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Germanium is a typical rare and dispersed element, associating with lignite, lead-zinc deposit and copper ore. Global proven recoverable deposits of germanium amount to 8,600 metal metric tons (MMT), which are mainly distributed in United States, China and Canada, with the first two accounting for 45.1% and 40.9% of the world’s recoverable germanium reserves, respectively.
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In spite of abundant germanium reserves, America’s germanium output makes up only 2.6% of the world’s total, due to limited exploitation. By contrast, China, because of its massive exploitation, has become one of large germanium producing countries, with output hitting 87 tonnes in 2013, up 8.8% from a year earlier, accounting for 57.6% of global total output.
In order to protect germanium resources, China has taken multiple measures in recent years, including purchase and storage of germanium by the country and increase in tariffs, which resulted in significant decline in export of germanium and products thereof, falling by 21.8% year on year to about 25.8 tonnes in 2013, according to data from China Customs.
Currently, most of China’s germanium and its products are exported to United States, Germany and Japan, of which America is the largest export market for China’s germanium, making up 62.7% of China’s total exports in 2013.
In recent years, germanium price has been on the rise, thus promoting steady development of germanium industry. Combined with bright prospects for downstream application, germanium producers have increased their investments. For example, Yunnan Lincang Xinyuan Germanium Industry Co., Ltd. works on extending industry chain, and Yunnan Chihong Zinc and Germanium Co., Ltd. and China Germanium Co., Ltd. primarily expand production capacity.
Yunnan Lincang Xinyuan Germanium Industrial Co., Ltd.: Actively extend to downstream application of germanium. In April 2013, the company’s production line of 30 t/a germanic chloride for optical fiber was put into operation. In addition, the company’s infrared night-vision viewer (mainly applied in automobile and military sectors) is under development.
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Yunnan Chihong Zinc and Germanium Co., Ltd.: The company plans to expand its germanium products capacity to 40 tonnes by 2015. High-end applications, such as 9-12N germanic chloride for optical fiber, infrared optical Ge lens and monocrystalline germanium slice for solar cell, will be the focus of the company to invest and develop.
China Germanium Co., Ltd.: In December 2013, the company launched 400,000 monocrystalline germanium slices for energy saving and environment-friendly efficient and multi-junction solar cell substrate project. Once put into operation, the project can produce 300,000 pieces of 4-inch wafer, and 100,000 pieces of 6-inch wafer.
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