COLUMN-Boom, bust and boom again for rare earths? – by Andy Home (Reuters U.K. – September 1, 2017)

LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) – All commodity markets are prone to boom and bust cycles. But few have been as spectacular as that experienced by rare earths at the turn of the decade. Prices of such exotic components of the periodic table as dysprosium and terbium increased by multiples over 2010-2011 before collapsing just as quickly.

Five subsequent years of low-scale range-trading have seen rare earths slip off the collective investment radar, their place taken by new “hot” metals such as lithium and cobalt. But now they’re back. Or at least a couple of them are.

The prices of neodymium MYSTL-GANZ-NEDO and praseodymium oxide MYSTL-GANZ-PRAS are going stratospheric again, up by over 80 percent since the start of the year. As ever with rare earths, this is all about what is happening in China, the world’s dominant producer of these critical materials.

It is also, though, a story of a specific supply chain adapting to a fast-changing demand picture because these two particular rare earths are part of the same green technology revolution that is causing such excitement in the battery materials space.

Neodymium and praseodymium, or the more manageable NdPr for short, are already two of the most commonly used rare earth elements (REE), accounting for 36 percent of global REE consumption in 2015, according to analysts at RFC Ambrian (“The Alchemist”, November 2016).

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