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Five Rare Earth Elements in ‘Critical’ Supply: U.S. Energy Department

Five rare earth elements fundamental to creating new technologies such as wind turbines, electric cars and efficient lighting are facing critical supply levels over the next few years, the U.S. Department of Energy warns.

The DOE, in its "2011 Critical Materials Strategy" report, said provision of rare earth elements dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium are already reaching "critical" levels of short-term supply, meaning supply issues could occur from now through 2015.

Even worse, according to the report, all five elements have few material substitutes and come from a narrow range of producers.

"This means that an unexpected supply glitch or trade dispute could have quick, deep ripple-effects through the green-tech sector," the report said.

Yttrium, used to make compact fluorescent lamps, is 100 per cent imported from China since there are no other producers mining or refining it. Dysprosium, essential for magnets that can operate at high temperatures such as vehicle drives, also mostly come from China.

Terbium, the only viable substitute for dysprosium, is even rarer and more expensive.

Earlier this month, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC), in a survey of senior executives from 69 manufacturers, said at least seven manufacturing industries, including automotive, chemicals, aviation and renewable energy, will face a shortage of raw materials and a slump in industrial activities, as 14 rare earth elements may turn even more insufficient in the next five years.

PwC had urged business leaders of the manufacturing industries to start establishing fallback plans and fast track implementing them if only to sustain their immediate business plans.

Rare earth elements are not really rare. However, there are only a handful of producers who can successfully mine and refine the said elements. China is the world's stronghold of rare earth elements, feeding 95 per cent of the world's demand.

Read more:

Canadian Matamec to Form Joint Venture with Toyota Tsusho over Quebec Rare Earth Project

Shortage of Rare Earths a Crisis Waiting to Explode

China Cutting Rare Earth Production to 70% by 2015: Study

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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