In 2014, China was still center stage in the rare earths market, and it wasn't an exciting year in terms of prices. Producers Molycorp (NYSE:MCP) and Lynas (ASX:LYC) made some progress, but their share prices are down at least 80 percent year-to-date, suggesting that it's still tough out there for rare earths companies outside of China. Looking ahead, it's difficult to predict what's next for the rare earths space given the number of variables at play. However, Ryan Castilloux, founding director and market research analyst at Adamas Intelligence, suggested that while another difficult year could lie ahead, prices for some of the rare earths could rise. He also said companies able to adapt to tough conditions could be worth keeping an eye on. Prices Castilloux suggested that looking ahead, an "if-then" Boolean-type approach is most prudent when looking at the rare earths market. For example, rare earths prices will need to do better in order for some companies to succeed next year. "If rare earth prices don't improve in 2015, I think we're in for another quiet year ahead, and we're likely to see a few more exploration projects and companies fall off the map or begin focusing on other types of mineral resources," he said. However, while his firm anticipates that cerium and lanthanum prices will sink lower in 2015, it expects the price of neodymium to rise, "narrowing the gap between neodymium oxide and more expensive praseodymium oxide that was established in 2014." Overall, Adamas expects the prices of several important rare earths to begin trending upward in the second half of next year. "With this improvement we expect a renewed interest in the exploration sector from project financiers and institutional investors," Castilloux said.