PORTLAND, Ore. -- Despite China's virtual corner on the market of rare earths, demand is skyrocketing along with investments in new mines worldwide that has some pundits talking of a "rare earth bubble."
The U.S., Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and even Afghanistan all have strategic efforts underway to reopen rare earth mines, many of which will be producing ore within five years.
According to BCC Research (Wellesley, Mass.), the global market for rare earths will almost double in the next five years, starting at just over 158,200 metric tons in 2011 and growing to 258,000 metric tons by 2016, a compound growth rate of over 10 percent.
Of the six major market segments, energy and electronics are the smallest, predicted to grow from 27,300 and 12,000 metric tons in 2011, respectively, to 62,000 and 21,300 metric tons by 2015, compound growth rates of nearly 18- and 12-percent, respectively (see figure below).
According to BCC, rare earths consumption has risen by a factor of three over the last 15 years, but mostly from the other major sectors -- metallurgy, glass/ceramics, chemical catalysts -- whereas high levels of research and development of new applications requiring rare earths in energy and electronics sectors will increasingly drive worldwide demand over the next five years.
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