Honda has been extracting rare earth metals from used nickel-metal hydride batteries since April. Today, the company announced it will begin reusing the extracted metals before the end of 2012.
Rare earth made headlines when China started limiting exports. China is the world’s largest supplier of the minerals that find heavy use in magnets, electric motors, alternators, even hard disk drives. Prices spiked up in response to the intervention, only to plunge later on weak demand and the unwinding of speculative positions.
Honda will mine rare earth metals not just from nickel-metal hydride batteries, but also from parts such as electric motors. Honda is even looking into recovering any residual voltage from the used nickel-metal hydride batteries, to be used as regenerative voltage for the disassembly process.
In the meantime, rare earth miners are going through a serious shakeout process. A report says that 90 to 95 percent of small rare earth miners in China “will be wiped out.”