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Germany seeks to recycle rare earths to tackle shortage

A China-imposed shortage of crucial raw materials could hamper the digital economy.

Loser Chemie has received €85,000 ($120,000) from the German government to help find potential partnerships, including to fund a conference it will hold in March, when Palitzsch aims to announce successful results from the firm’s research into recycling indium and others.

Palitzsch and Loser say their firm is too small to do it all alone, so he is looking for partner companies to work with. He has discussed the company’s innovations recently with a major Austrian company and the Arizona-based firm PV Recycling.

He also presented his research last year in Japan, where interest in rare earth recycling has been strong since China slapped a temporary ban on exports of the metals to that country amid a dispute over fishing rights.

What’s certain is that if China squeezes, the incentive will grow for other countries to find alternatives, whether through recycling or mining in other countries that had rich deposits, such as Canada.

“In the light of rising prices, countries rich in these raw materials will increasingly consider opportunities to exploit them,” said the DIHK’s Lechner.

“At the same time, German industry is striving to invest in research and development to find alternatives and to become more resource efficient. This should also help it to become less dependent on highly priced imported raw materials.”