The prices of rare earth metals are skyrocketing in the global market. For example, that of neodymium rose 61.5% from US$47,537 to US$76,773 per ton between early this year and early last month. During the same period, those of praseodymium and europium rose from US$68,000 to US$82,000 per ton and from US$58 to US$92 per kilogram, respectively.
This can be attributed to a sudden drop in supply. At present, China accounts for more than 80% of the global rare earth metal production. The Chinese government recently shut down illegal rare earth mines for environmental protection, causing the sudden drop, while the demands for items using rare earth metals, such as electric vehicles, batteries and displays, are soaring.
South Korean companies are struggling under the circumstances. The rapid rise in the prices of rare earth metals cannot but be reflected in the prices of their products, and then their products lose their competitiveness. A South Korean company producing magnet materials by using rare earth metals recently had to sell itself amid difficulties.
“The ongoing conflict with China over THAAD deployment in South Korea can result in a situation like China’s ban on rare earth export to Japan that occurred seven years ago,” said an industry source, adding, “The South Korean government needs to diversify its rare earth metal import sources.”