Monday, November 28, 2011

Rare Earth Metal Prices Going . . . Which Way?

The age old debates still rage . . . inflation vs. deflation . . . tax increases vs. spending cuts . . . less filling vs. tastes great.  Don't worry about that last line from an old lite beer commercial.  Here's a new debate to keep finance professionals busy:  Will rare earth metals prices rise or fall in the future?

Prices of those precious seventeen elements on the periodic table have dropped recently.  They had quite a ride for a while from at least late 2010 thanks to fears of supply chain disruptions driven by Chinese export quotas.  Those fears have driven investors to seek out junior mining companies that claim to be developing rare earth deposits.  These same miners were previously digging for uranium, cobalt, gold, and other more prosaic metals until they discovered that rebranding themselves as "rare earth" explorers gave them added cache with nervous investors. 

Finding trace amounts of rare earth elements in a larger ore body does not make an exploration company viable as a rare earth producer.  High concentrations of rare earth ores do not make an explorer into a producer without logistical prerequisites - water, power, and road connections to national infrastructure - in place. 

I hope to develop these lines of thinking at tomorrow's Hard Assets Rare Earths Investment Summit, where I'll be a panelist for one session.  Watch this blog for summary comments later this week.