The prices of magnet metal rare earths - neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium - have increased by more than 50% in the last year.This is according to Steenkampskraal Holdings, which owns the Steenkampskraal rare earths mine in the Western Cape.
These three magnet rare earths represent 85% of the economic value of the rare earth deposits at the Steenkampskraal which means its total reserves now have a market value of US$2 billion.
“Neodymium magnets are used in industries such as electrical motor manufacture, medical science and renewable energy which rely on high-strength neodymium magnets,” says Trevor Blench, chairman of Steenkampskraal Holdings.
These magnets are also used for audio equipment such as microphones, acoustic pick-ups, headphones and loudspeakers, magnetically coupled pumps, door catches, motors and generators, MRI scanners, magnetic therapy, ABS (anti-lock braking) system sensors and lifting machinery, amongst many others.
Without neodymium magnets, many technological advancements over the last 30 years would not have been possible. Because of their great strength, performance and resistance to demagnetisation, neodymium magnets can be made in different shapes and sizes, even as small as 1 mm diameter.
Dysprosium is used to make alloys for various electrical and electronic devices. An alloy is made by melting and mixing two or more metals. The mixture has properties different from any of the elements. Some dysprosium alloys have good magnetic properties.
The increase in prices of magnet metal rare earths bodes well for the juniors looking to start-up production of these specific metals.
ASX-listed Peak Resources’ Ngualla project in Tanzania will also look to exploit these rare earth materials and may be able to move into production quicker if investment appetite increases.