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1 April 2014 | Will Green
The discovery of a new element will have a “profound impact” on the price of electronic goods, say analysts.
The element, called aphrillium and discovered in Africa, has properties similar to the rare earth metals that most electronic devices depend on, but at a fraction of the cost.
Some 95 per cent of the world’s rare earth metals come from China, but Africa is thought to contain half the world’s supply of “carbonatites”, a type of rock formation considered to indicate the present of rare earth metals.
The discovery of aphrillium in a mine in Ghana will end China’s monopoly. It is cheaper to mine than other metals and in “plentiful supply”. However, seasonal geological factors mean it can only be extracted during a short spring window.
Analysts said the discovery could slash input costs for electronics manufacturers, for example potentially cutting the price of an Apple iPhone, which contains eight rare earth metals, by £50.
"This is a game-changer. Aphrillium has the potential to end China's stranglehold on the supply of rare earth metals, lowering prices worldwide and ushering in a new era of low-cost electronic gadgets," said James McCartney, president of the Federation of Organised Logistics (FOOL).