Myths and Facts about the Rare Earths

The United States Magnetic Materials Association (“USMMA”), a trade association dedicated to restoring a competitive, secure, end-to-end rare earth supply chain to support the domestic manufacturing of rare earth permanent magnets, today released a “Myth-Fact” paper to clarify key points relevant to the successful re-introduction of a “mine-to-magnets” strategy. This paper is necessary to provide accurate information in response to news and academic reports, “think tank” positions, U.S. Government generalizations, and promotional activities by some private sector entities, which have oversimplified or downplayed the seriousness of the rare earth crisis.

This Myth-Fact paper lays out 7 common assumptions about the rare earth supply chain, determines whether these assumptions are grounded in reality, and provides accurate quantitative and policy support for the truth of the situation. In particular, the paper highlights that:

“Rare earths” are rare due to access issues. While rare earth elements are abundant in the earth’s crust, the ability to locate economically viable concentrations is indeed rare;

China is an unreliable supplier of rare earth materials on the global marketplace. China, which produces more than 95 percent of all rare earth oxides and nearly 100% of rare earth metals for world consumption, has dramatically reduced exports, decreased production, increased taxes, and embargoed trading partners. Anticipating further price increases, many Chinese suppliers have proven reluctant to quote pricing and availability to consumers;

Extraction is not simple and U.S. companies cannot quickly develop extraction capabilities. In fact, processing rare earth elements is much more complicated and costly than processing other ores. The multi-step process can cost more than $500 million per location and take up to 10 years for mine development and permitting;

Increasing global demand will outstrip supply of key rare earths, such as neodymium, dysprosium, europium, terbium, and yttrium. Critical shortfalls in these elements will impact green technologies (e.g., hybrid electric cars, wind turbines), digitized and miniaturized electronic goods (e.g., mobile phones), and defense applications (e.g., missiles, radars, avionics). To address the most critical national security aspect of this looming crisis, the U.S. Government can establish a stockpile of neodymium iron boron and dysprosium iron alloys, as called for in H.R. 1388, the Rare Earths Supply-Chain Technology and Resources Transformation Act of 2011 (or RESTART Act), introduced by Representative Mike Coffman (CO-6) in April 2011;

Domestic production capabilities are limited or nonexistent. The United States produces limited rare earth oxides and alloys and no rare earth metals and has one supplier of samarium cobalt magnets and no suppliers of neodymium iron boron magnets. It recommends robust activity in key areas to support a “manufacturing first” approach that supports mining of rare earth ores domestically and in cooperation with ally nations and promotes U.S. capabilities on the manufacturing end of the supply chain. Such an approach would include stockpiling value-added materials to support defense requirements and emphasis on re-starting a reliable, domestic magnet manufacturing capability;

Years of research into substitutes have produced no viable alternatives to rare earth materials. U.S. national security will continue to rely on rare earth metals, alloys, and magnets in the foreseeable future. Defense legacy systems alone will require access to rare earths for decades; and

No large-scale reuse or recycling programs are ongoing. While necessary research and development – led in large part by Japanese companies – is underway, U.S. companies have not yet participated in these efforts in a meaningful way.

USMMA members include:

Thomas & Skinner, Inc. is the world’s leading manufacturer of cast and sintered alnico magnets, magnetic assemblies, and transformer laminations. Through its wholly-owned subsidiary Ceramic Magnetics, Inc., Thomas & Skinner is also a leading manufacturer of soft ferrite magnets.

Hoosier Magnetics, Inc. specializes in the manufacturing of hard ferrite powders used in a wide variety of permanent magnet applications. Founded in 1975 in Washington, Indiana; Hoosier is a privately held company owned by Dr. B. Thomas Shirk.

Electron Energy Corporation is a worldwide leader in samarium cobalt magnet production and offers design services and rare earth magnet assemblies. Electron Energy is the only US operated rare earth magnet company that still melts its magnet alloys in-house.

U.S. Rare Earths, Inc., an American natural resources development company based in Salt Lake City and New York City, holds large resources and reserves of high-grade rare earth metals and the largest documented high-grade thorium properties in the world within its properties in Idaho and Montana, including a large portion of known and estimated U.S. reserves.

The Arnold Magnetic Technologies Corporation, a privately owned corporation comprised of five strategic businesses, manufactures a wide range of both permanent and soft magnetic products and assemblies at facilities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and China.

Great Western Minerals Group is a Canadian-based specialty metals production company with a vertically-integrated business model in the rare earth element industry through exploration and mine development. Through its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Less Common Metals Limited, located in Birkenhead UK, and Great Western Technologies Inc., located in Troy, Michigan, the Company produces a variety of specialty alloys for use in the rechargeable battery, permanent magnet, automotive and aerospace industries.

Lynas Corporation has a strategy of creating a reliable, fully integrated source of supply from mine through to customers, and to become the benchmark for security of supply and environmental standards in the global Rare Earths industry. Lynas owns a rich deposit of Rare Earths at Mt Weld in Western Australia.

Ucore Rare Metals Inc. is a Canadian resource exploration company focused on rare metal ores, among the primary input materials of technology applications in the 21st century. Ucore maintains holdings across North America including Bokan Mountain, estimated to be one of the most significant Dysprosium and other Heavy Rare Earth deposits within the United States.

Text of the Myth-Fact paper and more information on the USMMA can be found at