World Rare Earths Market

  • July 2011
  • -
  • Freedonia


Table of Contents

World demand to rise 7.1% annually through 2015

World demand for rare earths is forecast to expand 7.1 percent per year to 180,000 metric tons in 2015. In dollar terms, sales are expected to more than triple from $3.0 billion in 2010 to $9.2 billion in 2015. Consumption will be driven by increases in battery alloy, electronic product, motor vehicle and permanent magnet output. Market growth is expected to accelerate substantially from the 2005-2010 period, when demand in most nations was negatively impacted by sharp and unexpected reductions in Chinese export quotas which led to an exponential rise in rare earths prices.

Permanent magnets to remain largest market

Rare earths demand can be segmented into eight major markets: auto catalysts; battery alloys; fluid cracking catalysts (FCCs); glass, polishing and ceramics; metal processing; permanent magnets; phosphors; and other. Permanent magnets are -- and will continue to be -- the largest rare earths market, both in terms of value and volume. Global demand for rare earths used in permanent magnets will register both a substantial improvement from the 2005-2010 period and the strongest rate of growth of any major market in volume terms. Sales will be fueled by increases in consumer electronics, electric motors, and hybrid electric and other motor vehicle production. Neodymium iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets, also known as “neo-magnets,” will account for the vast majority of sales. Worldwide demand for rare earths used in metal processing applications will exhibit renewed strength following a period of minimal growth between 2005 and 2010. Sales will be stimulated by increased levels of global steel production, particularly high-strength steels and steels with elevated anti-oxidation properties.

Neodymium, dysprosium to be fastest growing types

Neodymium and dysprosium are expected to post the fastest volume gains of any rare earths type, spurred by increased sales of heat-resistant NdFeB permanent magnets. However, cerium will remain the most widely used rare earth, accounting for nearly one-third of the 2015 total tonnage. Lanthanum and neodymium, with 27 and 23 percent of the 2015 tonnage total, respectively, will be the second and third most utilized types of rare earths. China has held a virtual monopoly on rare earths production since the turn of the century. In 2010, Chinese mines produced 111,000 metric tons of rare earths, accounting for over 90 percent of world output. However, the emergence of non-Chinese suppliers, combined with increased research and development in rare earths refining technologies, will boost overall rare earths supply and eventually reduce upward pricing pressures.

Rare earth prices to peak around 2013

Prices for rare earths have jumped dramatically in recent years, particularly in the wake of unexpected cuts in China export quotas. Pricing determinations are complicated by a dichotomy between pricing within China and spot prices outside of China. It is anticipated that prices will peak around 2013, when there will be downward pricing correction as new industry entrants begin to operate at close to full production capacity. Especially notable will be the elevated prices for the light rare earth neodymium and the heavy rare earths dysprosium, terbium and yttrium.

Study coverage

Details on these and other key findings are contained in World Rare Earths. The report provides historical demand data (2000, 2005, 2010) plus forecasts for 2015 and 2020 by type and market for the world, six regions and 14 countries. Seven major commercial types of rare earths are broken out, as well as seven major markets. The study also assesses market environment factors, examines company market share and profiles global industry competitors.

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