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Europe’s wind and e-car industry dependent on China’s magnetic metals

December 24, 2020

By Paul Homewood



We all know about how China controls most of the world’s supply of cobalt, but it seems we must also add neodymium to the list:



The green energy industry, in particular the wind energy sector, has become increasingly dependent on China for vital magnetic metals, writes Stefan Hajek in WirtschaftsWoche Online. Wind farms are set to play an ever larger role in the world’s future energy supply. Offshore wind power capacity in the EU alone is expected to increase 25-fold by 2050.

Magnetic metals such as neodymium are an essential component for wind turbines as well as for every modern electric motor, including those used in almost every electric car and plug-in hybrid. That’s leading to a bottleneck in two main sectors of the energy transition that very few political leaders and industry executives have addressed, Hajek notes. The extraction and processing of neodymium almost entirely in the hands of one country, China. The country already used its market power once before, in 2009, and paralysed entire industries worldwide with an export boycott on rare earths for computers.

Hajek warns that China could do this again in other industries in view of its ongoing trade conflicts with the US, which he says are not expected to ease under President-elect Joe Biden. “This time there is even more at stake than in 2009,” Hajek writes. “Without a sufficient supply of magnetic metals, climate protection will be much more difficult, protracted and much more expensive,” says Oliver Gutfleisch, professor of Functional Materials at the Technical University of Darmstadt. “The energy transition is also a material transition — it doesn’t work without certain raw materials. That is often overlooked.”

Bernd Schäfer and Andreas Klossek, who head the EU’s European Innovation and Technology (EIT) Raw Materials think tank, are sounding the alarm despite the fact that companies have not yet had any problems getting magnets. The US Geological Survey agency expects the demand for permanent magnets to double by 2029. "90 percent of e-cars and all hybrid cars have electric motors with permanent magnets," says Klossek. “We expect a supply shortfall of 65,000 tonnes per year for the ores required from 2030 onwards.”


When you get into bed with a tiger, don’t expect to wake up the next morning!

  1. Alan permalink
    December 24, 2020 10:05 am

    Just one more of the many many things politician’s and greenies didn’t think about when they rushed through their utopian plans.

  2. Harry Passfield permalink
    December 24, 2020 10:29 am

    There needs to be a security audit of MPs, Lords, High rollers in business and other influencers to see if there are any odd links to the CCP. And yes, this could be said to smack of McCarthyism but what he had to deal with was Infant school playground stuff. The world is a whole lot more sophisticated now. Just look how easy it has been for Facebook, Twitter and the MSN t disappear Trump and Biden’s corrupt election. (Biden is a great scalp for the CCP – and he and his family owe them biggly).

    • December 24, 2020 11:14 am

      Joannenova is keeping Trump visible.

    • Tim C permalink
      December 26, 2020 2:19 am

      Please take your pathetic “corrupt election” cretinism elsewhere, it doesn’t belong here

      • David Calder permalink
        December 26, 2020 1:13 pm

        Free speech much? The election was stolen. Terrifying times.

      • December 29, 2020 12:13 pm

        Check out Peter Navarro’s The Immaculate Deception for a primer on the 2020 US presidential election fraud. (BTW, do you really think that a guy who couldn’t draw a crowd of 50 at his rallies [and post-election seems to have a non-existent following] got 13M more votes than Obama? I.e. this steal was excruciatingly obvious, to the extent that not being able to see it constitutes a mental defect or psychological deficiency.)

        And don’t imagine for an instant that there’s no relation here to covid-19 or the AGW hysteria. (Not a conspiracy, but as Steve Bannon says, not coincidental either. [BTW, check out the interview with Bannon that JoNova posted on 24 Dec; to say that “it’s well worth watching” is the understatement of the year]).

  3. mikewaite permalink
    December 24, 2020 10:42 am

    There have been several previous posts here where not only journalists but academics have tried to point out the future supply problem with the materials such as the rare earths, lithium and copper required by the Green industries. Nothing seems to penetrate the armour plating of ignorance with which politicians and senior civil servants surround themselves as protection from the real world.
    With specific regard to the rare earths , everyone here is well aware that they are anything but rare. When I first started working with them the source was from Scandibnavia ( as expected from the Scandinavian origin of many of the lanthanide elements and those of similar chemical properties (Y , Sc) . Then Russia became a principal source , followed by US (MolyCorp).
    What enables China to develop a monopoly is not just an abundant source of ores (many countries have some deposits ) but cheap labour to carry out the tedious isolation of individual lanthanides from others of almost identical chemical properties and a very relaxed attitude to the expensive precautions necessary to protect the environment. But if severe shortages arise in the future numerous other sources will inevitably arise.
    Why? because history suggsts this . We have been in this situation before, eg with porcelain. Once China was the only source , but the cost and difficulty of transporting it to Europe created research in Germany and England (see Jane Gleeson’s book “The Arcanium” ) to establish a home manufacture . Ditto with rubber (seeds smuggled out from Malaya and transplanted in Brazil) . So monopolies, when they become too dominant are eventually destroyed .
    This will happen with rare earths from China eventually – possibly a disappointment to some of us who do not relish seeing a 25fold increase in windfarms by 2050 (not that I will personally witness them of course except in the mind’s eye).

  4. GeoffB permalink
    December 24, 2020 11:56 am

    Greens and Politicians are too focussed on eliminating CO2 emissions, mainly because the IPCC tell them that is the cause of global warming (now climate change). However the proposed solutions required to meet the climate change act are in fact going to cause worse problems than just taking action to mitigate the effects of the alleged warming. If the sea rises then build some dykes, move cities to higher ground, put houses on stilts. If every Polar Bear, Walrus, dies and the barrier reef disappears……so what….the so called tipping point argument that the greens are using is largely a myth. The problem with the rare earths is that as demand increases then the price will go up, at some point new sources will be economic, but higher costs for the lithium, cobalt, neodymium are inevitable NOT cheaper as greens are predicting. What a mess.

  5. jack broughton permalink
    December 24, 2020 12:27 pm

    Of course the Tiger Who Came to Tea ate up all the food and drank all the water………

    • December 24, 2020 1:51 pm

      Yes, they’re like that apparently! Will probably take a dump in the garden on the way out too.

  6. Penda100 permalink
    December 24, 2020 4:38 pm

    Surely this is a non problem. If the proles, sorry ordinary people, are not allowed to have cars – electric powered or otherwise – the problem goes away. It also means that we don’t have to generate as much electricity. Win-Win, problem solved!

  7. 2hmp permalink
    December 24, 2020 5:29 pm

    Rarity is measured by price. Generally if the price of a product rises then increased supply comes forward to meet it. if the resources gets towards the end of its life the price is so high that alternatives are found. Mikewaite is right.

  8. sonofametman permalink
    December 24, 2020 10:12 pm

    Malthusianism takes many forms.
    Whilst I’m opposed to wind power, it’s not on the basis of the ‘projected’ raw material shortage.
    If you believe the guff in the press, it would seem that the sky is falling almost every day now.

    • dave permalink
      December 25, 2020 10:25 am

      “…the guff in the press…”

      Is meant to cause “learned helplessness” in the population. As a scheme it is simple – and effective.

  9. Ottokring permalink
    December 26, 2020 1:53 pm

    I always thought that most cobalt came from places like Zambia.
    Oh, but China owns them too, now.

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