About the blog: What Things Are Made Of
AMERICA'S GLOBAL DEPENDENCY FOR NEARLY EVERYTHING
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Neodymium, critical in many applications but in rather low quantities, was around $6/kilogram (2.2 kg/lb) in 2003 but as demand increased (for magnets in electric motors for cars and windmills, among other things), the price reached $60/kg in 2007 and has been in the $40-$46 range since then.
Indium, an important component of thin films in liquid crystal displays and flat-panel TVs and computer screens, ranged in average annual price from $120 to $375 per kilogram from 1991 to 2001, and reached a low in 2002 at $60/kilo. As technology improved and we began to buy more and more flat-panel products, indium’s price climbed dramatically in the 2000s — $176/kg in 2003, $643 (2004), $961 (2005), $815 (2006), $637 (2007), $519 (2008) and $390 in 2009 as economic problems reduced its consumption. In April 2010, indium was at about $625/kg. Indium is three times more abundant in the earth’s crust than silver, but it forms few minerals and almost never in economic concentrations. The 600 tons per year produced on earth come mostly as byproducts of zinc mining; half the world production comes from China.
Even a common commodity like rock salt shows price fluctuations. From 1991 to 2003, its price hovered between $19/ton and $23/ton. Since 2004 the price has climbed steadily, to $35/ton in 2009. In the same time frame, US imports of salt nearly doubled, from 11% in 1991 to 20% in 2008-09. The biggest consumer of salt is the highway deicing business (43% of consumption), with the chemical industry in second place (35%).
When you compare prices, be aware that different materials may be priced differently. It could be pure metal, or a metal oxide, or a metal concentrate that’s priced, but all under the heading of cobalt (or whatever).
Image from Wikivisual under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.