We offer insight into where to find vital information on under-the-radar commodities of strategic metals and rare earth elements.
Some words of warning right at the very beginning: Unlike with the base metals, current, proven and complete data and information on the strategic metals are often extremely difficult to find.
As Professor Thomas Graedel (among other things, the leading light in the methodology of metal criticality determination) and his colleagues at the Center for Industrial Ecology, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University say (with stunning understatement) in a recent paper in Environmental Science & Technology: “For many of the geologically scarcer “specialty” metals, data are in short supply.” And they should know!
This is a situation faced not by academics alone; government, too, faces a similar problem. In both its Critical Materials Strategy documents, the U.S. Department of Energy refers to the issue of collecting data and the importance of both reliability and transparency.
So, where do you start? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? And how do you distinguish information from disinformation?
For all investors interested in strategic metals (either physicals or, by proxy, the companies that mine, process and produce the metals), whether they be rare earths, or any other metals vital for technology, defense and green energy etc., these three questions are vitally important. (And, indeed, likewise, they are as important for those involved in making policy covering such resources.)
So, Where Do You Start?
As good a place as any is with some knowledge and understanding of the metals themselves. While the likes of Wikipedia, and any of the minerals/elements sites, will all provide useful background covering the basic facts, some of the most useful information on the different metals, and their places in our world today, is to be found at the sites of the many associations involved either in the individual, or appropriate groupings of, metals themselves.
For those interested in just the metals, such sites can often provide not only useful facts and figures, but also the latest news on current and possible future uses, research and development. And for those with more interest in the companies involved in the metals, a scan of the associations’ memberships lists is always useful to give you an idea of who is active in the field — whether private or public companies.
The first association site to start at is that of the Minor Metals Trade Association, based in London. This site pretty much covers all the strategic metals and has some pretty useful background information (a good place to start from) on each of the metals.
(Just click on the header Minor Metal in the Periodic Table on the home page and, for each metal, look at the box in the bottom right-hand corner titled Economics and Facts. There are usually some useful pieces there, including most of HardAssetsInvestor.com’s articles on individual metals.)
Some of the sites of associations concerned with specific metals are: