Rare Earth Elements: Changing Supplies and Market Sector Demands

M. Nkiawete, R. Vander Wal
Penn State University,
United States

Keywords: rare earth, market sector, supply, economics


Updated values are presented for REE market sector allocations. While percentage allocations change minimally, absolute tonnage, reflecting demand exhibit marked increases, most notably for catalysts, magnets and phosphors. Historical trends for global and U.S. REE consumption consistently reflect these trends. Relative to global REE product sectors, the U.S. has a disproportionate share of catalysts while lacking significant battery or magnet production by USGS reports. Cerium, lanthanum, and yttrium are used in market sectors that are driven by the growth of the general economy. While some dysprosium, neodymium, and praseodymium are used in lower growth sectors, most of their use is in the high-growth (8–10 percent per year) permanent magnet sector, which encompasses EV traction motors and wind turbine generators as dominant end uses. Growth areas, distinguished by large percentage increases (e.g., magnets) identify promising opportunities for manufacturing industries using the REO concentrate from potential domestic resources. Usage does not reflect economic value. A prime example are catalysts versus magnets. Catalysts (automotive and FCC) account for ~ 20% of TREO use while magnets, at ~ 29% TREO account for well over 2/3 of the REE overall product value. The economic impact of REEs is vast, accounting for $274 bn in the U.S. and up to a trillion $US globally. But with the U.S. 100% reliant upon REE imports, the supply chain value captured domestically will continue to decrease as China and other countries build up their own integrated supply chains, based on their domestic resources. The economic impact of REE end products and technologies in the U.S. is large, accounting for over 274 billion in economic activity and an estimated 100,000 jobs, despite the fact that the U.S. does not produce refined REEs but is totally reliant upon imports at present. If domestic resources were available, the net imported value of TREOs could be captured domestically along with mining and processing jobs. Additionally, a domestic and stable supply would provide the foundation for a vast array of manufacturing technologies – magnifying several-fold the refined REE net value.