Less Common Metals:
Less Common Metals ("LCM") of Birkenhead, United Kingdom, has been actively working with its customers to deliver rare earth alloys using the new strip cast furnace. A series of trials designed to optimize melt conditions that produce various grades of product have been conducted enabling LCM to thoroughly investigate the full range of furnace process parameters. Through that rigorous process, LCM has established best practices and has achieved reproducible, standardized melts on a routine basis. These melts have been submitted to one of LCM’s key customers for evaluation. Programs have also been established to supply all other LCM customers with evaluation materials.
The second strip cast furnace ordered from the same Chinese supplier is now completely fabricated and LCM personnel were at the manufacturer’s plant in November for inspection and commissioning trials. The second furnace for LCM’s Hooton Park location is scheduled to arrive in the latter part of the 1st Quarter 2013 with the plan that it will be fully operational early in the 2nd Quarter 2013.
The general markets for rare earth alloys have remained relatively healthy, albeit exhibiting a limited degree of impact from low rates of global economic growth. LCM notes that there has been a concentrated and potentially successful effort on the part of customers and researchers to reduce the use of Dysprosium, an element that remains in short supply globally, in many of these alloys. This has, in turn, led to renewed confidence on the part of customers in respect to the sustainability of the rare earth supply chain, notably for Neodymium, which remains the material of choice for the high performance permanent magnet market.
The recent softening of rare earth prices has also restored confidence levels on the part of LCM customers who have continued to express strong support for GWMG’s corporate vision to provide rare earth materials via a supply chain that is reliable, sustainable and free from political restriction.