The prices of rare earth oxides are blasting through the stratosphere. Manufacturers are driving prices in their haste to involve the materials in production of hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, and the most high tech applications of which many sophisticated investors are unaware. These producers need the rare earth ore and are willing to pay for it on the world markets.
China (FXI) has the right stuff, but are claiming -- perhaps rightfully -- that they need the materials for themselves. In fact they are in the forefront of venturing abroad to take over promising heavy rare earth mines all over the world. Do not forget China’s bid to control Lynas in 2009. America once commandeered this mining area, but over the years, China co-opted it and became the world leaders, supplying over 97% of the world’s rare earth supply. North America and Europe need to move fast to develop their own supplies.
One of the great demands for rare earths is coming from manufacturers of hybrid cars. Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC), in order to produce these fuel efficient vehicles, require a large amount of rare earths in each automobile. Toyota has raised the price of the Prius, which is no surprise as each one uses at least 1kg of neodymium which has recently soared in value. These new hybrid models are driving sales and one can be sure that the major manufacturers will gain supplies for several years to come.
Never has there been such a divergence between the price of the rare earth ores and the developing rare earth miners as there is now. The current commodity correction has caused the high flying rare earth sector (REMX) to plunge. I believe we are currently seeing a transition of ownership from weak holders on margin to strong holders with cash who are buying these world class heavy rare assets for pennies on the dollar. Many of the rare earth stocks such as Avalon (AVL), Rare Earth Elements (REE), and Molycorp (MCP) are down more than 30% from their highs. This is quite normal for highly speculative mining investments.
We may begin to see a race to control these heavy rare earth assets in mining friendly jurisdictions while this divergence exists between the price of ore and the mining shares. These manufacturers -- through the support of their governments -- will find available supply by strategic acquisitions and agreements. Personally, I am looking for the critical heavy rare earths outlined by the US Department Of Energy -- such as dysprosium, terbium, and europium -- which are seeing critical supply constraints.
The West is struggling to gain supply for the next few years and some of the undiscovered gems with the crucial heavy rare earths will not last long at these price levels. Molycorp had better move fast to gain assets before people realize that their Mountain Pass deposit does not contain the critical heavy rare earths, just the light rare earths which Goldman Sachs recently revealed there may be a surplus of. Not all mines are created equal.
It is important for investors to realize that companies in the rare earth sector are advancing rapidly in developing projects all over the world. Prominent among them is Lynas Corporation -- an Australian entity in which Japanese interests have taken large positions. They announced the establishment of a proposed production plant in Malaysia and insist they are still on target for commencing production by September 2011. Malaysian environmentalists are protesting this as they remember being badly burned by Mitsubishi, which left Malaysia holding a radioactive bag after producing rare earths. Lynas management is assembling a panel of experts from all over the world to calm Malaysian fears and at the same time prevent any unfortunate reoccurrence. Lynas welcomes the one month review to ensure the project is safe and presents no danger to the workers. Lynas also hopes to have its Australia Mt. Weld project up and running. Japan (EWJ) is so desperate to obtain product for their high tech industries on which their economic survival is based, it has bankrolled the building of this project. Lynas is hoping to transport the ore from Australia to Malaysia for processing. This contract was signed by both sides in September 2008.
Little noticed is the acquisition by Lynas of a large rare earth deposit in Malawi, Africa. They have the approval of the Malawi government to commence development of this major project. Interestingly, the deposit has extremely low natural radiation levels, unusual for a rare earth deposit.
Lynas appears to be reaching extremely oversold levels and long term support. This is an area in which we have seen major reversals higher. I am confident about the progress of the facility in Malaysia and believe Lynas will truly be the first miner to the market outside of China. It is on sale and should hit our short term targets shortly.
The rare earth supply constraint continues to elevate prices sharply both inside and outside of China. Investors will not be asking much longer why rare earth mining stocks aren't moving in tandem. I believe we will see major gains in the second half of 2011 in these stocks and a large amount of strategic acquisitions by end users.
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