The Past, Present, and Future of Rare earth Industry

                                          IRUNIV 2013/09/27

 On September 20, the Okabe laboratory of Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo, held the 57th rare metal seminar. On the day, “Advancement of mineral processing technology to contribute to resources circulation and environmental purification” by the Associate Professor  Mrs. Chiharu Tokoro of Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, valuable lecture about the history and future of rare earth industry, which titled “People of the Dawning Rare earth Industry” by Mr. Isao Konishi, the director of Biko Chemical Company, furthermore, Professor Okabe report about rare earth ore and magnet alloy factory of Ganzhou, Jiangxi in China, which was visited by himself on August this year, and give a lecture about rare metal chloride reaction. This time, we send below the content of Mr. Konishi’s lecture, which is added some edited content.
<b>Konishi</b> Director (former Three Primary Virtues Advisor) Konishi of Biko Chemical Company, gave a lecture titled “Learning from the Past, the People of Dawning Rare earth Indsutry”. Entered the company as Three Primary Virtues in 1967, and based on the experience to be adhered to rare earth market for 46 years after that, he introduced many valuable episodes and turning points in history.

The Origin of Rare earth Industry
image The Austrian baron Welsbach (1858 ? 1929), in 1885, succeeded in separation of neodymium and praseodymium, and the invention of gas mantle in the next year was considered as the origin of rare earth industry.
 Gas mantle is made with 99% of thorium nitrate and 1% of cerium nitrate, but it was put into practical use in 1890. Using India and Brazilian monazite. In 1903, using lighter stone (Ce 70%, Fe 30%) and acquiring the patent. In 1907, Welsbach founded Treibacher Cemische Werke GesmbH. This Treibacher Company continues to exist at present as Treibacher Industrie AG.
 Also, Welsbach is known as a great chemist Austria has gave birth into, that was also used as paper money’s (20 Shilling) paper money (1945 ? 1999).

Beginning of Rare earth Industry in Japan
 The production of lighter stone from Korean monazite by Mr. Shinbee Suzuki with grand coalition in 1940 is considered to be the beginning.
In 1942, Shin Nippon Kinzoku Kagaku Co., Ltd. produced fluorinated rare earth for Searchlight.
And then,
 In 1946, Santoku Metal Industry produced lighter stone from rare earth ore, and after that, by India chloride rare earth. Afterward, many rare earth makers are born inside and outside the country, and rare earth application product made an outstanding performance in a place not to be known on public. However, with the change of times, many rare earth makers withdrew from business and factories are closing. It is said that on foreign country, Rhodia Company of France is the only one left as pure rare earth maker. That Rhodia and Santoku started a joint venture (Anan Kasei Co.,Ltd.) and produces high purity oxidation rare earth.
 As the reason for there is no foreign rare earth maker left aside of Rhodia, Mr. Konishi said, "The rare earth user did not stay abroad or has not been brought up after all. On the other hand, in the industrial country, Japan, many services are put to practical use." But, after that, the user company admired the cheap Chinese products.
 It's a main premise for rare earth to live when it's followed by market.
 The one that creates everything by using 17 types of rare earth elements, from lighter stone to a product for steel products, metallic alloy for hydrogen storage, even in the world, is only Santoku.
image It is big for Santoku to have those kinds of rare earth applied products market with its technology power and sales power. Gas mantle, arc carbon for projection, lighter stone, magnet for detailed clocks that is seen by magnifying glass, a part of those products that use rare earth is displayed at the lecture assembly hall (*photo as reference). For Japan, the first great hit work of rare earth applied product is lighter stone.

Outbreak of World Lighter Stone War in 1967
 On that particular time, to compare with Santoku that had an overwhelming share in the lighter market of all area in Southeast Asia, started with Japan, eminent rare earth companies such as Treibacher from Austria, Goldschmidt from German, and Ronson from America were attacking, but at present, there seemed to be a heroic episode of Mr. Inoue, the President of Santoku, that when in his era as person in charge of business, he marched alone to Europe, negotiated directly with them and won. He also contributed to a great cost-down caused by invention of manufacturing process to push out casting process. And then,
 In 1975, Tokai Seiki Co.,Ltd. sold the 100 yen Chiru-Chiru-Michiru Lighter. It recorded an explosive hit. However, it supported the massive demand by that cost-down. The misch metal which is the expertise of Santoku. This was known in the world as the monster hit product called nickel metal hydride battery, but before this, mainly, it was used for steel.
 Pretext, misch metal is used in ductile cast iron which is a casting parts of water pipe, automotive, and also iron pipe which used in energy pipe line. as misch metal becomes effective in the control of sulfur inclusion, Santoku had been exporting large amounts of misch metal to major steel maker in domestic and foreign countries

Lens Abrasives
 Through rare earth bubble (crisis) in 2011, the demand of cerium for polishing had significantly reduced in Japan, it is said that once, worker of Tohoku Metal Chemical Co., Ltd. was a worker area that entered and worked in high class camera lens makers, such as Hoya Corp. (HOYA).

Kido Color Appearance
 In 1965 (Showa 40), Shinetsu Chemical, Japan Yttrium, Santoku applied to public industry of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (entrust commercialisation of making high purity yttrium oxide). as the result, Santoku started in the ore processing and supplied almost 60% of yttrium oxide to Shinetsu Chemical and Japan Yttrium. After that, haunted market will be completed which trigger kido color (released in 1968) that stir up a high brightness color TV boom in Japan.

25 Years of Vacuum
 Mr. Konishi said, "Luxury Camera, Color TV, pipeline steel, permanent magnet, the secondary battery… by the collaboration between rare earth makers and users, the manufacturing industry of Japan made the world best products. The rare earth made an outstanding performance. However, all these are invention of Showa. There is no invention in Heisei era, and the domestic rare earth industry is in decline course. It became the blank 25 years"
Continued
 "I want (for users) to think that not wanting neodymium only, or dysprosium only, but demand balance for cerium, lanthanum, is also important.. I want them to use all 15 elements. There was a unique explanation that when an image of part of the cow meat was shown, people who ate Helle, Sirloin (dysprosium, neodymium) are expected to think about the meat of Beef Bowl (cerium, lanthanum).
 There is still room for growth and utilization to rare earth elements. Let us research further about physicality of cerium and lanthanum, understand them and take a demand balance of total rare earth elements. We have become the camera kingdom, the best color television in the world, the best pipeline imagesteel in the world, the best permanent magnet in the world, and the best MH rechargeable battery in the world. And then, I want to make the 6th, 7th product that is the best in the world, using rare earth elements. I, personally, think that cerium and lanthanum can't be used in agriculture-related things. Kanji "ki (rare)" in rare earth means "ki" of "kibo (hope)". Development of rare earth will start from now on."

~Postscript~
 There's a local company and factory of Santoku in China, and it's said that this company has been struggling to be the number one hydrogen storage alloys company in the world. In 2012, at "Baotou Rare Earth Industrial Exhibition" in the China's Inner Mongolia, where is the sacred place of rare earth, it's said that Mr. Konishi advised people of the factory, did exhibition indicating the history of Santoku, and explained it to many Chinese people. It's said that they're proud of being a member of Santoku.
 Even the world of politics is a ditch, Japan and China have a deep connection in the world of rare earth. I think that not to be tossed about by politics, the thing that Japan has been building a better rare earth relation with China will be able to turn on a new hope in the future of Japanese rare earth applied products.
(IRuniverse Susan)

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