Rare and Precious Metals
Growing Demand For Rare Metals From New Technologies
Rare Metals have come to be known as the ‘vitamins of industry’. Their importance in industry has been acknowledged and they have a crucial role to play economically, environmentally and technologically.
The range of applications in which rare metals are used is wide. From everyday use as automotive and petroleum cracking catalysts, to flints for lighters, pigments for glass, ceramics and compounds for polishing glass to highly specialized uses such as miniature nuclear batteries, lasers repeaters, superconductors and miniature magnets.
Rare metals have become a lifeline of industry and industrial development is becoming increasingly dependant on products that can’t be made without using them (Picture 1).
Rare metals are even used in the defense industry. Some defense applications include: anti-missile defense, aircraft parts, communications systems, electronic countermeasures, jet engines, rockets, underwater mine detection, missile guidance systems and space-based satellite power.
We have often heard that petroleum would only last for another 30 years, but its life span, despite the constant upswing in demand has not shortened. This has been possible because of the efforts being made to discover, and develop new petroleum deposits and make them productive.
The same logic holds true of rare metals. Continuous efforts are being made to extend their life span, however the quantity of today’s consumption is very different from what it was 30 years ago. It is extremely difficult to secure resources for the same number of years. This is the reason why breakthrough and innovation is gaining more popularity and becoming more vital in exploration/development of resources.
Take rare-earth as an example, the total quantity consumed worldwide from 1900 to 2006 was 2.2 million tons, with the consumption increasing yearly and it is estimated that the demand in the next 30 years will be 8 -10 million tons. In order to maintain a rare earth life span of 30 years, it is necessary to secure a reserve quantity 4-5 times the amount of consumption in the last 100 years.
Precious And Rare Metals - Investment and Industrial Commodities
Precious metal is a rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical element of high economic value. Chemically, the precious metals are less reactive than most elements, have high lustre, are softer or more ductile and have higher melting points than other metals.
Historically, precious metals were important as currency, but with industrial development taking the front seat, they are now regarded more as investment and industrial commodities.
Gold, silver, platinum, and palladium each have an ISO 4217 currency code. The best-known precious metals are the coinage metals gold and silver. While both have industrial uses, they are better known for their uses in coins, art and jewelry. The demand for precious metals is driven not only by their practical use, but also by their role as investments and a store of value. Historically, precious metals have commanded much higher prices than common industrial metals. In December 2009, gold was over $1200.00/troy ounce and silver was about $15.00/troy ounce, compared to copper at $0.11/troy ounce and nickel at $0.36/troy ounce