Special Report: Wealth Daily's Top 5 Mining Metals of the Future

There's no doubt that mining and material production provide the core foundation for virtually all economic development. The supply of minerals and metals is a key component to technological progress, and will continue to play an important role in the global economy for, well, forever.

Over the past three decades the world has seen a wide breadth of unprecedented technological advancements — advancements that have spurred entirely new industries in the process.

Often, the emergence of these industries creates demand for previously unused strategic metals and minerals due to their unique characteristics and physical properties.

Take silicon for example...

Prior to the invention of the computer in the mid 20th century, silicon held very little use in society. By 2010, though, the material was absolutely crucial to the $300 billion semiconductor industry.

The sudden demand for silicon brought on by computers and mobile devices sparked a wave of profits upon investors in the know. Despite being the second most abundant material in the world, silicon created a unique “once in a lifetime” investment opportunity, as refineries were needed to create refined- and pure-silicon.

Silicon refiner Sun Edison (NYSE: SUNE) (Previously MEMC Electronic Materials), for example, experienced gains as high as 4,557% in the wake of the computer revolution:

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Of course, the financial crisis of 2008 eventually took a chunk out of those gains, but only for those who continued to hold on. Frankly, you'd have to be pretty crazy to not have taken those profits off the table. After all, a simple $10,000 investment in 2001 would have had you up well over $450,000 in just six years.

Granted, these kinds of opportunities are few and far between , but that doesn't mean it's something you should ignore. If you can pinpoint just one breakout metal or mineral before the rest of the market jumps in, you could very well be looking at similar quadruple-digit gains over the course of just a few years.

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Today, we're on the cusp of a new revolution in tech metals and minerals — one which will be marked primarily by the end of silicon's dominance in the electronics industry.

People have been talking about transitioning to alternate metals for quite some time, but recently these predictions have actually begun coming to fruition. That is, Intel — the largest semiconductor manufacturer in the world — has officially announced its plan to move beyond silicon-based chips.

Specifically, Intel will be abandoning silicon at seven nanometers. At the 2015 International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), the company stated that “new materials” will be required to continue reducing the size of its computer chips...

Likewise, IBM recently announced $3 billion in funding for chip research in mid 2014 — not only in an effort to miniaturize chips to seven nanometers, but also to replace silicon with alternative materials. From the words of IBM VP Bernie Meyerson: "Silicon Dioxide, which has been used for the last 30 years, can no longer be used as the insulator."

That being said, the purpose of this report is to identify the most likely candidates for future technological applications. This includes, but is not limited to, potential silicon replacements...

Additional drivers for growing demand of new tech metals include battery storage, fuel cells, advanced aeronautics, imaging systems, and medical devices to name just a few.

In no particular order, here are our top five picks for tech mining metals of the future:

1.) Tantalum

Tantalum has an annual production capacity of approximately 1,160 tons.

Applications for use include mobile phones, automobiles, surgical instruments, medical implants, and ultra-small SMD (surface mount) capacitors.

Because of their small size and power, tantalum capacitors are used in cell phones, video game consoles, computers, medical equipment, and radios. Because the metal is non toxic and does not interact with body fluid, it is a common choice for surgical implants.

Tantalum's use in capacitors accounts for approximately 50% (551 tons) of current annual global consumption (1,160 tons). By 2030, the demand for tantalum in capacitors is expected to reach 1,410 tons.

Tantalum is found primarily in Australia. Brazil and Canada come in a distant second and third respectively.

Potential investment opportunities for tantalum currently include:

  • Avalon Rare Metals Inc. (AMEX: AVL)
  • AVX Corp.. (NYSE: AVX)
  • Cabot Microelectronics Corporation (NASDAQ: CCMP)
  • KEMET Corp. (NYSE: KEM)
  • Molycorp, Inc. (NYSE:MCP)
  • Metalico Inc. (AMEX: MEA)
  • Vishay Intertechnology Inc. (NYSE: VSH).

2.) Indium

Indium has a global annual production of approximately 600 tons. The metal found its first commercial use as a coating for engine bearings during World War II.

Today, applications for use include solar technology, touch screens, aerospace, and mobile displays. Indium is found in virtually all Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD), iPhones, flat screens, and computers.

Over 50% of indium production comes from China, where the largest deposits are found. Reserves in the area are estimated to be between 8,000 and 11,000 tons.

By 2030 the Fraunhofer Institute expects global demand for indium to reach 1,580 a year — enough to deplete current reserve estimates in less than a decade.

Potential investment opportunities for indium currently include:

  • Avalon Rare Metals Inc. (AMEX: AVL)
  • AXT Inc. (NASDAQ: AXTI)
  • Molycorp, Inc. (NYSE:MCP)
  • Teck Resources Limited (NYSE: TCK).

3.) Molybdenum

Molybdenum has a global annual production of approximately 600 tons. The metal was discovered by Swedish chemist Peter Hjelm in 1781 but didn't see demand until the first and second World Wars, where it was used in armor plating due to its extremely high temperature resistance.

Today, applications for use include thin-film transistors, rockets, super alloys (used for increasing strength and environmental resistance), turbine blades, and chemical applications.

Approximately 38% of molybdenum production comes from China, where the largest reserves in the world are found. Next to China, the largest source of molybdenum is actually recycling — nearly 30% of molybdenum demand is met by reuse.

Potential investment opportunities for molybdenum currently include:

  • AngloGold Ashanti Ltc.. (NYSE: AU)
  • BHP Billiton plc (NYSE: BBL)
  • Entree Gold Inc. (AMEX: EGI)
  • Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX)
  • General Moly, Inc. (AMEX: GMO)
  • Metalico Inc. (AMEX: MEA)
  • Rio Tinto plc (NYSE: RIO)
  • Southern Copper Corp. (NYSE: SCCO)
  • Thompson Creek Metals Company Inc. (NYSE: TC)
  • Teck Resources Limited (NYSE: TCK)

4.) Germanium

Germanium has a global annual production of approximately 180 tons. It was originally used exclusively for semiconductor production, but today it is found in a broad range of electronic applications.

Germanium may be best known for its chemical similarity to silicon, but it offers a few unique properties that set it aside in its own right. Most notably, germanium provides a high index of refraction and low optical dispersion, which make it an ideal material for optical applications and high-tech imaging.

Today, germanium is used in fiber optics, camera lenses, solar panels, infrared optics, high-speed integrated circuits, and photovoltaic cells. The metal is commonly made into an alloy, combining with silicon to increase the speed of electronic circuits.

As for production, approximately 71% of germanium comes from China, 4% from Russia, and just 2.5% from the U.S.

Potential investment opportunities for germanium are limited, but currently include:

  • AXT Inc. (NASDAQ: AXTI)
  • Teck Resources Limited (NYSE: TCK)

5.) Gallium

Gallium is an extremely rare mineral that has a global annual production of just 100 tons. The main use of the metal today is in manufacturing semiconductors and integrated circuits for modern electronics. Gallium offers significant functional benefits over older, silicon-based semiconductors.

Other applications for gallium include lasers, fuel cells, solar cells, pharmaceuticals, and illuminating diodes. Today, gallium is found in virtually all LED products.

Gallium production comes primarily from China, where the largest deposits are found. The metal is found mainly in zinc, germanium, and aluminum ores with a maximum concentration of 0.01%.

The one drawback of gallium is its incredibly low melting point (~86 degrees Fahrenheit ) which makes it difficult to apply in semiconductors, because they often operate in high-temperature environments. The solution to this has been to combine gallium with other materials to create alloys.

One such alloy is gallium nitride, or GaN. Transistors made out of GaN can turn on and off faster and withstand higher voltages than those made from silicon. In other words, they can operate in harsher environments than modern semiconductors.

Jointly, it's been suggested that indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) is the prime candidate for Intel's new seven-nanometer chips.

Potential investment opportunities for gallium currently include:

  • Aluminum Corporation Of China Limited (NYSE: ACH)
  • AXT Inc. (NASDAQ: AXTI)
  • Molycorp, Inc. (NYSE: MCP)
  • Qorvo, Inc. (NASDAQ: QRVO)
  • Veeco Instruments (NASDAQ: VECO)

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