What is Indium And Where Do I Use It?
- Indium is very abundant in host metals such as zinc, lead, tin, and copper. Host metals, in contrast to minor metals, are base metals spread across the globe.
- Concentrated in Asia, flat panel displays represent about 55% of the world demand for indium. All other numerous applications, consuming the remaining 45% of primary indium are spread worldwide and range from mechanical to high end electronics.
- The current world demand of primary indium is estimated at 500 MT, while the proven amount of primary indium in host metals is close to 2,000 MT per year.
Where is Indium Produced?
- The mining and refining of primary (virgin) indium has grown in the last three years by about 20%.
- The extraction and production of primary indium takes place during the production of host metals in refineries in France, South Korea, Japan, Canada, South America, and China.
- Over the past 3 years China has produced about 1,000 MT per year of primary indium and has stockpiled more than 3,000 MT, all without adversely affecting global prices or supply, including in Europe.
- The EU is essentially indium self-sufficient. In 2013, more primary indium was produced in Europe than consumed. The cost to use indium is low, and the lack of any foreseeable shortage means it is readily available for future applications.
- The annual demand growth for primary indium worldwide is stable and in some markets approaches zero.
- Industrial re-processing of ITO scrap is a proven way of returning a significant amount of indium to the global market. The technology to do so is very efficient and the process cycle time very fast.
Specific Issues for Indium
- Although more and more coated screens from end-of-life products are being collected, still more needs to be done to economically recover the indium from these materials.
- To maintain this level of self-sufficiency, and to expand on the low cost and proven technological benefits of indium use, EU policy makers should focus on increasing market access by reducing tariff barriers on indium bearing substances, encouraging greater indigenous production, and investing in improving economically viable recovery technologies from the growing amount of EOL products.