Skip to comments.Rare Earth Ruckus - Are we at the mercy of China's mercantilist mandarins?
Posted on 11/24/2010 5:03:36 PM PST by neverdem
Earlier this year, the world was jolted when China apparently cut supplies of rare earth metals to Japan. In addition, China has announced that it is dramatically tightening its export quotas on the metals. This is big news because China produces 97 percent of the worlds supply of the 17 rare earth metals. Rare earth metals are used in everything from wind turbines to oil refineries, Priuses to iPhones, and flat screen TVs to smart bombs.
Rare earth metals are chemically similar and include cerium, neodymium, europium, and samarium. Despite the name, most rare earth metals actually are similar in abundance as more familiar elements such as copper, nickel, or zinc. However, economically exploitable rare earth ores are uncommon and they generally occur together as hard to refine mixtures. Over the past half century technologists have found many uses for these metals, one of the more important being the production of lightweight permanent magnets.
Up until the 1990s, the United States dominated the production of rare earth metals, chiefly from the Mountain Pass mine in southern California. In 1992 then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, allegedly declared, "There is oil in the Middle East; there is rare earth in China." Subsequently, China began ramping up its rare earth metals mining and production, flooding the market with the metals and undercutting the price of U.S. production. U.S. Geological Survey composite price data notes that rare earths sold in real dollars for just over $11,000 per ton in 1990 falling to a low of just over $3,000 per ton in 2006. In the face of Chinese competition, the Mountain Pass mine ceased operations in 2002 when its environmental operating permit expired after a series of spills of mine tailings that contained traces of radioactive uranium and thorium.
Since the early 1990s, world demand for...
(Excerpt) Read more at reason.com ...
Astronomers think there might be a considerable amount of rare earth metals in the asteroid belt. Of course, it seems that the US is no longer enterprising enough to go get them, but there is a good chance they are there.
The article mentions the Mountain Pass mine in CA as a source for these rare earth minerals. If this is America’s only viable source for the metals, then yes, we are at the mercy of the chinese. Why? Because california will be too environmentally sensitive to exploit the mine, even if the prices for the minerals will rise enough to make it worthwhile.
Yes, since we have plenty but choose not to use our own.
No, we’re at the mercy of the EPA and fedgov. We have plenty of rare earth resources. However, rare earths tend to be found with radioactive elements, and nobody can get a permit to mine them.
A refurbished (modernized) mine is reopening in early 2011. The problem that got the mine shut down was how to deal with radioactive waste products.
Yes, rare earth mines are generally radioactive to one degree or the other. That's because we get the rare earths from ores that were once THORIUM. We have some nuclear plant designs that use THORIUM rather than Uranium.
The Chinese appear to have allowed rare earth mining get the upper hand and now they have some serious "down stream" radioactive problems.
The problem is Leftwingtards, like the Chicoms, don't really care about environmental issues. They're just dirty people into it for the power they think they can get over others.
It would probably be more economically viable to just re-open the mines already in the US that were priced out by China’s use of slave labor...
“Rare Earth”? Love that band. I believe it was the first white band signed by Motown.
Or are we at the mercy of the EPA and the environuts, and most of the country just now gets it after sticking their fingers in their ears for 35 years.
You are correct.
I saw them just before they broke up - they was the blackest white folks I ever saw. Great sound.
there is plenty of rare earths in Idaho, but not at the price china can produce them, expect prices to go up
Never saw them in concert, but their Get Ready album was the second LP I bought.
They must have changed their style; it seems they’re into metal these days.
Free trade does have a downside - and the Chinese are going to remind us what it is.
Watch out for dodgy stock promoters who try to pick your pockets on this situation. USGS recently released a new report on the topic.
Rare Earth Elements in U.S. Not So Rare Significant Deposits Found in 14 States
Released: 11/17/2010 12:27:49 PM
Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey.
This estimate of domestic rare earth deposits is part of a larger report that includes a review of global sources for REE, information on known deposits that might provide domestic sources of REE in the future, and geologic information crucial for studies of the availability of REE to U.S. industry.
The report describes significant deposits of REE in 14 states, with the largest known REE deposits at Mountain Pass, Calif.; Bokan Mountain, Alaska; and the Bear Lodge Mountains, Wyo. The Mountain Pass mine produced REE until it closed in 2002. Additional states with known REE deposits include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
This is the first detailed assessment of rare earth elements for the entire nation, describing deposits throughout the United States, commented USGS Director Marcia McNutt, Ph.D. It will be very important, both to policy-makers and industry, and it reinforces the value of our efforts to maintain accurate, independent information on our nations natural resources. Although many of these deposits have yet to be proven, at recent domestic consumption rates of about 10,000 metric tons annually, the US deposits have the potential to meet our needs for years to come.”
REE are a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earths crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.
Hard-rock deposits yield the most economically exploitable concentrations of REE. USGS researchers also analyzed two other types of REE deposits: placer and phosphorite deposits. Placer deposits are alluvial formations of sandy sediments, which often contain concentrations of heavy, dense minerals, some containing REE. Phosphorite deposits, which mostly occur in the southeastern U.S., contain large amounts of phosphate-bearing minerals. These phosphates can yield yttrium and lanthanum, which are also REE.
Ninety-six percent of REE produced globally now comes from China. New REE mines are being developed in Australia, and projects exploring the feasibility of economically developing additional REE deposits are under way in the United States, Australia, and Canada; successful completion of these projects could help meet increasing demand for REE, the report said.
REE are important ingredients in high-strength magnets, metal alloys for batteries and light-weight structures, and phosphors. These are essential components for many current and emerging alternative energy technologies, such as electric vehicles, photo-voltaic cells, energy-efficient lighting, and wind power. REEs are also critical for a number of key defense applications.
This report is part of a larger, Department of Defense-funded study of how the United States, and the Department of Defense in particular, use REE, as well as the status and security of domestic and global supply chains. In addition, the USGS National Minerals Information Center maintains statistics on global mineral production, trade, and resources that include rare earth elements.
The new USGS report, which provides an overview of domestic REE resources and possibilities for utilizing those resources, is available on line at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5220.
>Are we at their mercy?
>>Yes, since we have plenty but choose not to use our own.
>>>No, were at the mercy of the EPA and fedgov. We have plenty of rare earth resources. However, rare earths tend to be found with radioactive elements, and nobody can get a permit to mine them.
Isn’t this a property rights issue? “We” (our local, state and federal government) choose to not cause pollution to mine these relatively sparse rare earth resources that are fairly distributed throughout the world.
Thanks for the post! Happy Thanksgiving!
FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.
Get on the Rare Earth bandwagon!
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