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6 Jan 2023

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Demand for Rare Earths Projected to Grow 10% Annually over Next Decade

Increasing demand for rare-earth metals by manufacturers of mobile phones, solar panels, and electric-vehicle batteries and magnets is projected to increase the value of their extraction by 10% annually for the next decade, according to an article from ESG Impact Zone. Total market value is projected to reach US$14.6 billion by 2033, according to this report.

China produces 85% of rare-earth metals being mined today, no doubt causing anxiety in every other country in the world. Rare-earth metals are a group of 17 heavy metals, very similar in appearance but dramatically different in how they react in industrial environments.

Rare earths are currently used in 90% of global chemical engineering facilities. They are also not necessarily rare, but seldom found in isolation, but rather in rocks and ores of other minerals. They are said to be expensive to extract and refine.

Australia is the world's distant second-largest current producer, with 12% of the market; it is pursuing construction of a new refining plant in Malaysia's relatively close, rural Kelantan state. The Malaysian government is forbidding the import of any radioactive rare-earths, though, which will limit Australia's plans to some degree.

Disruptive Potential
Given the global supply chain bobbles during the 2020-2021 Covid pandemic and the inflation it helped trigger, it's easy to imagine mundane mineral extraction issues causing enormous disruption.

China's increasingly nationalistic posture, led by newly renewed strongman Xi Jinping, as well as his defensiveness about everything from China's role in handling and exacerbating Covid, to restiveness in Hong Kong, threats over Taiwan, reaction to recent tariffs, criticism of GHG emissions, and recent natural disasters that affected its industrial core, provide no solace to concerns about the availability of rare earths in a time of rapidly increasing demand.

Learn more about IDCA's research into China and the rest of the world:

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