Rare Earths: Worldwide Markets, Applications, Technologies
Total worldwide production of rare earths will reach 91,325 million tonnes in 2007.
Asia, excluding Japan, will have the fastest average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 4.8%.
Future strong growth for rare earths will be for rechargeable batteries, medical applications, sensors and dental/surgical lasers.
Magnetic refrigeration also will emerge as a commercial market.
Rare earths offer unique physical and chemical properties that allow the synthesis or fabrication of materials and products that would not otherwise be possible. Because of this, rare earths are used in a variety of applications. A small yet strategic global market, rare earths are a critical and essential element in advanced technologies such as catalysis, batteries, fuel cells, sensors, optics and superconductor/permanent magnets. Other applications are well established and include magnets, ceramics, glass additives and polishing agents, and metal alloys.
The present state of the rare earth industry is changing. A global recession particularly affected electronics end-use markets for rare earths, and led to diminished demand. At the same time, new entrants and expansions by existing producers resulted in additional capacity at the mine, processing and product levels. This led to lower operating rates for many producers, a more competitive market, and pricing pressures. These drivers will continue.
In the long term, the use of rare earths will recover and expand as a result of technological advancements in the area of new methods for producing rare earth products, as well as in evaluating rare earth materials for various applications. With rapid changes in the industry structure and in the accelerated rise of new, expanding applications, this technology/marketing report's unified view of materials and applications is needed.
BCC provides a detailed and comprehensive study of the worldwide market for rare earth products and technologies and potential opportunities in the future. The report includes a thorough coverage of the underlying economic issues driving the rare earth , as well as assessments of new and potential technologies, products and services that companies are developing. Social, political and regulatory issues also are covered. The analysis also provides realistic market data and forecasts for worldwide rare earth products demand.
SCOPE OF STUDY
This report covers:
- The present status of, and future prospects for, worldwide rare earth products and technologies
- Diverse applications, e.g., catalysts, magnets, metallurgy, glass and ceramics, electronics, etc.
- Five year forecasts for rare earths and applications, plus product and market opportunities
- Corporate strategies, technologies and the means for providing product offerings
- Critical social, political, regulatory and economic issues
- Rare earth industry structure and companies and their competitive positions/options, etc.
The research methodology was qualitative in nature and employed a triangulation approach, which aids validity. Initially, a comprehensive and exhaustive search of the literature on rare earths was conducted. These secondary sources included chemical and mining journals and related books, trade literature, marketing literature, other product/promotional literature, annual reports, security analyst reports, and other publications. A patent search and analysis was also conducted.
In a second phase, a series of semi-structured interviews were conducted with marketing executives, engineers, unit managers, design engineers, and other personnel at the rare earth material and product companies. Other sources included academics, technology suppliers, technical experts, trade association officials, government officials, and consulting companies. These were a rich source of data. BCC wishes to thank those companies, government agencies, and university researchers who contributed information for this report. When appropriate, information from previously published sources is identified to allow a more detailed examination by clients. Subsequent analysis of the documents and interview notes was iterative. Most current and potential market assessments are based on a 'common understanding' as derived from the above research methodology. That is, it reflects a consensus scenario that assumes no unanticipated technological advances or unexpected legislation.
In terms of market value, the leading rare earth end use is for high power permanent magnets. In 1999, $1.2 billion worth of rare earth-containing magnets will be sold. These magnets included 25,300 tons of rare earth materials (based on rare earth oxide content). Under an optimistic market scenario, this could grow to more than $2 billion over the next 10 years.
In terms of tonnage, the leading rare earth application is for catalysts, including gasoline cracking catalysts and air pollution abatement catalysts. In 1999, this represents a 30,000-ton market. This market is stable, and little growth is likely.
The fastest-growing market could be for rare earth-containing room temperature superconductors. From a commercial market of essentially zero, the rare earth-containing superconductor market in 1999 should be on the order of $25 million. Over the next 5 years, under an optimistic scenario, this could grow to a $200 million market. By 2009, $0.5 billion worth of rare earth-containing superconductors could be sold. In terms of tonnage, this could mean a 200-ton market within the 10-year scope of this report.