Weslosky interviews Lifton on the rare earth struggle between Japan and China
November 3, 2014 — Tracy Weslosky, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of InvestorIntel and Jack Lifton, Founding Principal of Technology Metals Research (TMR), LLC talk about the increasing hostility hostilities between Japan and China over patents and the fact they are using US Courtrooms as the arena for their resolution. Jack met members of the Chinese Rare Earth and Magnet Alliance in Chicago, along with representatives of seven magnet manufacturing companies and their respective lawyers.
Jack says that, after a short discussions, the lawyers told him rather clearly that their purpose in pursuing litigation is to “block and overturn the Japanese Patent Center’s banning all Chinese magnet manufacturers from entering the high-volume business in North America.” The point of the dispute, therefore, noted Jack is nothing less than marketing. The lawyers confirmed this and added that once their goal is achieved “we will open independent offices and we hope to open actual manufacturing sites outside of China – within North America.” While this issue is not discussed often, says Jack, it has the Japanese very worried. The lawsuits brought on by Chinese companies are actually doing very well in the Courts and some rulings, at first favorable to Japan, have been overturned. Even such industrial giants as Hitachi have refused to litigate, granting the Chinese companies the right to manufacture as intended. Nevertheless, China’s impetus is strong and they want to intensify their struggle this year. And – says Jack – the point of all this is for Chinese companies it represents an impediment to the future development of our domestic rare earth magnet industry.
China already has access to raw materials and “they already are low-cost producers.” Jack notes that “time is running out for American rare earths producers as China is proving to the world that they are far more concerned about the Japanese than the Americans: “the Chinese and Japanese are battling for this market: we still have a chance to grab some of it, but time is wasting!” Jack also ponders on the role of Molycorp and Lynas in the rare earths industry and, ultimately, he asks whether they consider Lynas to be a friend or an enemy. The rumor is that Lynas is supplying didymium to Japanese manufacturers. Meanwhile, Molycorp has considerable interests in China through their Magnequench and Neo divisions. This means that the Chinese do not necessarily see the latter as competitor. As for Lynas, Jack thinks that the Chinese are concerned and fighting it. Nevertheless, Jack is very optimistic about a number of North American rare earths plays advancing their projects and states that if his three leaders were to enter production tomorrow: “…there still would not be enough rare earths to supply the US market…” — to hear the rest of the interview, click here
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An accomplished entrepreneur and corporate finance professional, Tracy Weslosky is the CEO for InvestorIntel Corp. and the VP of Business Development for Bellotti Capital Partners ... <Read more about Tracy Weslosky>