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Europe Seeks New Sources of Rare Earths

September 2020 | Market

Drilling rig
Germany and the EU are dependent on foreign countries, not least in relation to rare earths and technology metals. Global production downtimes and broken supply chains have made this very clear to the general public in recent months. The regularly published EU list for critical raw materialsshows that the problem is by no means new. Last week, the European Commission updated the list for the first time since 2017 and published it together with a white paperpresenting key elements of the strategy for securing raw materials.

The EU therefore wants to boost the promotion and processing of strategic metals within the EU, but also in neighbouring and partner countries and developing countries. The first plants are scheduled to run as early as 2025. Whether this will succeed, however, is questionable, because there is no funding yet. The fact that all the companies involved are to comply with European environmental and social standards is, of course, to be welcomed, but it will certainly not make the construction of new plants cheaper or faster.

The US also wants to become more independent of China
The United States is currently making very similar efforts, and that is no secret. The first project funds have already been set up, and a handful of companies are applying, Reuters reported in April. But for the time being, this money is for business start-ups, studies or test drilling. The risk capital for the construction of a mine or facility for rare earths, which quickly reaches a billion dollars, cannot easily be put to the companies by the US government. According to Zach Montague of the New York Times, private venture capitalists will be required to do so.

However, it is not to be expected that the efforts on both sides of the Atlantic will change the current market situation – with China’s quasi-monopoly in many areas. Even the most promising project in the US, the Round Top Mine, will, according to Jim Vinoski’s remarks on Forbes,be able to meet perhaps one-fifth of the US demand. For the foreseeable future, companies in Europe and the US will probably be best placed to hedge against disruption by increasing the amount of critical resources stored locally.

Drilling rig

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