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Visualizing China’s Dominance in Rare Earth Metals

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China's rare earth metals exports

China’s Dominance in Rare Earth Metals

Did you know that a single iPhone contains eight different rare earth metals?

From smartphones and electric vehicles to x-rays and guided-missiles, several modern technologies wouldn’t be what they are without rare earth metals. Also known as rare earth elements or simply “rare earths”, this group of 17 elements is critical to a number of wide-ranging industries.

Although deposits of rare earth metals exist all over the world, the majority of both mining and refining occurs in China. The above graphic from CSIS China Power Project tracks China’s exports of rare earth metals in 2019, providing a glimpse of the country’s dominating presence in the global supply chain.

China’s Top Rare Earth Export Destinations

Around 88% of China’s 2019 rare earth exports went to just five countries, which are among the world’s technological and economic powerhouses.

Japan and the U.S. are by far the largest importers, collectively accounting for more than two-thirds of China’s rare earth metals exports.

Lanthanum, found in hybrid vehicles and smartphones, was China’s largest rare earth export by volume, followed by cerium. In dollar terms, terbium was the most expensive—generating $57.9 million from just 115 metric tons of exports.

Why China’s Dominance Matters

As the world transitions to a cleaner future, the demand for rare earth metals is expected to nearly double by 2030, and countries are in need of a reliable supply chain.

China’s virtual monopoly in rare earth metals not only gives it a strategic upper hand over heavily dependent countries like the U.S.—which imports 80% of its rare earths from China—but also makes the supply chain anything but reliable.

“China will not rule out using rare earth exports as leverage to deal with the [Trade War] situation.”

—Gao Fengping et al., 2019, in a report funded by the Chinese government via Horizon Advisory.

A case in point comes from 2010 when China reduced its rare earth export quotas by 37%, which in part resulted in skyrocketing rare earth prices worldwide.

average prices of rare earth imports

The resulting supply chain disruption was significant enough to push the EU, the U.S., and Japan to jointly launch a dispute settlement case through the World Trade Organization, which was ruled against China in 2014.

On the brighter side, the increase in prices led to an influx of capital in the rare earth mining industry, financing more than 200 projects outside China. While this exploration boom was short-lived, it was successful in kick-starting production in other parts of the world.

Breaking China’s Rare Earth Monopoly

China’s dominance in rare earths is the result of years of evolving industrial policies since the 1980s, ranging from tax rebates to export restrictions. In order to reduce dependence on China, the U.S. and Japan have made it a priority to diversify their sources of rare earth metals.

For starters, the U.S. has added rare earth metals to its list of critical minerals, and President Donald Trump recently issued an executive order to encourage local production. On the other side of the world, Japan is making efforts to reduce China’s share of its total rare earth imports to less than 50% by 2025.

Increasing rare earth mining outside of China has reduced China’s global share of mining, down from 97.7% in 2010 to 62.9% in 2019. But mining is merely one piece of the puzzle.

Ultimately, the large majority of rare earth refining, 80%, resides in China. Therefore, even rare earths mined overseas are sent to China for final processing. New North American refining facilities are being set up to tackle this, but the challenge lies in managing the environmental impacts of processing rare earths.

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Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation?

Although inflation may have hit its peak, several countries around the world are still facing double-digit inflation in 2022.

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Double-Digit Inflation

Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation Rate?

Inflation is surging nearly everywhere in 2022.

Geopolitical tensions are triggering high energy costs, while supply-side disruptions are also distorting consumer prices. The end result is that almost half of countries worldwide are seeing double-digit inflation rates or higher.

With new macroeconomic forces shaping the global economy, the above infographic shows countries with the highest inflation rates, using data from Trading Economics.

Double-Digit Inflation in 2022

As the table below shows, countless countries are navigating record-high levels of inflation. Some are even facing triple-digit inflation rates. Globally, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, and Venezuela have the highest rates in the world.

CountryInflation Rate, Year-Over-YearDate
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe269.0%Oct 2022
🇱🇧 Lebanon162.0%Sep 2022
🇻🇪 Venezuela156.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇾 Syria139.0%Aug 2022
🇸🇩 Sudan103.0%Oct 2022
🇦🇷 Argentina88.0%Oct 2022
🇹🇷 Turkey85.5%Oct 2022
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka66.0%Oct 2022
🇮🇷 Iran52.2%Aug 2022
🇸🇷 Suriname41.4%Sep 2022
🇬🇭 Ghana40.4%Oct 2022
🇨🇺 Cuba37.2%Sep 2022
🇱🇦 Laos36.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇩 Moldova34.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇹 Ethiopia31.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇼 Rwanda31.0%Oct 2022
🇭🇹 Haiti30.5%Jul 2022
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone29.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇰 Pakistan26.6%Oct 2022
🇺🇦 Ukraine26.6%Oct 2022
🇲🇼 Malawi25.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇹 Lithuania23.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇪 Estonia22.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇮 Burundi22.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe21.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇻 Latvia21.8%Oct 2022
🇭🇺 Hungary21.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇬 Nigeria21.1%Oct 2022
🇲🇰 Macedonia19.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇲 Myanmar19.4%Jun 2022
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan18.8%Oct 2022
🇵🇱 Poland17.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇬 Bulgaria17.6%Oct 2022
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan17.5%Dec 2021
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina17.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇪 Montenegro16.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇴 Angola16.7%Oct 2022
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso16.5%Sep 2022
🇪🇬 Egypt16.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇲 Comoros15.9%Sep 2022
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan15.4%Oct 2022
🇷🇴 Romania15.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇾 Belarus15.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇿 Czech Republic15.1%Oct 2022
🇷🇸 Serbia15.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇰 Slovakia14.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇳 Mongolia14.5%Oct 2022
🇳🇱 Netherlands14.3%Oct 2022
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan13.7%Oct 2022
🇦🇫 Afghanistan13.6%Sep 2022
🇬🇲 Gambia13.3%Sep 2022
🇭🇷 Croatia13.2%Oct 2022
🇧🇼 Botswana13.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇳 Senegal13.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇱 Chile12.8%Oct 2022
🇽🇰 Kosovo12.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇺 Russia12.6%Oct 2022
🇬🇳 Guinea12.4%Jul 2022
🇧🇪 Belgium12.3%Oct 2022
🇨🇴 Colombia12.2%Oct 2022
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan12.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇬 Congo12.2%Oct 2022
🇳🇮 Nicaragua12.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇾 Cayman Islands12.1%Jun 2022
🇲🇺 Mauritius11.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇿 Mozambique11.8%Oct 2022
🇮🇹 Italy11.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇱 Mali11.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇷 Mauritania11.3%Sep 2022
🇬🇧 United Kingdom11.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇹 Austria11.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇪 Sweden10.9%Oct 2022
🇺🇬 Uganda10.7%Oct 2022
🇬🇪 Georgia10.6%Oct 2022
🇩🇪 Germany10.4%Oct 2022
🇭🇳 Honduras10.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇰 Denmark10.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇹 Portugal10.1%Oct 2022
🇯🇲 Jamaica9.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇮 Slovenia9.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇹 Guatemala9.7%Oct 2022
🇿🇲 Zambia9.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇪 Kenya9.6%Oct 2022
🇦🇲 Armenia9.5%Oct 2022
🇮🇸 Iceland9.4%Oct 2022
🇲🇬 Madagascar9.3%Aug 2022
🇮🇪 Ireland9.2%Oct 2022
🇱🇸 Lesotho9.2%Sep 2022
🇹🇳 Tunisia9.2%Oct 2022
🇬🇷 Greece9.1%Oct 2022
🇺🇾 Uruguay9.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇷 Costa Rica9.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇩 Bangladesh8.9%Oct 2022
🇨🇾 Cyprus8.8%Oct 2022
🇫🇴 Faroe Islands8.8%Sep 2022
🇩🇿 Algeria8.7%Sep 2022
🇳🇵 Nepal8.6%Sep 2022
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands8.5%Aug 2022
🇲🇽 Mexico8.4%Oct 2022
🇬🇼 Guinea Bissau8.4%Sep 2022
🇦🇱 Albania8.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇧 Barbados8.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇮 Finland8.3%Oct 2022
🇲🇦 Morocco8.3%Sep 2022
🇵🇪 Peru8.3%Oct 2022
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic8.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇻 Cape Verde8.2%Oct 2022
🇵🇾 Paraguay8.1%Oct 2022
🇹🇱 East Timor7.9%Sep 2022
🇹🇬 Togo7.9%Sep 2022
🇵🇭 Philippines7.7%Oct 2022
🇺🇸 U.S.7.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇲 Cameroon7.6%Sep 2022
🇳🇴 Norway7.5%Oct 2022
🇸🇬 Singapore7.5%Sep 2022
🇿🇦 South Africa7.5%Sep 2022
🇸🇻 El Salvador7.5%Oct 2022
🇲🇹 Malta7.4%Oct 2022
🇦🇺 Australia7.3%Sep 2022
🇪🇸 Spain7.3%Oct 2022
🇹🇩 Chad7.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇿 New Zealand7.2%Sep 2022
🇧🇿 Belize7.1%Sep 2022
🇳🇦 Namibia7.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇼 Aruba7.0%Sep 2022
🇨🇦 Canada6.9%Oct 2022
🇱🇺 Luxembourg6.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇴 Somalia6.9%Oct 2022
🇮🇳 India6.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates6.8%Jun 2022
🇬🇾 Guyana6.5%Sep 2022
🇱🇷 Liberia6.5%Jul 2022
🇧🇷 Brazil6.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇸 Bahamas6.3%Aug 2022
🇨🇮 Ivory Coast6.3%Sep 2022
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago6.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇷 France6.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇯 Djibouti6.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Bhutan6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Qatar6.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇭 Thailand6.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇿 Swaziland5.8%Aug 2022
🇮🇩 Indonesia5.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇷 South Korea5.7%Oct 2022
🇹🇯 Tajikistan5.7%Sep 2022
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea5.5%Jun 2022
🇰🇭 Cambodia5.4%Jul 2022
🇮🇶 Iraq5.3%Sep 2022
🇯🇴 Jordan5.2%Oct 2022
🇫🇯 Fiji5.1%Sep 2022
🇮🇱 Israel5.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇨 New Caledonia5.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇿 Tanzania4.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇲 Bermuda4.5%Jul 2022
🇪🇷 Eritrea4.5%Dec 2021
🇲🇾 Malaysia4.5%Sep 2022
🇭🇰 Hong Kong4.4%Sep 2022
🇵🇸 Palestine4.4%Oct 2022
🇧🇳 Brunei4.3%Sep 2022
🇱🇾 Libya4.3%Sep 2022
🇻🇳 Vietnam4.3%Oct 2022
🇪🇨 Ecuador4.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇭 Bahrain4.0%Sep 2022
🇯🇵 Japan3.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇼 Kuwait3.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇪 Niger3.2%Sep 2022
🇲🇻 Maldives3.1%Sep 2022
🇬🇦 Gabon3.0%Jul 2022
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia3.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇭 Switzerland3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇨 Seychelles2.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea2.9%Dec 2021
🇧🇴 Bolivia2.9%Oct 2022
🇹🇼 Taiwan2.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇫 Central African Republic2.7%Dec 2021
🇻🇺 Vanuatu2.7%Mar 2022
🇴🇲 Oman2.4%Sep 2022
🇧🇯 Benin2.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇳 China2.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇦 Panama1.9%Sep 2022
🇲🇴 Macau1.1%Sep 2022
🇸🇸 South Sudan-2.5%Aug 2022

*Inflation rates based on the latest available data.

As price pressures mount, 33 central banks tracked by the Bank of International Settlements (out of a total of 38) have raised interest rates this year. These coordinated rate hikes are the largest in two decades, representing an end to an era of rock-bottom interest rates.

Going into 2023, central banks could continue this shift towards hawkish policies as inflation remains aggressively high.

The Role of Energy Prices

Driven by the war in Ukraine, energy inflation is pushing up the cost of living around the world.

Since October 2020, an index of global energy prices—made up of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and propane—has increased drastically.

Double-Digit Inflation

Compared to the 2021 average, natural gas prices in Europe are up sixfold. Real European household electricity prices are up 78% and gas prices have climbed even more, at 144% compared to 20-year averages.

Amid global competition for liquefied natural gas supplies, price pressures are likely to stay high, even though they have fallen recently. Other harmful consequences of the energy shock include price volatility, economic strain, and energy shortages.

“The world is in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with impacts that will be felt for years to come”.

-Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA

Double-Digit Inflation: Will it Last?

If history is an example, taming rising prices could take at least a few years yet.

Take the sky-high inflation of the 1980s. Italy, which managed to combat inflation faster than most countries, brought down inflation from 22% in 1980 to 4% in 1986.

If global inflation rates, which hover around 9.8% in 2022, were to follow this course, it would take at least until 2025 for levels to reach the 2% target.

It’s worth noting that inflation was also highly volatile over this decade. Consider how inflation fell across much of the rich world by 1981 but shot up again in 1987 amid higher energy prices. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell spoke to the volatility of inflation at their November meeting, indicating that high inflation has a chance of following a period of low inflation.

While the Federal Reserve projects U.S. inflation to fall closer to its 2% target by 2024, the road ahead could still get a lot bumpier between now and then.

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Explained: India’s Gold Demand During Diwali

Why do Indians buy gold during Diwali?

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india's gold demand during diwali

India’s Gold Demand During Diwali

In India, gold’s significance goes far beyond investment and jewelry. The yellow metal is woven into India’s cultural history and is revered by a population of over 1.3 billion.

India is one of the largest markets for gold consumption, with jewelry, bars, and coins accounting for the bulk of annual demand. Indian gold demand typically peaks between October and December on the back of Diwali, the festival of lights, followed by thousands of weddings.

But why do Indians buy gold during Diwali?

Gold’s Significance During Diwali

Indians consider it auspicious to purchase gold—a symbol of wealth, purity, and prosperity—on many festive occasions, and Diwali is the biggest one of them.

Diwali is a five-day festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, based on Hindu mythology. For many Indians, this festival is associated with welcoming good luck, positivity, and prosperity.

People often dedicate gold purchases during Diwali to deities, especially Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Gold is also a popular festive and wedding gift at this time of the year.

India’s Record Gold Demand in Diwali 2021

India’s gold consumption in the second half of every year is typically higher than in the first half, coinciding with Diwali in October (beginning of Q4), according to data from the World Gold Council.

YearGold Jewelry, Bar, and Coin Demand
(tonnes)
YoY % Change
H1 2010447N/A
H2 2010555N/A
H1 201159032.1%
H2 2011384-30.8%
H1 2012404-31.5%
H2 201251032.7%
H1 201355737.9%
H2 2013402-21.3%
H1 2014370-33.5%
H2 201446315.3%
H1 2015350-5.5%
H2 20155079.5%
H1 2016229-34.5%
H2 2016437-13.9%
H1 201736358.4%
H2 2017408-6.6%
H1 2018341-6.2%
H2 20184202.9%
H1 20193729.2%
H2 2019318-24.2%
H1 2020166-55.5%
H2 2020281-11.8%
H1 202128572.3%
H2 202151282.3%
H1 20223067.3%

Following a significant drop in demand in 2020, Indians bought a record amount of gold jewelry in Q4 2021 at 265 tonnes, worth $15.3 billion at the time. Overall, gold jewelry, bar, and coin demand in H2 2021 saw an 82% increase year-over-year.

This increase was largely driven by the festive season and pent-up demand from subdued celebrations and consumption in 2020. As of the first half of 2022, gold demand was up 7.3% relative to 2021.

With Diwali celebrations in full swing, will India see another record quarter for gold demand? It remains to be seen, with gold’s festive tailwinds likely to meet economic headwinds in the form of uncertainty and higher import duties.

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