EDITOR: | August 16th, 2013 | 13 Comments

Jack Lifton from the China Rare Earth Summit on the ‘extreme shortage of terbium and yttrium’

| August 16, 2013 | 13 Comments

Weslosky-LiftonAugust 16, 2013 — Tracy Weslosky, Publisher of InvestorIntel interviews Jack Lifton, rare-earth expert and Founding Principal of Technology Metals Research, LLC, during his trip to China where he is presenting at the 7th International Conference on Rare Earth Development and Application (ICRE 2013) organized by the Chinese Society of Rare Earths (CSRE) and the China Rare Earth Summit presented by the China Rare Earth Industry Association. With his finger on the pulse of the rare earth world, Jack provides Tracy with a live update from the ultimate global rare-earths summit in Ganzhou, China (the heavy rare-earth capitol of the world) — where both the academic research-and-development world and the industrial world have come together to provide the most accurate and current status on REEs in China.

Jack starts: “It’s been a very eye-opening conference with a lot of numbers coming out that I had not heard before and numbers I didn’t think the Chinese were so anxious to disclose. We’ve all been talking about how the Chinese are restructuring and condensing the (REE) industry. But the Chairman of the Industry Association said there are currently, in operation or plan to be in operation by January 2015, nearly 40 solvent-extraction plants just in this region, which is the provinces surrounding Jiangxi; where the south China clays are. By 2015, the Chinese will have a capacity of 60,000 tons of refining. That is five times the official production of heavy rare earths, so obviously they are including the production of light rare earths as well.”

Jack also discusses the Chinese consolidation of the REE industry and the government’s effort to clamp down, organize, supervise and set production limits and what that may mean for REE producers outside of China.

The Chinese are predicting that even though dysprosium will be in balance until 2015, they foresee an extreme shortage of terbium and yttrium. When Jack spoke at the conference, he told attendees that China is running out of heavy rare earths. The country does not have any additional heavy rare-earth deposits and China does not want to use up what it has. As a result, the Chinese have expressed that they are prepared to purchase heavy rare-earth imports; however, Jack discusses the complexities and realities of such a move, as well as where he see the future potential demand for heavy rare earths to be.

Finally, Jack discusses the role of the United States and Canada. He explains to Tracy how North America has almost all of the best of hard-rock deposits of heavy rare earths in the world and the fact that consumer demand (particularly in East Asia) is the driving force behind the demand for heavy rare earths.

Tracy Weslosky


An accomplished entrepreneur Tracy Weslosky is the CEO for InvestorIntel Corp., a company that publishes InvestorIntel.com, a trusted source of online market information for investors ... <Read more about Tracy Weslosky>

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  • Dean

    Thank you, Tracy, for this website and your informative articles. Thank you for educating us, investors. I’m a believer in Avalon Rare Metals- and I think they’ll be able to capitalize during the shortage of Heavy Rare Earths in the near future. Take care. Dean

    August 16, 2013 - 8:27 PM

  • Bill Keenes

    Two of the companies you mentioned Ucore and Tasman Metals the REE host mineral is exotic:-

    Ucore : Host mineral : Limorite

    Tasman : Host mineral : Eudialyte

    as you should now know there are significant technical challenges facing projects which require a new process flow sheet to be developed based on the REE host mineral being exotic or unknown.

    The only mineral sources of REE with a proven process and track record of commercial production are Monazite, Bastnasite, Ionic Clays (China) and Xenotime.

    Projects with other mineral types are forced to develop additional downstream processing facilities to refine and separate the products, an expensive and technically specialized exercise.

    To put it in simple terms Jack it’s all about the metallurgy, you can have the biggest heavy rare earth deposit in the world, but if you don’t know how to extract the rare earths then what’s it worth

    August 17, 2013 - 4:46 PM

    • Al

      Mineralogy and metallurgy are very important to the success of any rare earth development project.
      Canada has only one mining camp that has produced rare earths commercially. Historically it was the major source of heavy rare earths in North America and it produced 35% of the global supply of yttrium in the late 1980s (one of the rare earths that Jack flagged for future extreme shortage). That mining camp is Elliot Lake. It already has excellent infrastructure and many other competitive advantages that make it an ideal location to produce a long term secure and reliable supply of critical rare earths in North America.

      August 19, 2013 - 11:23 AM

  • Robin Bromby

    Jack’s remarks underline yet again how hard it is to make long-term predictions about the RE space given that China still makes most of the running (production and consumption). Or about anything given the opaque quality surrounding Chinese data. Now we see Chinese companies paying high premiums to get hold of physical copper – and just a few months ago the consensus was that Chinese warehouses were groaning under the weight of unsaleable quantities of the red metal. Compare this with commodities where China is not the key player – oil, for example. OPEC is a model of disclosure by comparison.

    August 17, 2013 - 6:05 PM

  • Bill Keenes

    I always enjoy listening and reading Jack’s informative analysis – but Jack’s like the rest of us – never gets everything right.

    Here he is promoting North American hard rock heavy rare earth companies as the “best in the world”, however when you study the mineralization and metallurgy you begin to realise that they are “not the best”, they are simply the “biggest”, and there in lies the big difference.

    It’s all about the metallurgy, can you extract the heavy rare earths or can’t you.

    Hence I ask what’s the “biggest hard rock heavy rare earth deposits worth if they don’t know how to extract the heavy rare earths”.

    Jack confirms my analysis by telling the Chinese “to come to North America to show us how to refine heavy rare earths “

    August 17, 2013 - 7:36 PM

  • tek

    Read this, it may be relevant insofar as Yttrium is concerned:

    August 18, 2013 - 1:59 PM

  • Aat Oskam

    If Jack is counting in Canada as part of the USA: yes they are a potential HREE source, but Australia is beating them for beeing (already) ready for productiuon by far.

    August 18, 2013 - 4:12 PM

    • Bill Keenes

      Hello Aat Oskam, I assume you are referring to Alkane (ASX code ALK).

      The fact is Alkane REE host mineral is also exotic:-

      Alkane : Host mineral : Eudialyte/Armstrongite

      whilst Alkane developed a process flow sheet “under laboratory conditions” to refine rare earths, Alkane was never able to replicate the laboratory results in the pilot plant testing – despite extensive pilot plant testing

      hence Alkane simply resolved to produce a REE concentrate and sell that to Japan who will do the refining. Alkane can afford to do that because the REE concentrate is a byproduct of their zirconium production

      Ucore and Tasman (REE host mineral is also exotic) will face the same problem – can they replicate the laboratory results in the pilot plant testing

      hence I continue to ask …. what’s the “biggest hard rock heavy rare earth deposits worth if they can’t extract / refine the heavy rare earths”.

      Jacks already provided the answer when he says “Ucore and Tasman can’t stay in business by selling ore concentrates, there’s not enough money in it”

      August 22, 2013 - 6:33 AM

      • Tim Ainsworth

        Bill, last I saw the ANSTO lab had not been able to design a successful separation process for ALK SEG/HRE and they passed the problem on to Shin Etsu. As I understand it, that is a tolling arrangement for final separation with ALK retaining marketing control over the bulk of finished product. Not sure if there have been any updates from that point.

        August 22, 2013 - 8:37 AM

        • Bill Keenes

          Hi Tim,

          Thank you for that.

          I was aware that Alkane had a lot of problems with the pilot plant testing and I incorrectly assumed it was attempting to refine the heavy rare earths, when in fact it was to produce rare earth concentrates.

          Yes Alkane spent around 4 years pilot plant testing – 2nd paragraph in the following story refers:-


          Perfect example of what I have been highlighting – with rare earths if your host mineral is exotic, then being able to produce rare earth oxides will not be easy

          August 22, 2013 - 1:27 PM

          • Tim Ainsworth

            Bill, just came across a very recent comment from one of the more knowledgeable posters on a investment forum:

            ” I have a position in ALK, but IMHO they are going to have trouble getting capex, also doesnt help that the HREE recovery seems to be dropping every ann.

            Haven’t followed ALK for a while but the comment suggests the HRE issues are ongoing.

            August 30, 2013 - 7:00 AM

  • lea

    australia HAS GOOD HEAVY RARE DEPOSITS — HASTING- 98% TUC-97% CUX NTU and lots more and our grades in three a of these are very high………………

    August 28, 2013 - 3:54 PM

  • Bill Keenes

    Some great questions Tim, nice to see some thought provoking discussion as a result.

    As always Tracy you continue to bring us the best of interviews.

    Finally we appear to be probing the real issues facing aspiring rare earth producers:-

    Alkane have been in Pilot Plant testing for 5 years now, and also that Shin-Etsu have been working with Alkane to improve the overall recovery of the rare earths to the concentrates.

    What … 5 years pilot plant testing ?, and that’s for a concentrate. Any alarm bells starting to ring in relation to the projected production dates of other “exotic” mineral rare earth explorers.

    And this from a June 27, 2012 news article:-
    Ian Chalmers, Managing Director of Alkane says, “I can’t stress enough the importance of operating the demonstration pilot plant at ANSTO, and now in our 4th year, we continue to make improvements to the flowsheet and our products.


    The only mineral sources of rare earth elements with a proven process and track record of commercial production are Monazite, Bastnasite, Ionic Clays (China) and Xenotime.

    Other “exotic” mineralization requires a tailored process to be designed, tested, scaled and economic. This is usually a 2 to 10 year process.

    I believe the wool is being pulled over the eyes of investors by other “exotic” mineral rare earth explorers, especially those aspiring to produce separated rare earth oxides – with their short term time frame production targets. The reality is they don’t know how long they will be pilot plant testing.

    September 6, 2013 - 6:24 PM

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