Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) recently introduced S-2093, a bill called the Rare Earth Coop 21st Century Manufacturing Act. Rubio’s bill would allow investors to form a cooperative that is exempt from antitrust laws, in an attempt to shield it from government-backed competition from China and volatile markets that destroyed this industry in America. The Commerce Secretary would grant a charter for the privately-funded coop that would be operated as dictated in the legislation.
This bill is critical since the uses, applications, and demand for rare-earth elements has expanded over the years and underpin our entire electronics-driven society. Globally, most REEs are used for catalysts and magnets. In America, the majority of REEs are used for catalysts, ceramics, glass and polishing, petroleum refining, diesel additives, and magnet production for electric motors in hybrid and electric vehicles, generators in wind turbines, hard disc drives, portable electronics, microphones, and speakers.
Thorium is used in alloys, although a major use in the future will be to make energy in thorium nuclear reactors.
The rare metals Ce, La, Ga and Nd are important in alloy making, in the production of fuel cells, Nickel-metal hydride batteries, and in the production of LCD and plasma screens, smartphone cameras, fiber optics and lasers as well as in medical imaging. Additional uses for earth elements are as tracers in medical applications, fertilizers, agriculture and water treatment. It’s difficult to find a part of our society that is not dependent on rare metals.
Neodymium is now almost $54,000/ton and praseodymium is $59,000/ton.