by Simon Moores – Industrial Minerals – Published: May 13, 2010
Magnet consultant: No sign of supply problems for Chinese rare earth magnets
Consumers of rare earth magnets have little cause for concern at present about securing rare earths from the world’s leading miner and processor, China, according to a leading consultant.
Manufacturers of green technologies such as wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles rely on rare earth magnets such as neodymium-iron-boron and samarium-cobalt to function.
But leading magnet consultant, Gareth Hatch of US group Technology Metals Research LLC said there is no need for alarm yet.
“At present, despite the media frenzy surrounding rare earths, there are no indications of problems of supply of finished rare earth permanent magnet materials, produced in China, to the West,” he said.
Hatch said that Chinese restrictions are for raw materials not for finished products and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
China is closing its doors on exports of critical minerals and metals as it seeks to secure supply to feed its growing economy, and as it tries to push its minerals industry towards a high-value business model.
However Hatch did warn of over-reliance on China as a source of raw material.
“Being reliant on a single geographic area such as China, regardless of the geopolitics involved, or even the materials in question, is clearly a strategic risk,” he said.