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China is well known for having a stranglehold on rare earth element (REE) production, but that doesn’t mean other countries don’t produce REEs as well. In fact, as the US Geological Survey’s 2014 report on REEs shows, a total of eight countries produce the chemical elements. Here’s a look at the amount of REEs those countries put out in 2013, as well as a little information about each nation. Its our hope that in the nearest future Mozambique appears in the top 10 list of this kind.
All data from the report is in metric tons (MT) of rare earth oxide (REO).
Mine production: 100,000 MT
Unsurprisingly, China is first on the list, with 2013 REO production of 100,000 MT. That’s the same amount it put out in 2012. Meanwhile, the country’s production and export quotas for the year were 93,800 MT and 31,000 MT, respectively.
There’s some hope that those quotas may be relaxed in the future. That’s partially due to a March 2014 World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that China’s export restrictions on REEs, molybdenum and tungsten are inconsistent with its obligations as a WTO member. The move flew in the face of China’s stance that the restrictions were put in place to protect the environment and conserve minerals, not give it a competitive advantage in the REE market.
Given that China has appealed the ruling, nothing is certain yet.
2. United States
Mine production: 4,000 MT
The United States put out 4,000 MT of REO last year, a dramatic increase from the 2012 figure of just 800 MT. As a result, the value of the refined REEs imported by the US last year was $260 million, down from $519 million the previous year.
Only one company, Molycorp (NYSE:MCP), mined REEs in the US in 2013. It did so at its Mountain Pass, California REE facility.
Mine production: 2,900 MT
India produced 2,900 MT of REO in 2013, unchanged from its 2012 output.
Government-run Indian Rare Earths has been in business since 1950. It mines heavy REEs and separates those elements from beach sand. It also processes some REEs to create others for eventual sale.
The Indian Bureau of Mines foresees increasing demand and rising prices for REEs in the years to come.
Mine production: 2,400 MT
Like India, Russia’s REO production remained steady in 2013, coming in at 2,400 MT, identical to 2012.
In the coming years, Russia may increase its production. That’s because last year the country decided to invest a total of $1 billion into REE production by 2018 in order to reduce its dependency on imports from China, according to Reuters. The plan is to extract REEs from monazite concentrate stored in warehouses.
“The (Russian) President (Vladimir Putin) and the government have set a task to expand rare earths production as Russia’s stocks are almost depleted,” a source from state industrial and defense conglomerate Rostec told the news outlet. “Stocks need to be replenished as the main producer, China, has increased prices sharply.”
Mine production: 2,000 MT
Australia produced 2,000 MT of REO last year, down significantly from the 3,200 MT it put out in 2012.
The country’s REO reserves sit at 1.65 million tonnes, Geoscience Australia notes. Producing projects are largely located in Western Australia, as well as in the Northern Territory and New South Wales.
Mine production: 220 MT
Vietnam’s REO 2013 production is well below Australia’s, at 220 MT. That’s the same amount it produced in 2012.
Back in 2012, Japan and Vietnam decided to work together to produce REEs, the journal Nature states. In pursuit of that goal, they established a joint research center in Hanoi to pursue better methods of extracting and processing REEs.
“Properties of minerals differ between mines,” said Yoshiaki Igarashi, chief representative of the Hanoi office of Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National, “so we aim to establish the optimal methods to produce high-quality rare-earth products.”
Mine production: 140 MT
Brazil produced 140 MT of REO last year, consistent with its 2012 level.
Brazilian miner Vale (NYSE:VALE) discovered a significant REE deposit in the Amazon at its Salobo cooper project in 2011, The Wall Street Journal notes, and it remains the primary source of REEs in that country. Brazil, like many other countries, is pleased at the prospect of reducing its dependence on REEs from China.
Mine production: 100 MT
Finally, Malaysia produced 100 MT of REO in 2013, just as it did in 2012.
Australian REE miner Lynas Corporation (ASX:LYC) processes REEs in Malaysia, and does so to great financial effect; however, the material it processes there is mined in Australia.