Rare Earths: Worldwide Markets, Applications, Technologies

Published - Jun 2009| Analyst - Margareth Gagliardi| Code - AVM018F
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Report Highlights

  • The global market for rare earths consumed 126,682 metric tons of materials in 2008 and an estimated 113,610 metric tons in 2009. This is expected to increase to 175,618 metric tons in 2014, for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.1%.
  • Mechanical and metallurgical applications have the largest share of the market and used 42,765 metric tons of materials in 2008. This is expected to decrease to 36,770 metric tons in 2009 and increase to 56,410 metric tons in 2014, for a CAGR of 8.9%.
  • Glass and ceramics applications have the second-largest market share, and used 34,730 metric tons in 2008 and an estimated 32,500 metric tons in 2009. This is expected to increase at a CAGR of 8.5% to reach 48,890 metric tons in 2014.


Rare earths are a group of 17 metallic elements that have similar chemical structures that confer upon them unique properties.   Consumption of rare earths has experienced remarkable growth during the last few decades due to the increasing availability of these materials and the development of new applications that take advantage of their unique properties.   
BCC has been tracking the rare earths market for over 10 years and published its last report related to this subject in 2006.   During the period 2006 through 2008, the market for these materials has continued to expand, new technological developments have occurred in the field, and industry changes have taken place. 
With this study, BCC continues to fulfill its objective of keeping readers updated on the various technological advances and innovations occurring in the rare earths industry, including their effect on markets for these materials.
The main goal of this report is to provide new insights into current and potential applications for rare earth elements, outline technological trends, illustrate the status of sources and mining activities around the world, provide an update on unit prices and future price issues, and supply a market analysis for various rare earth elements.  
Specifically, the major objectives of this study are: 
  • Provide an updated review of rare earths technology, focusing on materials, sources, and applications.   
  • Highlight new technological developments, during the past 3 years, related to rare earths. 
  • Review existing fields of application for rare earths and investigate emerging applications.
  • Supply an updated worldwide overview of resources and rare earths production.  
  • Describe the market evolution since 2006 and estimate 2009 global markets by application and rare earth element, with growth forecasts through 2014 for each market segment.
  • Identify important technological and market trends within each market segment. 
  • Provide an updated review of current producers of rare earth materials and other relevant industry players.
  • Determine trends in global patents issued during the past 3 years.
Although the first rare earths were discovered in the late 1700s, the applications for these materials were very limited until the 1960s.   However, during the last 40 years, research activities related to rare earths have increased rapidly, leading to the growing use of these materials in many industrial sectors. 
Today many technologically advanced products (such as electronic components, advanced displays, rechargeable batteries, hybrid vehicles, high–performance alloys, high–efficiency catalysts, and high–strength ceramics) depend on rare earths.
Beginning in the mid–1980s, China surpassed the United States as the leading supplier of rare earths. With very large reserves of rare earths, representing approximately 44% of the worldwide total, China’s overwhelming price advantage through economies of scale made most mining operations in other parts of the world unprofitable, strengthening China’s position as the leading producer of these elements (China currently accounts for 96.8% of global rare earths production).
During the last few years, China has established various regulations to control the mining and export of rare earths.   Additionally, before the onset of the current worldwide recession, demand for rare earths was growing at a healthy pace, due in part to the introduction of new applications. 
As a result, the outlook for the rare earths market is constantly evolving, in particular as it relates to pricing, the need of alternative sources, and growth in demand for products containing these materials.   
The principal reason for doing this study is to evaluate all these factors (materials, applications, sources, producers, prices, supply, and demand) to provide a current and comprehensive assessment of the rare earth industry.  
There is also a need to evaluate the current status and future trends of the rare earth industry from a global standpoint.   As use of these materials expand, information on regional production, sales, and type of suppliers becomes more valuable. 
An equally important reason for performing this study is to provide insights regarding rare earth technology by:
  • Identifying production and consumption of the 17 elements.
  • Providing an updated summary on material properties.
  • Supplying a review of current and emerging applications.
  • Illustrating the latest technological developments.
  • Providing a detailed patent analysis. 
This study will be of primary interest to all companies that: 
  • Manufacture, sell, and distribute rare earths and rare earths–based products.
  • Are involved in the exploration and mining of rare earth elements.
  • Develop technologies utilizing rare earths.
  • Produce special alloys.
  • Fabricate advanced ceramics.
  • Manufacture glass for optical applications.
  • Offer technical and/or marketing services to firms producing high–performance materials.
Overall, this study applies to industry sectors such as metallurgical/mechanical, glass and ceramics, electronics, chemical, optical, energy, life sciences, sensors and instrumentation, and consumer products. 
The study is mainly directed towards executives, directors, operations managers, sales and marketing managers, and strategic planners working within the above industries.   Universities and research facilities may also find this study to be a good source of technical information regarding rare earth materials, sources, technology, and applications, which can be used as a baseline for new or expanded R&D activities.
This study provides a current review of rare earth materials, properties, and technology, and identifies current and emerging applications for these materials. 
BCC Research determines the current market status of rare earths, defines trends, and presents growth forecasts for the next 5 years. Supply and sourcing issues, including the latest developments, are also discussed. 
BCC Research analyzes the rare earth industry on a worldwide basis from the standpoint of both production and consumption, and supplies profiles of leading industry players.  
SCOPE of report (Continued)
A detailed U.S. patent analysis provides further insight regarding market and technological developments. 
More specifically, BCC’s market analysis is divided into seven parts.
In the first part, a historical review of rare earths is provided, including an outline of recent events. In this section, current and emerging applications for these materials are also identified and divided by sector (e.g., metallurgical/mechanical, chemical, and electronics). 
In the second part, sources, production, and applications for each of the 17 rare earth elements are described, followed by a summary of global production (by element and by country) and a presentation of the latest technological developments. 
The third part of the report provides a detailed analysis of the geographical distribution of rare earth sources, discussing the major rare earth mining activities in each country and supplying an updated assessment of world reserves.  
Historical, recent, and future price trends are presented and discussed in the fourth chapter.
The fifth part of the report entails a global market analysis of rare earths. Global consumption (data in metric tons) for rare earths are presented by industry/application, element, and country, with actual data referring to the years 2006, 2007, 2008, and estimated data for the year 2009. Global rare earth revenues (data in millions of dollars) by industry are also provided.
This section is completed by a presentation of market growth trends based on industry growth and technological trends. Projected consumption for rare earths is reported with forecast compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) for the period 2009 through 2014. 
In the sixth part, covering global industry structure, the report provides a complete list of rare earth suppliers with a description of their products. The analysis includes a description of the geographical distribution of these firms and an evaluation of production versus consumption for rare earths, always from a geographical standpoint. Detailed company profiles of the top industry players are also provided.
The seventh and final section includes an extensive analysis of U.S. patents, with a summary of patents related to rare earth materials, processes, and applications, issued during the period 2006 through 2009. Patent analysis is performed by region, country, assignee, patent category, application, and material type.
Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used to obtain market data and analyze the overall market and all possible market segments. 
The technology section of this report is based on information derived from technical literature, related BCC reports, professional journals, the author’s field experience, and online sources.
Global market analysis was performed by analyzing 67 suppliers of rare earths, accounting for at least 90% of the global market. Data for each company were obtained by thoroughly analyzing Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, Internet web sites, annual reports, industry directories, industry magazines and catalogs, government sources, and other public sources. 
Additional data were obtained from the direct contribution of primary sources, including company executives, managers, engineers and other technical personnel representing suppliers of rare earths and rare earth based products; representatives of academia and trade associations; and industry market analysts.  
Secondary sources of information include:  
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
  • EDGAR – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissions Filings
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
  • European Patent Office
  • Company web sites
  • Company annual reports
  • Thomas Registers
  • Moody’s Directory
  • S & P Industry Survey
  • Dun & Bradstreet Business Directory
  • American Ceramic Society Publications
  • Foreign Chamber of Commerce Directories
  • Foreign Stock Exchange Listings
In addition to utilizing the above primary and secondary sources, market growth trends and forecasts were compiled by gaining additional insights from relevant financial and market information, relevant BCC reports, and the author’s own in–depth and comprehensive analysis of the collected information.
Margareth Gagliardi, BCC’s chief research analyst in Advanced Materials, has over 25 years of experience in the field of advanced materials, specializing in ceramic formulations, materials processing, and new product development. She has held management positions in both manufacturing and R&D within U.S. and European firms producing electronic, mechanical, chemical, and structural components. She holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and an M.S. in Ceramic Engineering. 
She has authored several BCC Research studies, including the following, which are related to advanced materials and materials for electronic applications:  
  • AVM052B     Aerogels, 2009
  • AVM065A    Smart Glass: Technologies and Global Markets, 2009
  • SMC037D     Sputtering Targets and Sputtered Films: Technology and Markets, 2008
  • PLS046A      Polymer Absorbents & Adsorbents, Including SAPs and Polymer Gels, 2008
  • NAN043A     Nanofibers: Technologies and Developing Markets, 2007
  • AVM054A     Bioactive Glasses, Ceramics, Composites, Other Advanced Materials, 2006
  • SMC061A      Atomic Layer Deposition, 2006
  • SMC057A     Thin Films: Raw Materials, Technology and Applications, 2005
  • AVM046A     Thick Film Devices, Processes, and Applications, 2004 
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The information developed in this report is intended to be as reliable as possible at the time of publication and of a professional nature. This information does not constitute managerial, legal, or accounting advice; nor should it serve as a corporate policy guide, laboratory manual, or an endorsement of any product, as much of the information is speculative in nature. The author assumes no responsibility for any loss or damage that might result from reliance on the reported information or from its use.

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Published - Oct-2006| Analyst - Christopher Sinton| Code - AVM018E

Report Highlights

  • Global consumption of rare earth materials was more than 87,000 metric tons in 2004 and 96,000 metric tons in 2005. At an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 10.1%, consumption of these materials should cross well over 155,000 metric tons.
  • Glass and ceramic materials held the highest share of the market in 2004, approximately 18.5%. Permanent magnets overtook this place in 2005 with almost 19% of the total market. This sector will maintain this position through the forecast period, crossing 32,000 metric tons in 2010 at an AAGR of 12.2%.
  • NiMH batteries held the highest AAGR with 30.5%, reaching over 27,000 metric tons in 2010. The second-highest growth rate through the forecast period was phosphors at 13.4%.

Published - Mar-2003| Analyst - Calvin Swift| Code - AVM018D

Report Highlights

  • 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.

Published - Mar-2000| Analyst - Anna Welch Crull| Code - AVM018C

Report Highlights

  • 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.


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