Projected Global Supply of Rare Earths in 2015 & Beyond

Last weekend I posted an article on the issue of China becoming a net importer of rare earths by 2015 (in a nutshell: it's possible that this might occur for heavy rare earths). I mentioned some numbers being used by Dr. Zhanheng Chen, director of the Academic Department of the Chinese Society of Rare Earths (CSRE), in a presentation made on his behalf in Vancouver in January.

In the presentation, Dr. Chen forecast a total supply in 2013 of 87 kt from China, out of a total 134 kt of global supply. He also forecast a total global supply target after 2015, of 278 kt of rare earths, with the target for China's production set at 100 kt of rare earths and 178 kt from other sources. In some quarters, this figure of 278 kt appears to have been misinterpreted as being a demand forecast from Dr. Chen, but this is not the case.

In January 2011, The Journal of Rare Earths published a paper by Dr. Chen [1], in which he details the origin of his projected supply targets for 2015 and beyond, for producers and potential producers outside of China (my thanks to Eamon Keane for making me aware of the paper). Here is a breakdown of his numbers:

Table 1: Current non-Chinese sources of supply of rare earths, after Chen (2011)

Project

Location

Company

Current
capacity
(ktpa TREO)

Target capacity
after 2015
(ktpa TREO)

Mountain Pass

USA

Molycorp

3

40

Kamasurt

RUS

Lovozersky Mining

3 - 4.4

15

Orissa / Tamil Nadu / Kerala

IND

Indian Rare Earths

0.1

10

VNM

Toyota / Sojitz / Govt. Vietnam

1.8 - 2

> 2

Buena Norte

BRA

Ind'ustrias Nucleares do Brasil

1.5

> 1.5

TOTAL

9.5 - 11

> 68.5

Table 2: Non-Chinese sources of supply of rare earths preparing to come on-stream,
after Chen (2011)

Project

Location

Company

2011-2013
capacity
(ktpa TREO)

Target capacity
after 2015
(ktpa TREO)

Mount Weld

AUS

Lynas Corp

10.5

21

Steenkampskraal

ZAF

Great Western Minerals Group / Rareco

3

5

KAZ

Sumitomo / Kazatamprom

3

15

Dong Pao

VNM

Toyota / Sojitz / Govt. Vietnam

0.3

5

Orissa

IND

Toyota / Indian Rare Earths

5

10

Pitinga

BRA

Mitsubishi / Neo Material Technologies

0.5

1

Dubbo

AUS

Alkane Resources

2.6

6

TOTAL

24.9

63

Table 3: Other potential Non-Chinese sources of supply of rare earths, after Chen (2011)

Project

Location

Company

2011-2013
capacity
(ktpa TREO)

Target capacity
for 2015
(ktpa TREO)

Nechalacho

CAN

Avalon Rare Metals

0

5

Strange Lake

CAN

Quest Rare Minerals

3

5

Bokan-Dotson

USA

Ucore Rare Metals

0

0

Kipawa

CAN

Matamec Explorations

0

0

Nolans Bore

AUS

Arafura Resources

10

20

Hoidas Lake

CAN

Great Western Minerals Group

3

5

Bear Lodge

USA

Rare Element Resources

0

0

Kutessay II

KGZ

Stans Energy

0

0

Kvanefjeld

CAN

Greenland Minerals & Energy

0

10

TOTAL

13

40

Table 4: Total potential non-Chinese sources of supply of rare earths, after Chen (2011)

Category

Near-term
capacity
(ktpa TREO)

Target capacity
for 2015 & beyond
(ktpa TREO)

Current non-Chinese sources

9.5 - 11

> 68.5

Non-Chinese sources preparing to come on-stream

24.9

63

Other potential non-Chinese sources

13

40

TOTAL

47.4 - 48.9

> 171.5

We can see here then, that Dr. Chen is projecting a non-Chinese supply target of > 171.5 kt for 2015 and beyond - effectively a "steady-state" rate of supply. This is in line with the 178 kt projection for target supply from outside of China, in his Vancouver presentation. We can also see that it does not include sources of supply, listed in Table 3 above, that would add to this number once they come on-stream.

Dr. Chen goes on to say that at present, around 50 kt of rare earths are required to meet demand outside of China, and that with a growth rate of 15% in demand, the total demand from outside of China will be at least 80 kt by 2015 (assuming continued global economic growth). In his December 2010 presentation to the Hague Center for Strategic Studies, Dudley Kingsnorth projected total demand numbers for 2015 of 185,000 t +/- 15% total rare earths. Mr. Kingsnorth's numbers were further broken down to show a forecast 74 kt +/- 15% of demand from outside of China in 2015 - numbers very much in line with Dr. Chen's own forecast in his Vancouver presentation, and the numbers in his Journal of Rare Earths article.

We can certainly debate and question the specific projections that Dr. Chen used in his paper; what's pretty clear though is that when he uses the figure of 278 kt for total rare earths in 2015 and beyond, he is referring to projected supply, not demand.

References:
1. Z Chen, 'Global rare earth resources and scenarios of future rare earth industry', Journal of Rare Earths, Vol. 29, No.1, Jan 2011, p1.

Disclosure: at the time of writing, Gareth Hatch is neither a shareholder of, nor a consultant to any of the companies listed above, or any other publicly traded junior-mining company.

Gareth Hatch analyzes the role of rare and strategic metals in the technology supply chain and is a co-founder with Jack Lifton of Technology Metals Research LLC as well as founder of Terra Magnetica and an editor at RareMetalBlog.

About the Author
Gareth Hatch

Gareth Hatch analyzes the role of rare and strategic metals in the technology supply chain. He is a co-founder with Jack Lifton of Technology Metals Research LLC, as well as president and director of Innovation Metals Corp.

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Market Data

Sponsored By: