Toronto Hosts Technology Metals Summit 2012
By Ted Niles
On February 1 and 2 Rare Earth World will host the Technology Metals Summit 2012. Co-produced by Pro-Edge Consultants Inc and Market Edge Media, the summit seeks to “bring the industry and investors together for a better understanding of rare earths and critical metals.” Tracy Weslosky, Chairman of REE World and CEO of Pro-Edge, speaks with ResourceClips.com about the event.
Q: Tell us about the Technology Metals Summit 2012 and how it came to be.
A: I looked around at the International Rare Earth Summit in Pittsburgh last winter and thought, ‘If we’re going to be in Pittsburgh, why are we not in Toronto?’
The idea for the Technology Metals Summit is to inspire interest in rare earths, create real debate and educate industry investors. Until now, there wasn’t a forum for this. We’ve got some of the smartest, rare earths über-geeks on the planet coming together here. For instance, we have Dudley Kingsnorth. He’s a rock-and-roll star in the rare earth industry. From Lynas Corporation to Molycorp, every rare-earth company on the planet quotes Dudley Kingsnorth in their power points. They often disagree with him but always quote him. We’re going to be doing a live feed on Thursday morning at 8am where he’s going to be giving us his forecast for 2016 and 2020 on the Chinese export quotas and what they’re going to mean to the industry. You’ll hear it first at our event.
Q: What makes rare earth elements so important?
A: The rare earths are a moderately abundant group of 17 elements comprising 15 lanthanides, scandium and yttrium. This group of metals was so shrouded in complexity that it took 151 years from the discovery of the first rare earth element in 1794 to the final element discovered in 1945. I think James Hedrick put it best when he said, “Rare earths are the economic and technologic foundation of a safe and secure nation. To possess them imparts independence, immunity to coercion and the tools to invoke scientific advancement.”
I think what everyone is missing in the rare-earths sector—the one thing that investors need to understand about the rare-earth industry that they’re missing—is that the current pace of technological change in the world requires rare earth elements. I believe that supply is on an upward trend, but that demand is likely to be exponential over the next few decades. There are no producers outside of China. A common misconception is that we don’t have to worry because we have suppliers outside of China. We don’t. Lynas is fighting to become a producer, and Molycorp are only light rare earths.
We basically have the entire industry here —Tracy Weslosky
Q: Given our heavy dependence on Chinese production of rare earths and that country’s recent severe reduction of exports, what is the outlook for the industry moving forward?
A: We were all upset for many years over being dependent on the Middle East for oil. We are presently completely dependent on the Chinese for many of our green energy, clean technology applications and for a lot of our military applications. This is one of the reasons rare earths are also known as critical metals. China supplies the resource we need to have a competitive advantage moving forward. You want to drive a hybrid car, you’re going to be dependent on the Chinese. What will it take for a rare-earth project outside of China to compete successfully with the various Chinese mines currently in production? Luck. No non-Chinese mine can really compete against Bayan Obo production, where the rare earths are a byproduct of iron-ore niobium production, essentially a free extra. If China wanted to sell this, it could sell it at any price.
The Technology Metals Summit is so important for educating the industry and investors because the industry is evolving so quickly, and there’s so much misinformation. There are going to be issues addressed at this event that most people don’t even consider. Items like thorium and metallurgical extraction processes. There are very few people on the planet with experience of heavy rare-earths metallurgical extraction processes, and we have one of the senior experts in the world coming over from Russia. Very few people have these skills, so the problem the industry is facing is a shortage of talent. The idea that we want to produce is great but to actually find the people that can do it? We stopped producing rare earths in North America in the early 1980s. There’s six people over 70 who are experts that are available in North America.
Q: What can attendees of the Technology Metals Summit expect to take away from it?
A: My goal in this event is to inspire interest, create debate and educate the industry and investors on rare earths, rare metals and critical metals. This is one of the most intensively competitive sectors in the resource sector bar none. The race to produce is the number one issue. We have over 60 CEOs that will be speaking on panels. We basically have the entire industry here. The Technology Metals Summit will make for a very knowledgeable and savvy investor in this very exciting market.
Ms Weslosky is also the Senior Editor of RareMetalBlog.com