Samarium is a lanthanoid found in monazite, bastnasite, and samarskite. It is used in optics, nuclear reactors, and specialized magnets. A light rare earth element (LREE) used in a number of applications, including magnets, military equipment, catalysts and nuclear reactors. SmCo magnets are used in precision-guided weapons due to their ability to operate at high temperatures and samarium oxide is used as a neutron absorber in nuclear power plants. It is a lustrous silver-white metal found along with other REEs in monazite, bastnasite and samarskite geological deposits.
Samarium cobalt (SmCo) permanent magnets are slightly less powerful by size and weight than non-Sm containing neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets, though SmCo permanent magnets have higher temperature ratings that make them appropriate for certain motor and generator applications (Electron Energy Corporation 2010). SmCo permanent magnets are not currently used extensively in clean energy applications.
SmCo magnets are not likely to be used extensively in clean energy applications in the short or medium term, and due to the limited use of samarium in clean energy applications, substitutability is not an issue. Samarium is projected to be in excess supply both in the short and medium term. 2010 production was projected to be approximately twice current demand (Kingsnorth 2010).
That trend is forecast to continue, with new mines opening by 2015 projected to increase production capacity by about 30%.
Samarium is produced predominantly in China, which instituted significant export quotas and tariffs on REEs based on resource conservation and environmental regulations. New mines in Australia, Canada and the United States will provide additional supply, but are subject to strict permitting processes and environmental regulations, which have the potential to delay production. Samarium is moderately abundant compared to other REEs, and limited demand and correspondingly low relative prices mean that other more valuable REEs are more likely to drive production decisions. Samarium is found in significant quantities in non-Chinese mines likely to begin production in the short to medium term. Samarium production from non-Chinese sources is likely to account for over 25% of global supply by 2015.
Samarium Producers Metall Rare Earth Limited - http://www.metall.com.cn/sm.htm Avalon Rare Metals (TSE: AVL)
ESPI High Purity Metals - http://www.espimetals.com/metals/catsamarium.htm Great Western Minerals Group (CVE: GWG)
Rare Element Resources (CVE: RES)
Samarium News 2011-06-02 - (kid) - Samarium: A rare earth used to make mighty magnets
2010-02-08 - (tm) - Rare Element reports additional 2009 rare-earths drilling results