-availability to entice their brightest and best to stay home or even to come home. The American mining and refining industry has also had its share of bringing skilled Asian workers and engineers to the USA from China and India and like the high tech manufacturing industries it has now seen the outflow of these same people with their American honed skills and technological improvements back to their “home” countries.” Asian engineers who specialize in mining and refining engineering are very unlikely to remain in an America that blocks them from opportunity at every step.
America’s greatest inherent advantage in the production of natural resources is based on
- The variety of items in which North America can be self-sufficient,
- The safety of American natural resource production, and
- The productivity of North American mining technology and personnel.
The hypocrisy and sheer stupidity of those who want to stop producing natural resources in North America, so that we can get them from places where civil liberties are frequently nonexistent, productivity is low, safety is poor, women are treated worse than domestic animals, and the standards of living are appalling is simply beyond understanding.
I think that January 1, 2012 is as good a date as any to focus on the fact that maintaining a steady flow of affordable raw materials for energy production, food production, and manufacturing all at prices we can afford, which will let our economy GROW without lowering our standard of living is now the imperative.
The problem is that while we are trying to maintain production levels and costs the BRICS are trying to increase the production of the same materials at a rate never before seen in history. It is unlikely that America can ever again be a major supplier of extractive resources to an export led domestic manufacturing industry. We have waited too long and have simply lost the will and the capability to restore that capacity.
We can however conserve capital and reduce debt by becoming self-sufficient in energy and by again being entirely self-sufficient in metals and minerals for our domestic needs. The demand for technology materials of all kinds is ultimately now and in the future to be driven by the BRICS as all of them struggle to build military-technology-industrial complexes. The USA cannot hope to supply the BRICS with structural metal ores or fabricated products, because we waited too long to get into the game. Our structural metal industries cannot now, and have been unable to, compete with those of China or India on price since at least the middle of the last decade. The move to financialization destroyed any hope of American financiers creating truly global metals and minerals giants such as Rio Tinto or BHP. However there is still time remaining for the USA to become a technology materials powerhouse for ourselves and for the world.
The USA and North America are rich in the extractive resources of the metals and minerals that are critical to mass producing high tech devices for all uses civilian and military. The USA and Canada combined currently also lead the world in mining and refining engineering as well as technological innovation. The USA, however, is entering upon the last decade during which it has a chance to return to self-sufficiency and innovative leadership in technology. Once these opportunities are gone the world will have passed us by, and the result will be the slow erosion of our standard of living and of any further opportunities for growth. Canada has been a patient partner, our largest supplier of natural resources, but Canada’s population cannot support the creation of enough capital to move North America into the position of the world’s premier and central supplier of technology materials.
Small investors need to take note that the first decade of the 21st century saw more change in both the movement and the composition of the world’s metals markets than any other comparable period in history. The changes are permanent and their cause is an irreversible and fundamental change in the geography of the global raw materials trade. The driving center of the trade is no longer in the west; it is today in east Asia.
I believe that you can safely relegate the bulk of twentieth century punditry and scholarship on the cycles of the production and prices of metals in peacetime to the scrap heap. There they join such ideas and common wisdom as “the end of history” and descriptions of China as a third-world or developing country. In 2011 as in the prior decade, China and the other “developing” countries of southeast Asia continued to grow their GDPs at a rate of at least 3, and as much as 4, times the pace of the US or Europe. And since their common target, not their target in common, is to develop technology-military-industrial economies with a per capita GDP at least equal to that of the pre-2008 USA the rapidly growing economies of the nations of south and east Asia, and soon, if not already, of Brazil are consuming, in an unprecedented accelerated timeframe, the same volumes of base metals, mainly for fixed infrastructure and for transportation, that the USA and Europe produced and consumed in the from the beginning of the age of steel, 1867, until now!
The strain this acceleration of and growth of demand has put on the world’s productive capacity for the ores of the base metals has now highlighted the differences among the base metals themselves by resolving them, by use, into the structural metals and the enabling structural metals. China alone today, in 2011, already uses 60% of all of the iron ore mined globally and 33% of the aluminum ore. Huge investments of capital in the ores of both of these base structural metals have been made outside of China solely for the purpose of supplying just China. Investors should note that unless the demand for base structural metals grows in the other BRICS-the resource rich and/or resource mega-demanding nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa- China could create chaos in the world iron-ore market simply by increasing its domestic output to self-sufficiency, which is in fact possible, although not today economical. This game changing event, Chinese self-sufficiency in iron ore, which is actually predicted by Rio Tinto to take place by 2020, would, without a buildup in demand outside of China, throw global iron ore production into a vast oversupply status thus collapsing prices. By simply, albeit expensively, moving forward towards self-sufficiency China puts downward pressure on global iron ore prices. Strategic investors should now look for the most efficient low cost producers and fabricators of steel and aluminum outside of China, because the creation of a massive non-Chinese demand is absolutely necessary for the non-Chinese owned iron ore industry.
The ores of iron and aluminum are available in proven accessible deposits in great abundance. The proven resources of these ores are sufficient even at present global demand to sustain the global steel and aluminum industries for centuries. As long as energy is plentiful and relatively cheap the global production of steel and aluminum will continue, but continue to grow only through demand from the “developing” countries. Strategically I think that Russia is far from any meaningful development. I am looking at India and Brazil as demand drivers for iron and aluminum. Both are today self-sufficient in iron ore and both are world class exporters. Note well though that should either’s economy ever require the importing of iron or aluminum ore while at the same time Chinese demand were stable at today’s rate, or continued growing, there would then be a run-up in iron ore prices that would dwarf those of the last 10 years. In that case Australia would be the big winner. Australia’s demand for steel can never require more than a small fraction of its capacity to supply of iron ore. The unknown factor in all of this, in the long run, is China, which could become an exporter of iron ore in the 2020s.
Whatever commodity scenario one plots for the long term it is now always Asian demand that is critical. America’s future is tied to sophisticated supply chain developments for natural resources.
I personally do not believe that China will become an exporter anytime soon of iron ore, as a raw material, unless such action becomes necessary to maintain employment in the Chinese mining industry and then only after domestic demand is satisfied.
Additionally it should be noted by strategic investors that a China, self-sufficient, or in an ownership situation globally of resources to make itself self-sufficient, in iron ore, coking coal, limestone, bauxite, and cryolite could easily come to dominate the global supply of steel and aluminum.
It is ironic that monopoly capitalism with Chinese characteristics is the true threat to so-called free market capitalism, which considers monopoly capitalism to be counter-productive to the fair distribution of wealth because it concentrates wealth in too few hands and hands pricing power solely to the monopolist. Yet the Chinese have chosen state monopolized capitalism to ensure the distribution of the wealth created to the largest number of Chinese people. The Chinese system is as much a threat to western economic philosophy as it is a threat to western lifestyles and standards of living. The biggest problem is that even as production rate investments consume more and more western capital it is not at all clear that the prices for the materials so produced will be set by a free market. Thus such investments are high risk-in fact this is exactly the problem in the current rare earths production buildup. There has been almost no change in the geographic center of rare earth demand, China. This means that Chinese moves to regulate its environment, improve worker health, safety, and compensation, and to direct its economy away from being export led to being domestic consumer demand driven will be the drivers for rare earth pricing. When one takes into consideration Chinese moves into global finance are targeted so as to keep Chinese manufacturing competitive this means ultimately a convertible currency in which raw materials such as the rare earths are denominated.
So long as America is dominated by a Wall Street and Washington elite that believes that a man’s worth is measured by the capital he accumulates whether or not it is used productively to make products and create jobs there is no contest. China is winning
By: Jack Lifton
A quick search of media stories from the month of December, 2009 shows 24 clips including references to the 15 lanthanides and their related elements scandium and yttrium. By contrast, one day in December, 2011 produced 56 stories on the same resources. Even the tone of REE coverage has transformed over the years. Two years ago, an analyst piece from veteran metals consultant Jack Lifton titled “Underpriced Rare Earth Metals from China Have Created a Supply Crisis ” was a common headline as the world discovered that cheap supplies had left manufacturers vulnerable to a monopoly with an agenda. That supply fear made REE the investment de jour and sent almost all of the rare earth prices through the roof. In December of 2010, the headlines in big outlets like The Motley Fool announced that the “Spot Price of Rare Earth Elements Soar as much as 750% since Jan. 2010.”
Reality soon set in as investors realized that this was not a simple supply and demand industry. First, demand was still vague, subject to change and very specific about the type and purity of the product being delivered. Second, the ramp-up period for companies exploring, getting approval for development, mining, processing efficiently and delivering to an end-user was very, very long. Some became discouraged. That is why this year, the consumer finance site, The Daily Markets ran an article with the headline: “Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on the Rare Earth Element Minerals” by Gold Stock Trades Newsletter Writer Jeb Handwerger.
Through it all, Streetwise Reports has focused on cutting through the hype to explain what is really driving demand, how the economy and geopolitics shape supplies going forward and which few of the hundreds of companies adding REE to their company descriptions actually had a chance of making a profit.
Back in June of 2009, in an interview titled “The Race to Rare Earths,” we ran an interview with Kaiser Research Online Editor John Kaiser that concluded “China’s export-based economy, once dependent on American greed, is now but a fading memory. While the U.S. was busy printing and preening, the Chinese were long-range planning. But America wasn’t the only country caught off guard by China’s strategic, if surreptitious, supply procurement.” Even while other analysts were panicking, Kaiser was pointing out how investors could be part of the solution–and make a profit in the process.
“For the juniors, the opportunity right now is to source these projects. They get title to them, and when these end users want to develop them, they’re going to have to pay a premium to have these projects developed,” Kaiser said. “So it will not be economic logic that results in these companies getting bought out and having their deposits developed. It’ll be a strategic logic linked to long-term security-of-supply and redundancy concerns. And we’re seeing that sort of psychology at work in this market. It’s a bit of a niche in this market. Not as big as gold, but it is an interesting one because of the long-term real economy link implications.”
After years of covering the space by interviewing the growing chorus of analysts and newsletter writers singing the praises of rare earth elements, in June of 2011, we launched The Critical Metals Report to give exclusive coverage to the entire space, including rare earth elements, strategic metals and specialty metals. One of the first experts interviewed was Emerging Trends Report Managing Editor Richard Karn in an article called “50 Specialty Metals under Supply Threat.” He warned that investing in the space is not as simple as some other mining operations. “The market is just starting to become aware of the difficulty involved with processing these metals, which, in many cases, more closely resemble sophisticated industrial chemistry than traditional onsite brute processing. Putting flow sheets together that process these metals and elements economically is no mean feat.”
In this early article, Karn busted the myth that manufacturers would find substitutions, engineer out or use recycled supplies for hard-to-access materials. “The advances we have seen especially in consumer electronics over the last decade and a half have not been driven by lone inventors or college kids tinkering in their parents’ garages, but rather by very large, well-equipped and well-staffed research arms of powerful corporations. The stakes are high and if a certain metal is critical in an application, they will buy it regardless of the price,” he said.
Similarly, a July 2011 article for The Critical Metals Report featured Energy and Scarcity Editor Byron King sharing “The Real REE Demand Opportunity” driven by the automobile industry and beyond. He was one of the first to point out that not all rare earths are the same with Heavy Rare Earth Elements demanding big premiums.
“Going forward, the serious money will be in HREEs, which have a lot of uses other than EVs,” King said. “For example, yttrium is used in high-temperature refractory products. There’s no substitute for yttrium. Without it, you can’t make the refractory molds needed to make jet-engine turbine blades. If you can’t make jet-engine turbine blades, you don’t have jet engines or power turbines. The price points for these HREEs will reflect true scarcity and unalterable demand. People will bite the bullet and pay what they have to in order to get the yttrium.”
House Mountain Partners Founder Chris Berry also addressed the impact of electric vehicle demand on vanadium, a popular steel alloy strengthener now being used in lithium-ion batteries in the interview “Can Electric Vehicles Drive Vanadium Demand? “
“The use of vanadium in LIBs for EVs is not significant yet, but could eventually become important as the transportation sector electrifies. One of the real challenges surrounding LIBs is settling on the most effective battery chemistry. In other words, what battery chemistry allows for the greatest number of charge recycles, depletes its charge the slowest and allows us to recharge the fastest? Today, based on my research, lithium-vanadium-phosphate batteries appear to offer the highest charge and the fastest recharge cycle. It seems that the lithium-vanadium-phosphate battery holds a great deal of promise, offering a blend of substantial power and reliability. I am watching for advances in battery chemistry here with great interest,” Berry said.
In September, Technology Metals Research Founding Principal Jack Lifton shared his insights on why some junior REE companies are prospering while others wither and die. In the article, “Profit from Really Critical Rare Earth Elements,” he said: “Rare earth junior miners are now being culled by their inability to raise enough capital to carry their projects forward to a place where either the product produced directly or the value to be gained from the company’s development to that point by a buyer can be more profitable than a less risky investment. The majority of the rare earth junior miners do not understand the supply chain through which the critical rare earth metals become industrial or consumer products. Additionally, they do not seem to recognize the value chain issue, which can be stated as ‘How far downstream in the supply chain do I need to take my rare earths in order to be able to sell them at a profit?’”
Then Lifton made this important point for Critical Metals Report readers. “It is very important for the small investor to understand that the share market does not directly benefit the listed company unless the company either sells more of its ownership or pledges future production for present, almost always sharply discounted, revenue.” As always, Lifton encouraged investors to follow the money to a specific end rather than the general market demand often envisioned by investors accustomed to the more defined gold market.
In October, JF Zhang Associates’ Principal Consultant and Chief China Strategist J. Peter Zhang shared his insights on “U.S. Manganese Supply as a Strategic Necessity.”
Manganese is now largely used largely in the production of low quality stainless steel, but is being incorporated into lithium-ion batteries. That increased demand is focusing attention on the limited supply outside China. “There really is no electrolytic manganese metals production in the U.S. or anywhere outside China except for a small percentage from South Africa. We don’t produce even a single ounce in North America. Relying on other countries to supply essential commodities (like oil for instance) is always a problem. If China suddenly decided to reduce production, or in the likely event that its domestic demand increases, the world would be out of options. Policymakers need to understand this risk and Congress needs to take action to minimize the potential impacts,” he said. “From the end of 2008 to 2009, China tied things up. Since then, the price has doubled, tripled and quadrupled. That should be a wakeup call. North America needs to either establish a strategic reserve system for critical metals or build production capacity to mitigate supply risk. I think there is some sense of urgency right now, but a lot more needs to be done.”
Picking the right junior is the trick. In the November article “Navigating the Rare Earth Metals Landscape” Technology Metals Research Founding Principal Gareth Hatch outlined the odds. “TMR is tracking well over 390 different rare earth projects at present; I can’t see more than 8-10 coming onstream in the next 5-7 years. Projects already well past exploration and into the development and engineering stage, and beyond, clearly have first-mover advantage.”
Just this month, in an interview entitled, “The Age of Rare Earth Metals” Jacob Securities Analyst Luisa Moreno compared the impact REEs will have on our daily lives with the transformation in the Bronze Age.
“There is an economic war over the rare earths, with China on one side and other industrialized nations on the other—Japan, the United States and the E.U. China is probably winning. It has decreased exports in the last few years and increased protection. It has attracted a great deal of the downstream business and it is positioning itself well. At this point, it produces most of the world’s rare earths, and prices are at record highs. Japan and the other countries have been left with few options, and those options are more expensive, such as substitution, recycling and adapting production lines to use less efficient materials.” Moreno then pointed to the seven companies that could come to the world’s rescue and usher in a miraculous new world of smaller, stronger, more powerful gadgets based on a steady supply of REE materials from reliable sources.
By: The Gold Report
Translated from the original German Article that can be found here:
Due to the distrust of paper money system escape investors more and more into real assets. Besides real estate , precious metals and commodity exchanges traded commodities , however, there are other commodities which are increasing the interest of investors. Namely Special Metals Exchange Express spoke with the manager of the venerable German metal dealer Haines Maassen (www.hain-maassen.com) Mr. Gunther Maassen.
BE: Mr. Maassen, you will see an increased interest from investors, including you offer specialty metals investing?
For about four years recorded Haines and Maassen an increasing demand from investors for specialty metals such as indium, gallium and hafnium.
BE: Why do you advertise on a site for commodity investors? Should this be expanded in a targeted area?
Haines & Maassen has over 60 years and active trading in the metal during this period was continuously expanded the offering plate. This particular segment is not promoted specifically, but we have adapted to the needs of this industry and adapted our offerings accordingly. We see our role as a family but in the metal trade, and not as a financial investment advisor.
BE: Is it worth an investment at all in special metals? If an investor wants to sell the purchased metals again, how great the loss is due to the trading range?
Since we are not investment advisors, we want to leave the decision up to our customers. The fundamentals of supply and demand shall, however, seems to indicate that the sustained demand for many of these elements exceed the bid. When individual elements are signs of a significant shortage. Leading research institutions around the world, for example, predict a significant shortage of indium in the next 10-20 years. Include items such as tantalum, hafnium, and tellurium show depletion trends. The trading range in the metal trade the usual manner 10 to 20% higher.
BE: Is it for your company at all interesting to supply retail customers or are you collaborating with distributors for small deliveries to private homes?
Even as larger trading company, we look forward to every customer and ensure a competent, based on years of service experience. Each customer, whether he now buys 1 kg or 100 kg of indium, tantalum is just treated as an industrial consumer. For several years we have worked successfully with companies that have created the special baskets for consumers. Leading role in this market is the Schweizerische Metallhandels AG / Switzerland, which brought the first company to a sustainable system for investors in the market. This trained and experienced intermediaries has developed standardized solutions to investors to provide with smaller sums, the opportunity to participate in the development of strategic special metals.
BE: Is there or are you planning it, the metals are VAT-free to keep investors in a bonded warehouse ?
No, this service leaves Haines & Maassen companies like the Swiss metal trading SMH AG, which take on a pioneering role in this field. We see our task in the expert advice and supplies to customers. This has meant that our company has occupied in the commercial sector is not more than 70% of jobs with academics. Chemists, economists, certified interpreter and aspiring metallurgist to join our team. . This allows us a targeted advice at a high level.
BE: Which of you offer metals were the highest price increases in recent years?
There are a number of metals such as rare earths (neodymium, cerium, lanthanum, …) and tellurium, tantalum, indium, gallium, hafnium, and that have experienced including price developments of more than 100%. Appears much more important to us, however, that the price developments of several of these elements in the long term exceed the inflation rate and thus suitable as a value assurance.
BE: Which you can see because of the supply situation and the future demand (particularly by new technologies), the highest price appreciation potential?
This would I got the book “Strategic Metals for investors,” by Michael and me Vaupel point, which is launched in early November. Here it is precisely this question at the center. Of promising innovations will be closed to the required raw materials, which then permits a conclusion on price trends. We specifically do not want to move a single metal in the foreground, but on the contrary believe that a healthy mixture of different metals, the better alternative. BE: Which metals has China as the rare-earth quasi-supply monopoly , China has some metals offer a market share exceeding 50%. about 90% antimony, bismuth, germanium, about 67% about 67%, 60% indium, about 67% silicon and tungsten over 80%. These are just the elements in which China holds more than 50%. There is also a long list of substances for which the People’s Republic plays a significant role.
BE: Some metals are toxic or dangerous now. Is not that problematic when investors rush to such materials and store them at home? Or. even allowed all metals to be delivered?
Yes, clearly this is problematic and it is forbidden even in a single well. The delivery of some metals to individuals such as arsenic, selenium and tellurium are not only forbidden, but also jeopardize the customer. The transport is subject to restrictions. Here it is important that it is made clear in the consultation, where the boundaries of a private storage are located.
BE: What are the traded you metals for investors at all in question and which are ruled out?
This question is very complex and I would again like to the book “Special Metal for Strategic Investors” link. There are plenty of metals that can store private (indium, tantalum, etc.), and there are metals that can be stored without problems by specialist companies (gallium, tellurium, etc.). When no sense can be considered elements that can fail either due to technical reasons (explosive, very toxic ..) or claim due to a relatively low price, very substantial storage space would be (lithium, manganese …).
BE: Why are entirely at your rare earths?
Excluded from the program they are not, if a customer wants to purchase rare earths we can offer him.
BE: Which of the traded you metals are traded on commodity exchanges?
To reach Western markets, these are only molybdenum and cobalt in the form of oxides. In China, there are over 200 raw evil, but they are for the West not accessible or meaningful.
BE: Do you think the interest in physical metal investment for temporary or if the stay a permanent plant-fixed point?
I am personally of the opinion that the trend towards be physical forms of investment is long term and sustainable. Haines & Maassen has set himself definitely on this development and the capacity significantly. For about six months, we have another large warehouse, which predominantly serves the industry as a reloading and packaging facility.
BE: How serious is the market for metals from the perspective of potential investors?
Romp around many charlatans of the matter actually have no idea (push-columns, rushing into this, what’s currently on the market)? Unfortunately, there are black sheep in every industry. It certainly makes sense to find out exactly and above all, the costs can be expected for an investment of over 10 years. It is often cheaper to pay a few percent at the beginning to press for more and ongoing costs. Especially when storage costs are frightening models that cause within 5 years, considerable cost.
BE: Mr. Maassen, thank you for your time!
Kunal Bose / January 18, 2011, 0:41 IST
In line with many other commodities, including precious metals, silver, often described as poor man’s gold, has shed some gains from a 30-year high at $30 an ounce in December to trade now at a little less than $29.40 an ounce. Such correction is in order as the November US unemployment rate fell to 9.8 per cent, this year’s GDP growth forecast for the world’s largest economy is three per cent and the dollar rally is finally on.
The past year saw some spectacular rallies in silver with prices rising 80 per cent on perception of it being a store of value, continuing shrinkage of above-ground refined silver and demand staying ahead of supply. The fact that for the past two decades, demand for silver was more than mining supply, the above-ground silver float had hit historical low of less than one billion ounces. In response to tightening supply situation, the world has seen drawing down of stocks held on government and private accounts. Though, not in any significant quantities, physical shortages and good prices off late are also leading to silver recycling. There will be more of recycled silver if prices rise as the year advances.
An umbilical kind of relationship in terms of prices exists between silver and gold. Both the precious metals have gone through some corrections as the New Year dawned. Gold over the last two years and silver in 2010 saw impressive price appreciation and therefore, irrespective of their fundamentals are likely to experience occasional dips. At their respective prices, silver at this point on a historical basis is grossly undervalued vis-a-vis gold. This is in spite of silver outperforming the yellow metal by a very high margin last year. Most precious metal experts have forecast that silver once again this year will gain more, principally on safe haven demand than gold. At the same time, if gold gets a boost for reasons such as concerns about Portugal’s sovereign debt and UN world food prices index climbing to a record level in December, then silver also stands to gain, very likely more than its illustrious partner in the precious metals basket.
Silver’s demand is both for its store of value and industrial applications now also embracing new generation products like flat screen panels, iPad, solar panels. No doubt, industrial demand for silver took a hit as raw film-based photography made way for digital kind. But many new applications, including use of antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of silver in the medical space are compensating for the lost ground in photography. Silver is no longer a metal used for making jewellery for the masses only. It is now seen as an ideal material for making jewellery for high fashion women too. Moreover, silver jewellery made in our country is coming for growing appreciation in the world market. However, the mainstay of silver demand is its application in a wide range of industries.
What is mostly going to help the cause of price of the metal is the existence of a limited number of pure silver mines with their reserves getting depleted over time. But for a long period, silver almost to the extent of 80 per cent is derived as a by-product of base metals like copper, zinc and nickel. Supply of silver as a derived product got squeezed since the second half of 2008 with the world lapsing into a scorching recession on the back of a systemic financial failure. Simultaneously, as there was loss of confidence in currencies with stimulus programmes running full steam in several countries led by the US, investors thought it wise to turn to gold and silver to protect their wealth.
To add to supply concern, China, the world’s third-largest producer of the metal after Peru and Mexico, effected major cuts in exports of this high value metal to take care of the domestic investment demand and industry requirements. According to an observer, the Chinese demand is coming from all areas, including investment, jewellery and fabrication. China is not short of millionaires with huge appetite for gold and silver. The country that exported 3,500 tonnes of silver in 2009 sold nearly 60 less in the world market in the first three quarters of last year. China is also taking considerable physical silver position. The country, now the world’s largest gold producer, caused a stir by importing 6.7 million ounces of the yellow metal in the first ten months of last year against imports of 1.6 million ounces in 2009. But China does not export gold.
With so much cash to spare, China is in an enviable position to splurge on precious metals like no other country. Experts say the bulging inventory will come to Beijing’s aid whenever it seeks a major world status for its currency. Where will you see silver prices at 2011 end? Bullion experts say the price will be in the range of $35 to $45 an ounce. Though silver will forever draw inspiration from gold, chances of the white metal outperforming the yellow metal once again this year remain a distinct possibility.
Is the air leaking out of the buoyant cleantech sector? We’ve been hearing such chatter for months, but Dallas Kachan of the consulting firm Kachan & Co. is out with a forecast that says not to worry: 2010 was a glorious year for cleantech investment and more of the same is on tap for 2011. Kachan says that there are simply too many factors driving venture capital into the sector.
We predict these drivers particularly the real or perceived scarcity around oil, rare earth elements and other commodities will be felt even more acutely in 2011, especially as the Chinese middle class expands, further cementing the demand for and the market validity of clean technologies, Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., says in a press release.
Kachan says one notable feature he expects in 2011 is a return to early state venture investments as government grants and loan guarantees begin to fade. Venture investment in cleantech will return to what it does best: seeking out emerging early stage technologies and teams that promise good multiples, and will be less influenced by governments putting large amounts of capital to work themselves, Kachan says.
The subcategory getting the most attention, he says, will be efficiency, which Kachan said began to get serious traction in 2010 with big announcements, investments and acquisitions by GE in the third quarter and energy-efficiency plans unveiled in recent weeks by Russia.
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