By on June 20, 2012

Honda is mining for rare earth in unusual places: In cars.

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.”

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11 Comments on “Honda Recycles Rare Earth. Most Miners Will Be Wiped Out...”

  • avatar

    Funny. A few months ago China was going to take over the world by controlling the rare earth supply.

  • avatar

    Only reason to buy anything from China is because it is cheap.

  • avatar

    Good move. Interestingly enough, recycling scrap metal was a major part of what supplied the United States war effort for WWII as before we mostly had let broken down things sit around and get rusty.

  • avatar

    The recycling that Honda is doing sounds like something I am almost certain a number of companies are already doing, and that Honda is only starting to do either because it believes that its expertise will allow for increased efficiency, or purely for publicity.

    It seems to be completely unrelated to the consolidation/exit of mining companies in China.

  • avatar

    The only thing new here is the size of the project and the material to be recycled.

    During that period of my life when I owned a small air conditioning company, it was amazing how many people wanted my trash. The last time I thought about it metal of any type was $8/100 lbs and I can’t imagine what aluminum or copper were.

    Why wouldn’t every company be involved if they deal with something where they could reclaim value.


  • avatar

    This what happens whenever a commodity gets scarce or expensive. Users find another way to get what the need or they find a substitute. The only time it doesn’t work is when government tries to (mis)manage the problem. Something to remember when the Chicken Little types wail that we are running out of resources and we have to “do something”.

  • avatar

    Well, a utopian world (that would make a great model name wouldn’t it? Utopia. You’re welcome, Toyota) would be dependent on recycled material (I’m thinking of Futurama). If you think about it, it’s not a bad way to go. I’m no tree-hugger but wouldn’t it make sense to extract as much life out of whatever the hell it is you can be best for the future?

  • avatar

    I’ve heard more than once that landfills will be the next great mines. Makes sense – the stuff in there is made of stuff that you would use to make stuff, so why not go there to get it?

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