For more information on China's dominance of the global rare earth market, click here. Rare earth metals are a group of 17 elements with similar chemical structures with distinct properties. They are used in a wide range of electronic items and in fluorescent bulbs. Hybrid vehicles also use various rare earth metals. The growing demand from these industries is boosting the market for rare earth metals.
According to Transparency Market Research Report "Rare Earth Metals Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Trends and Forecast, 2012-2018" (http://www.transparencymarketresearch.com/rare-earths.html) The global demand for rare earths was estimated to be over 140 kilo tons in 2010 and is expected to grow at a CAGR ranging from 10% to 10.5% from 2012 to 2018. The mechanical and metallurgical industry is the leading consumer of rare earth metals and accounts for approximately 32% of the total rare earth metals consumed in various markets. The mechanical and metallurgical industry is followed by glass and ceramics, chemical, energy and electronics, optics, and optoelectronics industries. Energy is expected to be the fastest growing segment for rare earths at a CAGR of over 17% from 2012 to 2018.
The market is primarily driven by the technological advancements in electronics and automobile industries which influence the usage of rare earth metals. However, the growing concerns regarding the impact of production, refining and recycling of rare earth metals on the environment are expected to hinder the market.
China is the leading supplier of rare earth metals and accounts for approximately 95% of the global production. In 2010, the Chinese government restricted the export of rare earth metals to 40% in order to gain the price advantage as the global prices surged to a record level following this announcement from the Chinese government. However, this gave other producers around the globe a chance to boost their production. In the twentieth century, U.S., India, Brazil, and South Africa were among the top producers of rare earth metals until China, in 1980, decided to heavily increase its production and became the leading producer of rare earth metals.