Rare earths - Perhaps the most coveted commodities on earth
Hardly any high-tech product can be manufactured without the use of rare earths. According to a study by a leading consulting firm, the worldwide market volume for rare earths in 2008 was only 2.4 billion euros. In 2011, the estimate was already 27 billion euros.
Actually, rare earths are not that rare
The metals are found almost everywhere on earth. But the concentration is usually so low that mining would hardly be economically worthwhile. Each year around 125,000 tonnes are mined. Of this annual production, China has a continuing high share of 97%. Despite the fact that China has only about 38% of the world reserves.
The small difference
The 17 rare earth elements are basically divided into two classes: light rare earth elements (LREE) and heavy rare earth elements (HREE).
In general, the heavy rare earths such as europium, terbium, yttrium and dysprosium are more interesting for investors. This is because the light rare earths (LREE) occur in larger amounts and therefore the supply risk is smaller.
Investment in oxides form
As a physical investment, the rare earths are mainly traded in oxide form. Advantage: oxides have a virtually unlimited shelf life. In addition, oxides are widely used in all types of industry manufacture.