Rare Earth Magnet Supply Chain: Challenges and Opportunities

M. Earlam, J. Hryn
Argonne National Laboratory,
United States

Keywords: rare earth, supply chain, domestic challenges


Domestic resilience and competitiveness in the rare earth magnet supply chain is a function of geographic concentration of the resources, trade partners, import reliance, and price volatility. Analysis of the supply chain identified several vulnerabilities in the production of rare earth magnets. These included (i) instability of the global market for rare earth elements, (ii) domination and reliance on foreign sources for both the raw materials (58% of mining) and magnet manufacturing (92%), (iii) influences on production decisions by foreign governments and market forces, (iv) reliance on extraction processes that require management of potentially severe environmental consequences, (v) aggressive control of intellectual property, and (vi) the expected increase in the demand for magnetic materials to support offshore wind turbines and electrical motors for transport. The vulnerabilities in the rare earth magnet supply chain also lead to new opportunities for US industry. The US is fortunate to have significant rare earth resources: the Mountain Pass deposit has the highest grade of rare earth mineralization found; monazite sands are present in the US Southeast; and significant rare earth resources are present in nonconventional sources, such a coal minerals. Development of these resources for the production of rare earth metals will significantly improve domestic supply. In addition, demonstration and deployment of magnet recycling methods would allow for a competitive advantage for US magnet production, which would increase the supply of magnetic materials without increasing all links in the supply chain. This presentation describes rare earth supply chain challenges and opportunities, and some ongoing efforts to improve the resilience of the magnet supply chain.