That rare earths mining firms operating in Australia as well as in the U.S., Canada and other African nations will scramble to meet the impending supply import demand of China for the precious elements is no remote possibility.
Dysprosium has many uses. It is used with elements like vanadium to make the materials for lasers. Dysprosium is used in data storage devices, like compact discs. It is also used to reinforce other materials, thanks to a high strength and high surface area.
China is poised to become a very big consumer and importer of some rare earths elements (REE) two years from now. And with a US$949 million budget to spend on purchasing the precious elements, it won't be surprising that the non-Chinese rare earths exploiters and producers jump on the bandwagon.
"They'll be a very important consumer for our products," Peter Cashin, chief executive officer of Quest Rare Minerals Ltd., told Bloomberg News. "They are an unanticipated consumer; most of the assumptions have been for non-Chinese consumers. The Chinese would be a huge market for us."
China is the world's biggest output giver of the 17 elements called rare earths. But since it wants to develop its high-tech industries, coupled with environmental concerns, started to implement export curbs as early as 2009. By 2011, it announced the creation of a national strategic stockpile. In the same year, the second-largest economy started buying heavy rare earths.
"Rare earth storage is a strategy that many countries, such as Japan, have already been using to ensure the sustainable development of high-tech industries," Zhang Anwen, deputy secretary of the Chinese Society of Rare Earths, told China Daily.
Considered the less abundant members of the group of elements, heavy rare earths, when incorporated, result to more heat-tolerant and more efficient products.
In a March 2011 report, the U.S. Geological Survey said that China's consumption of REEs is already quadrupled to 73,000 metric tonnes in 2009 from just a mere 19,000 metric tonnes in 2000. The surge has been pointed to China's magnet industry, which controlled 30 per cent of the country's rare earth usage in 2009.
"In the next one to five years, light rare earths will go from deficit to supply balance to oversupply," Mr Cashin said. "The deficit situation for heavies will continue until 2025."
Montreal-based Quest Rare Minerals Ltd. is just one of the many non-Chinese rare earths mining companies seen to contribute to the world's demand for the precious elements. Others include Molycorp, Inc.; Lynas Corp.; Great Western Minerals Group Ltd.; Arafura Resources Ltd.; Alkane Resources Ltd.; Rare Element Resources Ltd; Frontier Rare Earths Ltd.; Avalon Rare Metals Inc.; Greenland Minerals & Energy Ltd.; and, Toyota Tsusho Corp. and Sojitz Corp., among others.
Quest Rare Minerals Ltd. is working on the largest and highest-grade deposit of heavy rare earths in North America, at Strange Lake in Quebec. Expected production startup date is on 2017.
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