by Jim Jones – TIMES LIVE – Published: Feb 7, 2010
Speakers at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town this week seemed as one in warning of a near-term supply-demand squeeze and some solid price increases for a swathe of metals.
They made the point that China and India will be central to minerals demand growth. And among the so-called rare-earth metals that are crucial to many of today’s high-tech products, China is the leading producer and is curbing exports unless they are already processed into manufactured products. As consultant Jack Lifton saw it, stronger demand has not (and cannot) lead to greater production.
Many of the metals that are needed for items such as solar panels, super-conductors and jet engines are produced as by-products of lead, zinc, copper, manganese or aluminium mining. There is no chance of increasing production of indium, gallium, germanium, rhenium, thorium and tellurium from primary mines.
It is not the same for copper, the metal showing the second-highest price increase over the past year – lead was first and zinc third. These are metals that better reflect the state of demand in the real economy.
Chinese demand is growing and, there are supply constraints. New mines cannot be brought on stream at the flick of a switch. Iron ore is in much the same boat. Price rises will be far more restrained than they were a year or two ago.
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