REFILE-Neo Material CEO sees price bubble for rare earths
This poses another challenge for junior miners and explorers, because producing the alloys and magnets is labor intensive and expensive.
"These are not minerals that you are selling," he said. "You're selling highly, and very precisely, engineered materials that are customized for each customer."
To be sure, not all rare earths are in such high supply. The group consists of two types: heavy and light. The heavies -- used in electric vehicles, display panels and lasers -- are in much smaller supply, and therefore, far more valuable.
"If there is a crunch," said Karayannopoulos. "It will come in the heavies."
China currently produces most of the world's heavy rare earths from its ion absorption clays, but that resource is running out.
That has prompted Neo to look to Brazil for new sources of heavy rare earths.
Last year, the company signed a deal with Minsur's (MINi.LM: Quote) Mineracao Taboca subsidiary to process rare earths from the tailings of its Pitinga tin mine in the Amazon.
Karayannopoulos said Neo's tests indicate that the mine is producing very high concentrates of terbium and dysprosium, two of the key heavy rare earths. Continued...