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Copper Mining

Molybdenum the Metal with Few Substitutes

Molybdenum is a Group 6 chemical element with the symbol Mo and atomic number 42.

Rare Industrial Metal - Molybdenum

Recently molybdenum has been in the news. China Molybdenum has announced that it will be launching an IPO on the Shanghai exchange later in the year. Swiss Metal Assets has also decided to add Molybdenum to its, ¨Construction and Engineering¨, basket of metals joining tantalum, tungsten, chromium, zirconium and cobalt.

Molybdenum is a refractory metal with the symbol of Mo on the periodic table of the elements and an atomic number of 42. This rare strategic metal was discovered in 1778 by a Swedish scientist Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Molybdenum has the sixth highest melting point of all elements. With a melting point of 2,623°C (4,753°F) only tungsten, rhenium, carbon, osmium and tantalum boast a higher melting point.

The largest producer of molybdenum is China followed by Chile, United States, Peru and Canada. Molybdenum is primarily a bi-product of copper and tungsten mining with a few mines producing it as a principal ore. Total world production is approximately 230,000 metric tons per year according to the USGS (United States Geological Survey).

The use of molybdenum is extensive. There are very few substitutes for the metal. This keeps the demand high. Molybdenum has an extensive list of uses. The top use is in alloys which uses about 70% of all the metal available each year.

Here is a list of the uses of Molybdenum:

  1. Alloys in construction
  2. Superalloys in aviation and rocketry
  3. Lubricants for high temperature applications
  4. Catalysts
  5. Alloy with steel to make stainless steel
  6. Pigments
  7. Electronics
  8. X-ray tube components
  9. Applications to protect against heat
  10. Nuclear industry
  11. Solar industry as an electrode material in CIGS (Copper, Indium, Gallium and Selenide) Panels

The future of Molybdenum looks bright with the continued expansion of the green economy around the world. The solar industry growth will continue to use significantly more of the rare metal in CdTe (Cadmium Telluride) panels and the CIGS panels. The market for CIGS solar panels are projected to double by 2015. This will put significant pressure on the molybdenum market as well as the rest of the rare strategic metals.

By: Randy Hilarski – The Rare Metals Guy

Rare Earth Elements are not the same as Rare Industrial Metals

Rare Earth Elements

Randy Hilarski has also released a video on this article that can be watched by clicking here.

I read articles from other writers who often refer to Rare Industrial or Technical Metals as Rare Earth elements. I would like to take some time and clear up the issue. I deal with RIM’s and REE´s on a daily basis. The two might both be considered metals but that is where the similarities end.

First we have REE´s or Rare Earth Elements. These metals consist of 17 metals, the Lanthanides plus Scandium and Yttrium on the periodic table of the elements. These metals are in a powder form, making them difficult to assay and store. One important factor that is often mentioned is that they are not rare. This is very true, but finding REE´s in large deposits is difficult.

In the mining sector REE mines are standalone mines, that focus on the mining and refining of REE´s exclusively. Currently around 97% of all REE´s are mined and refined in China. Historically REE mining and refining has been a dirty business, which has affected the environment around the mines. The elements Thorium and Uranium are often found along with the REE´s in the deposits causing the slurry to be slightly radioactive when processed. The use of highly toxic acids during the processing can also have serious environmental impact. Many companies are trying to open REE mines but they are meeting headwinds, as nations and people do not want these mines in their backyard.

Over the last few years China has dramatically cut its export of REE´s. This and the increased need for REE´s have caused a meteoric rise in the value of these metals. The one area that very few people talk about is the role of the media combined with speculators in raising the value of REE ETF´s in particular. For the last couple years REE´s were the rock stars of the metals. The news has calmed as of late, but the supply and demand factors that caused the metals to soar are still in place. Recently China closed it BaoTao mine until REE prices stabilize.

Rare Earth Metal - Indium

Rare Industrial Metals, RIM´s or Technical metals are another group entirely. The RIM´s are made up of metals used in over 80% of all products we use on a daily basis. Without these metals you would not have the world of the 21st century with our mobile phones, hybrid cars, flat screen TV´s, highly efficient solar energy and computers. Some of these metals include Indium, Tellurium, Gallium, Tantalum and Hafnium. These metals really are rare compared to the Rare Earth Metals which causes a great deal of confusion. These metals are in a metallic form, stable and easy to store and ship.

RIM´s are mined as a by-product of base or common metal mining. For example Tellurium is a by-product of Copper mining and Gallium is a by-product of Aluminum and Zinc mining. The mining of the RIM´s currently are for the most part at the mercy of the markets for the base or common metal mining. If the Copper mines of the world decide to cut production due to Copper losing value, this will have a huge impact on the amount of Tellurium that can be refined. Up until now, because of the previous small size of the RIM market, many companies do not feel the need to invest money into better technology to mine and refine these metals. The RIM´s would have to be valued much higher to gain the attention of the mining industry.

When China cut exports of REE´s they also cut exports of RIM´s. This put pressure on the value of these metals. RIM´s have increased in value, but nowhere near the meteoric rise of the REE´s. Most of the metals increased in value around 47% in 2010 and 25% so far in 2011. There is still a lot of room for growth in the value of these metals (not based on speculation like REE´s) as demand is exceeding supply now and in the future.

For Example, when REE´s and the stock market recently fell sharply the RIM´s came down slightly in value but have held their own extremely well. On a further note, according to Knut Andersen of Swiss Metal Assets, ¨Even though prices of the Rare Industrial Metals continue to go up in value, consumers will eventually only see a very small increase in the price of the end products, because there is so little of each metal used to produce these products. Also if the people can´t afford a smartphone they will still buy less expensive phones that still use the same Rare Industrial Metals¨.

The need for RIM´s has risen sharply over the years and will continue to grow at astronomical rates. China, India, South America and the whole of Africa with hundreds of millions of new consumers are now buying and using computers and mobile phones to name just a few products.

The future is bright for the technologies and the Rare Industrial Metals that make them work and for anyone who participates in stockpiling these metals now to meet future increased demand.

By: Randy Hilarski – The Rare Metals Guy