Global and U.S Rare Earth Element End Use Allocations Balanced by Production

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

Keywords: rare earth, market sector, supply, economics


Rare earth oxide (REO) market sector allocations are reported, resolved by elemental profile for 2020 and reciprocally REO consumption resolved by end market use. For both representations, Differences are calculated relative to 2008 and presented as percentages and as absolute tonnage. These differences encompass both changes in relative sector demand and growth rate. Historical trends, global and U.S. for REO usage by sector are calculated for the period of 2012-2020. End market sector demands, as percentages are presented, referenced to USGS values from 2008. Global and U.S. historical production trends are presented. Attention is given to permanent magnets and associated elements in light of the growing renewable generation and vehicle electrification. The criticality of Nd and Dy are considered given that they are the foundation of NdFeB permanent magnets, prominent in electric vehicle traction motors and direct drive wind turbine generators. Economic activity associated with REE market sectors is presented. With growing demand, new REE sources are needed. Vast reserves of light and heavy REEs exist in coal and coal-byproducts. Advantages of these resources are noted. 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. Growth in mature market sectors is driven by the general economy, thus accounting for the demand fluctuations for cerium, lanthanum, and yttrium. Oppositely growth in newer market sectors is driven by policy, economic incentives and technology. Currently EV traction motors and wind turbine generators are driving the high (8-10%) growth in the permanent magnet sector. These areas are identified as promising opportunities for manufacturing industries using the REO concentrate from potential domestic resources.