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2011 sees rare-earth material export restrictions

Posted: 08 Feb 2011     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:linear motors  torque motors  rare-earth magnets 

IMS Research's latest report reveals that the linear and torque motor industry is faced with the challenge of a sustainable supply of rare-earth magnets. Adding to their woes are plans by the Chinese government to cut exports of rare-earth material by 35 per cent in the first half of 2011.

China produces 97 per cent of the world's rare-earth material, thus controlling the global rare-earth material market. According to China Custom Statistics, in 2010 China exported 39,813 tons of rare earth material, much less than its nine-year average of 60,000 tons a year (as estimated by www.chinamining.org).

The market for linear and torque motors had recovered to pre-downturn levels by the end of 2010 and is set for further growth in 2011 and 2012. However, industry players ask: How are direct-drive motor manufacturers going to ensure continuity of supply of rare-earth magnetic components? What is the motivation behind the Chinese government's manipulation of rare-earth supply? Is the government simply driving up the price of a commodity under its control, or is it looking to increase local value-added production and technology levels?

The increasing number of direct-motor manufacturers opening production facilities in China or entering into partnerships with Chinese companies to produce rare-earth magnetic components suggests the latter. With the price of rare-earth material increasing with restricted exports, China is making a healthy profit from companies that choose to import rare-earth raw materials—certainly a win-win situation.

Phil Ling
EE Times





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