Monday, February 13, 2012

Rare Earth News Update, February 2012

Paydirt … the new refinery for rare earth metals being built
in Kuantan, Malaysia.  Photo: The New York Times
It’s been a little while since our last blog update on the rare earth crisis, but our regular readers – and bulb industry insiders – are probably familiar with the implications of limited access to those materials, like europium, yttrium, and dysprosium, and its effect on CFL manufacturing. The situation was thrust back into the spotlight recently, with the opening of a rare earth refinery in Malaysia finally occurring after months of delay, and news coverage from a number of outlets such from The Australian to the New York Times.

With this plant opening – and the reopening of debate over the viability and sustainability of rare earths – comes a perfect time to re-examine the importance of these materials to our industry. This article lays out some of the difficulties facing U.S. rare earth importers until at least 2015. With increasing interest in energy-efficient bulbs – and legislation to phase in a shift to CFLs on the horizon for the next several years – this predicted shortage most likely spells a crunch leading to lower supply and increased demand.

The opening of the Malaysian facility may provide some light at the end of this tunnel, as its goal is to increase competition with Chinese rare earth suppliers and ease some of the price burden on bulb manufacturers. As most articles about the opening have pointed out, though, there are significant questions about the safety and environmental responsibility of the refinery. Of course, Bulb Direct would not sacrifice price in favor of unsustainable and unsafe operations. Until the situation plays itself out, be sure to follow our social media sites and our blog to learn more about rare earths, CFLs, LEDs, and other illumination options. And as always, contact us with any questions!

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