Germanium is closely associated with applications in various high-tech sectors and products, including the production of fibre and infrared optics, terrestrial solar cells, light-emitting diodes, polymerization catalysts, germanium-antimony-tellurium material in rewritable optical discs, propagermanium-based medicines, to name only a few.
Germanium: structure of the global consumption by end-uses
The consumption of germanium in these sectors is in the state of constant dynamic fluidity, subject to demand-supply balance, macroeconomic trends, technological innovation, environmental influences, legislative regulation, availability of substitutes, etc. A substitution of germanium with silicon in electronic transistors by the mid-1960s is now a historical fact with an outcome that germanium transistors became virtually non-existent. In order this to happen, the electronics market needed a combination of germanium transistor deficiency (they were prone to fail at high temperatures) and availability of a new cost-effective technology based on silicon.
In the similar vein, the influence of macroeconomic trends and political decisions may be instrumental in affecting the germanium market(s) in various ways. For instance, some time ago the French Government announced its plan to revive the French mining sector by making a substantial investment of up to €400m in Compagnie National des Mines de France (CMF), which could become nation’s first state-owned industrial entity in many years. Among a wide range of specialty mineral resources and rare earths, CMF’s activities were intended to focus on domestic and foreign exploration and exploitation of germanium. Foreign mining operations of CMFs were primarily targeted at the former French colonies. Francophone African countries still maintain very close business relationships with France and often prefer doing business with French business entities rather than with foreign multinationals. However, these CMF-related plans were shelved due to Emmanuel Macron’s government concerns that the envisaged CMF operations will demonstrate neo-colonial policy and attitude, by engaging France in the colonialism-tinged pursuit for the domain of natural resources. Such a policy in Africa now starts to be tightly associated with China, which tries to implement a strong grip on African mineral resources. The current French government would like to distance the country from such a policy, which inadvertently affects the regional germanium markets.
more information on the global germanium market can be found in the insightful research study “Germanium: 2018 World Market Review and Forecast to 2027”.