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China and Japan Covet the Same Rare-Earth Metals

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the as-do-we-all dept.

Earth 159

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from The Australian: "Japan's increasingly frantic efforts to lead the world in green technology have put it on a collision course with the ambitions of China and dragged both government and industry into the murky realm of large-scale mineral smuggling."

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Great! (4, Insightful)

viyh (620825) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156035)

At least it's breeding competition to do something good for once. This is the kind of stuff governments should be doing.

Re:Great! (-1, Redundant)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156071)

*citation needed*

Re:Great! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156597)

You can't just subsititute "citation needed" for "I disgree with you."

If the parent actually said something of doubtable factual accuracy, then it would be at least a little appropriate. He's just stating that he thinks this situation may be helped by competitive forces.
Are you expecting everyone to footnote their opinions with "1. My Brain. A couple minutes ago."?

Re:Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156895)

[citation needed]

Original research (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157091)

If the parent actually said something of doubtable factual accuracy, then it would be at least a little appropriate.

If someone disagrees, then it's doubtable. As to whether it's factual:

Are you expecting everyone to footnote their opinions with "1. My Brain. A couple minutes ago."?

At least on Wikipedia, you're not supposed to post original research, including original syntheses. You can post opinions if you cite a reliable source stating that someone else holds that opinion.

But of course, Slashdot is not Wikipedia. Is this what you were trying to get at?

Re:Original research (2, Insightful)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157829)

Even on Wikipedia you're posting an opinion. An opinion of what citations are appropriate, and if you do it right, in other people's opinion, by "self professed expert's" opinion, then it's left there. It's like the collective body of human knowledge has to fit in everyone's head, in similar ways, as a coherent whole, and my thoughts reflect your thoughts reflect Pete's thoughts over there so we're on the same page. Even experts have to join in into this collective understanding of things, and unless they can formulate their opinion in ways that are graspable by others, their work is useless. Once their work is graspable by others, it's hard to say their opinion is different or better, because those who grasped it are equally able to hold the same opinion.

That's one side of the story, because yes, experts do know of the subtleties of a topic, because it's hard to formulate knowledge of very many things into succinct direct factual statements, because there are subtle cases where the opposite of the formulated statement is true. What makes someone an expert is being very aware of the exceptions, of when the factual statement is false. So a simple quotation of a succinct factual statement from published literature is not proper knowledge. The human brain is good at looking at very many different things, and drawing succinct guiding principles from them, to simplify and save thought processes. It's how the human brain functions, by generalizations, by stereotyping, but succinct generalizations are sometimes forced onto a topic where they don't really fit well, and instead a long winded deliberation is more appropriate. Wikipedia articles are often very good at highlighting these subtleties involving a topic, and it's like the experts actually wrote these Wikipedia articles themselves, and simple quoting of experts from a distance by those who don't understand the subtleties is not appropriate. No original research? There is no other proper knowledge but original research or equivalent mirroring of it, the only proper knowledge is full knowledge, and little knowledge is dangerous. There is a fading zone though, a balance, a tradeoff between long windedness of a Wikipedia article, vs. full and proper knowledge, full and proper description of a topic, because an encyclopedia article does have to be somewhat succinct, because the reader comes to it to quickly grasp the major ideas in a topic, and get a good starting base, and then the fine points can be further researched in the expert literature.

By the way there are also cases of crackpots successfully publishing literature in widely acclaimed scientific journals, and a Wikipedia editor who's a "non-expert" might decide to arbitrate and overrule the cited information. Just because something is published literature it does not always mean it is better than the collective agreement of Wikipedia editor's personal, private opinions.

Wikipedia, is full of opinions. Even though it is supposed to contain no original research, you could say that there is no such thing as original research, because almost no original research in general is totally original, but it is derived as a natural flow of ideas from other people's work. Newton said that he might have been able to see farther than others, but that was because he was standing on shoulders of giants. There are very few exceptions, such as Cantor's math of infinites, or Bolyai's axiom of parallels, where people have pitted their minds against a topic for millenia, and a very fresh view is presented, and you could say it's not a natural flow of ideas from what was previously known. But even there you can say that eventually someone else would have come up with the same ideas or something very similar, and it's a natural flow, it just took a while to make the next step, and those successful in making that next step contributed more significantly than usual, and possibly deserve some greater reward (even if it's hard to come up with a proper reward for Cantor or Bolyai, how do you measure the value of such progress in $ terms?) There is no completely individualized human knowledge, we all contribute by chiseling at the whole, adding little tidbits here and there.

Re:Great! (1, Informative)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157157)

My point wasn't that I disagreed with him, but that he's posting an opinion like it's fact.

At least it's breeding competition to do something good for once.

That's opinion twisted to sound like fact. If he read the article, (or even understood the summary) he'd realize that there's two things going on. 1) China's government is trying to lock up rare earth metals so that they can profit off of it politically. Since these are used in green technologies, this is bad environmentally. 2) This isn't really affecting the market, because there's a huge black market for the stuff. As shown by drugs, Prohibition, embargoes... black markets usually breed a lot of crime.

1) "Ginya Adachi, from the Japanese Rare Earth Association, said that China's dominance of rare earths would serve the developed world with a rude shock about global trade: Japan, America and Europe must now realise that some markets are not real, but political."
2) The Mafia during Prohibition [wikipedia.org]

Re:Great! (3, Funny)

gzunk (242371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157321)

I'm sorry, but as a native English speaker I had no problems reading the sentence and understanding that it was a point of view. It doesn't even look like a fact.

Or maybe I should rephrase that as:

I think I'm sorry, but as I believe I'm a native English speaker I didn't perceive that I had any problems in understanding that it might have been a point of view. In my view, it didn't look like a fact. :-)

Re:Great! (1)

daryl_and_daryl (1005065) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157807)

* grammatically awkward *

Re:Great! (4, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157575)

1) China's government is trying to lock up rare earth metals so that they can profit off of it politically. Since these are used in green technologies, this is bad environmentally.

China is going to profit off of it economically.
They have been pursuing a decades long mineral aquisition policy. And they're beating the USA.
Capitalism just can't compete with (Chinese) government financed companies.
Who in their right mind wouldn't want to do everything in their power to monopolize a limited natural resource?

You don't even really know that it's bad for the the environment... yet.
If it makes sense, someone will break the monopoly. More on this later.

2) This isn't really affecting the market, because there's a huge black market for the stuff. As shown by drugs, Prohibition, embargoes... black markets usually breed a lot of crime.

I'm not sure you make sense.
"not really affecting the market" and "huge black market" are contradictory.
Not to mention that black markets are by definition illegal; claiming that they breed crime is tautological.

1) "Ginya Adachi, from the Japanese Rare Earth Association, said that China's dominance of rare earths would serve the developed world with a rude shock about global trade: Japan, America and Europe must now realise that some markets are not real, but political."

Pure hyperbole. China's lock on rare earth metals isn't recent news. They've had it for >20 years.
And there are dozens of markets whose prices are set because of political considerations.
If I wanted to be pedantic, I could argue that every tariff and subsidy qualifies.

Last but not least, that article was shit.
It leaves out tons of back story and doesn't even mention why people are talking about this again.
1. An Australian group called "Lynas" couldn't get the funding to build a refinery in Malaysia or develop a new mine in Australia until they sold 51% of their ownership to China for 500 Million.
2. A Chinese invesment company just bought 25% of a major Australian rare earth mining corp

Looks like this strategic resource isn't all that strategic since nobody is willing to fork over the cash to build refineries outside of China, without Chinese cash.
Maybe Canada will since they're pretty much the only player left.

Re:Great! (3, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157741)

Last but not least, that article was shit.
It leaves out tons of back story and doesn't even mention why people are talking about this again.
1. An Australian group called "Lynas" couldn't get the funding to build a refinery in Malaysia or develop a new mine in Australia until they sold 51% of their ownership to China for 500 Million.

I don't usually quote myself, but I was reading more and this is just rich:
Goldman Sachs is the company that pulled financing from Lynas' processing plant.
An American investment firm allowed the Chinese to take over the world's largest rare earth mineral processing plant. ::epic facepalm::

I just had to reply to say... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28158015)

You are fucking dumbass. "Citation needed" against "At least it's breeding competition to do something good for once. This is the kind of stuff governments should be doing"?? You need more learn-ed, son.

On behalf of the internets, I must regretfully inform you to GTFO and take your FAIL with you.

Ya Know What? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156117)

Nuke the japs again, and nuke the chinks and gooks. Then we can have all of those metals to ourselves.

Re:Ya Know What? (2, Insightful)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157167)

Is it really flamebait when the post is so absurd that no one can take it as anything other than a joke?

Re:Ya Know What? (1)

Sehnsucht (17643) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157265)

I've got this GREAT idea to end world hunger!

Re:Great! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156131)

Speaking of breeding and competition, do you know why celebrity gossip of late has emphasized pregnancies while Jon and Kate plus 8 is being hyped to death?

U.S. Government conspiracy to promote having babies. More cannon fodder to fight against China when WWIII finally comes.

Re:Great! (3, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156219)

Except the Chinese government is trying to control the market and shut down competition, and the Japanese government is ... doing something, presumably, but what isn't exactly clear from TFA. They could try to promote competition, but unsurprisingly, it doesn't sound like they're doing it.

Re:Great! (1)

viyh (620825) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156247)

Agreed, but in any case, this is better than no attention being paid to it at all. The problems will get worked out in the long run because, after all, "green technology" is needed to solve world-wide problems. We are all in this together.

Re:Great! (4, Insightful)

Kirijini (214824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156339)

Nope. Japan and China are "competing" for different things, presumably only one of which most westerners will support.

China is trying to own the supplies/means of production for rare earth metals. Apparently they own most of the existing supply/production, and are moving to own supplies and/or the mining companies that produce the supplies elsewhere in the world.

Japanese auto manufacturers are giant consumers of rare earth metals, presumably to make batteries for their hybrids, and so Japan is competing for a larger supply to consume.

The BAD thing here (to most westerners) is that China is locking down the market for rare earth metals, which are apparently important for many renewable energy technologies. This is bad because western countries are being very aggressive about renewable energy, but China can either frustrate those efforts or make them really expensive.

The GOOD thing here (to most westerners) is that there is apparently a huge black market for these materials, which means that China can't control its own producers very well. This could lead to market reform in China - the market may be freed up as Chinese producers, seeking more profits, fight the political actors in China who favor export quotas. Freer Chinese markets = less power of the Chinese government on world trade.

Re:Great! (4, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156409)

Japanese auto manufacturers are giant consumers of rare earth metals, presumably to make batteries for their hybrids, and so Japan is competing for a larger supply to consume.

Japan is a puny island with a huge industry. They're competing for resources. This isn't news since 1930.

Re:Great! (2)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156609)

Japan is a puny island with a huge industry.

Geography isn't always the best power indicator. Japan may be small, but they have a great deal of control in the world economy. China won't let them at rare earth metals? They'll find a way to use metals that *are* available to them, or to get the metals they need.

Re:Great! (3, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156709)

Geography isn't always the best power indicator. Japan may be small, but they have a great deal of control in the world economy.

We are talking about Japan, after all. You know, the ones who already invaded China once, and the ones who needed nuclear bombs to surrender.

Re:Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156863)

I know this is modded flamebait, but honestly I don't see why. It's true.

Re:Great! (3, Interesting)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156713)

I imagine its not for batteries, but for permanent magnets. The strongest permanent magnets all rely on "rare earths", most of which come from china, as the article implies.

Re:Great! (2, Insightful)

Dravik (699631) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156785)

.

The GOOD thing here (to most westerners) is that there is apparently a huge black market for these materials, which means that China can't control its own producers very well. This could lead to market reform in China - the market may be freed up as Chinese producers, seeking more profits, fight the political actors in China who favor export quotas. Freer Chinese markets = less power of the Chinese government on world trade.

You just might be surprised at how fast the producers fall in line with the Chinese government after one or two are executed.

The supplies aren't in China (3, Interesting)

Chmcginn (201645) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156847)

You just might be surprised at how fast the producers fall in line with the Chinese government after one or two are executed.

Unless you're implying China is going to assassinate foreign industrialists, you're apparently confused. Most of the known reserves of rare earth metals aren't in China - the problem, for Japan, is that China has negotiated exclusive trading rights with several developing countries over their stocks of rare earth metals. So the local governments may even be in on this 'black market' - the problem is that if they openly sell directly to Japanese companies, China will bring suit against them in the WTO.

Re:The supplies aren't in China (1)

Dravik (699631) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156887)

Ahh, I stand corrected. I got the impression from the article that China had huge domestic deposits.

Re:The supplies aren't in China (2, Informative)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157195)

They do, but there's still more outside of China than inside.

Re:Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156685)

Governments should engage in large scale illegal operations?

WOW! (4, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156063)

A rare-earth metal so rare that it doesn't even have a name without RTFA.

Re:WOW! (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156083)

My bad. 1) Metals not metal. 2) Still no name for these rare-earth metals even with RTFA.

Re:WOW! (1)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156109)

2) Still no name for these rare-earth metals even with RTFA.

Wikipedia for the win. [wikipedia.org]

Re:WOW! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156211)

Duh. This still doesn't say *which* rare-earth metals are coveted.

If two famous people are said to share the same birth year but the year is not specified, will you respond with the Wikipedia page on "Year"?

Re:WOW! (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157209)

No, but he might respond with the "Year Births" page that Wikipedia has for ever year. Such as: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:1968_births [wikipedia.org]

And you might learn how to scroll: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_metals#Technological_applications [wikipedia.org]

Rare earth elements are incorporated into many modern technological devices, including superconductors, miniaturized magnets, electronic polishers, refining catalysts and hybrid car components.[4] Rare earth ions are used as the active ions in luminescent materials used in optoelectronics applications, most notably the Nd:YAG laser. Phosphors with rare earth dopants are also widely used in cathode ray tube technology such as television sets

If you've never played with neodymium magnets you should turn in your geek card.

Re:WOW! (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156127)

Re:WOW! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156661)

Still no specification.

Re:WOW! (3, Funny)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156717)

If the Chinese have their way, it will all be named unobtanium.

Re:WOW! (4, Informative)

Davemania (580154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156111)

Rare earth metal is a name for a class of elements http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element [wikipedia.org]

Re:WOW! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156691)

Which despite the name, aren't actually that rare.. many are more common than 'common' metals like lead.

Re:WOW! (1)

Kavorkian_scarf (1272422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156291)

I have been looking for what the mineral could be. I would think the main would be BastnÃsite(http://www.galleries.com/minerals/carbonat/bastnasi/bastnasi.htm), followed by Beryllium or Zircon.

Re:WOW! (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157011)

They're looking for Adamantine.

Iridium RMB anyone? (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156107)

The US used to have a currency backed by the barrel of oil. $20 bought a barrel. Or so the tin-foil-hat-wearing gold-bugs say.

Now that oil has more or less peaked, perhaps renewable resources will take off. Maybe China will get to print the world currency.

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (5, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156295)

All currency is backed by trust, even gold/oil. Gold has little intrinsic worth and oil's intrinsic value is that is can be burnt to do usefull work, with any currency you are simply trusting that your fellow man will see it as a token that can be swapped for something with intrinsic value such as food, shelter, oil, etc. China is the modern equivalent of the Medici family, they may well end up printing the default currency one day but that will be because the huge government deficits around the globe are largely funded by China's massive trade surplus. They have not yet threatened to derail the gravy train but Hu has stated several times that he will only continue to fund deficits in the west while it's "economically sustainable" to do so.

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157145)

Now what would happen if America and by extension the EU, told China to fuck off and die. That we were not paying them crap of what we owed them? And that the WTO, and other legal resources could not make us? I wonder because it seems like a pretty good plan IMNSHO.

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157223)

Aside from the moral issue of literally stealing the life's savings of millions of chinese peasants? I mean, I know non-white people aren't important, but even that seems a little harsh. That funding from china comes from their trade surplus, which means they have been lending us their savings.

As for what would happen to us, well... http://www.amazon.com/Liberation-Adventures-Collapse-United-America/dp/0765320460 [amazon.com]

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157403)

Aside from the moral issue of literally stealing the life's savings of millions of chinese peasants?

No, this money comes from the Chinese government not Chinese citizens. Sure at one point, Chinese peasants might have had some of this money, but it isn't theirs any more.

Having said that, defaulting on hundreds of billions or trillions of debt ultimately won't help the US's reputation or financial condition. It'd just be another nail in the coffin. Chinese could always sell its debt to another party (like Japan or the UK) in order to damage the US further. Will the US continue its default when the UK owns the debt? That would also generate massive inflation in the US dollar since a considerable portion of dollar-valued assets lost most or all of their value. And I'm ignoring the WTO-style retaliations. While the US can ignore them, seizure of assets, tariffs, trade embargoes, etc are going to hurt the US.

Finally, I'm not that concerned about the Chinese government strategy. They aren't that good. A near monopoly on rare earths, for example, only makes sense if a) you have the power to enforce the monopoly and b) rare earths become important enough strategically to warrant the effort of creating the monopoly. My view is that China's current inability to enforce these contracts is only the tip of the iceberg. We still have yet to consider whether the contracts have been made in good faith. For example, if a contract has been made with a corrupt government (eg, Burma), then there's a good chance that the contract isn't enforceable without considerably more military power than China will have for decades.

Similarly, China's purchase of massive amounts of US debt just doesn't make that much sense. Even if one is correct in the assumption that the US will pay off its debts, it's still pretty obvious that the US government is engaging in near-suicidal levels of spending and entitlement. My view is that China does so only to support its export industries. I believe that to be a inferior strategy in the long run as well since they lose the benefit of imports from even cheaper places.

My view is that the US could, if it were to keep to sensible levels of government spending, maintain trade deficits indefinitely. There is tremendous wealth creation going on in the US (even during recessions). In good years, only part of this wealth is used to buy imported goods and services. China, by eschewing the benefits of imports, is weakening its economy and depriving its citizens of wealth.

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (3, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157257)

Now what would happen if America and by extension the EU, told China to fuck off and die. That we were not paying them crap of what we owed them?

Well, then good luck borrowing money from anybody ever again, after a default on that scale.

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28157303)

A few countries in South America tried that. Didn't work out all that well for them.

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (1, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157565)

Hitler already tried that. Apart from starting another world war, you will have demonstrated to everyone (including your allies) you are not to be trusted and your currency will end up in the toilet.

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157995)

Flamebait? My comment is basically the same point as the insightfull post dircetly above, was it because I pointed out the historical fact that telling ones creditors to go fuck themselves didn't end well for Hitler?

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157229)

Ohh, gold has significant intrinsic worth: its use for industry and effectiveness as a very malleable, highly conductive noble metal that can be handled in nearly monomolecular layers make it very effective for all sorts of industrial uses. But yes, its use and manipulations for decoration and economic market uses are quite out of scale with its industrial use.

This wasn't always the case: The invention of steel, the assembly line, and the invention of bank notes all distorted the value of easily worked, stable metals. And gold was very useful as a verifiable form of portable wealth, less reliant on the trust in a remote agency than banknotes or on a particular government.

Re:Iridium RMB anyone? (2, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157913)

I didn't mean it was completely useless, what I was trying to say is that you can't eat it. I agree Issac Newton's "gold standard" was a brilliant step forward in economics, he understood that gold was usefull as a token because it's hard to come by and because everyone has trust in the idea that it will always be hard to come by and can be swapped for food, etc. However it's value collapses when it occasionally becomes easier to obtain, take a look at what occured across Europe when Spain doubled the available gold supply in a very short space of time by looting the Myan empire. All that gold didn't make Europe twice as rich, it simply made gold half as valuable basically wiping out 50% of peoples existing savings.

With so called "fait currency" governments can have absolute control over the supply and thus control infalation (something they can't do with gold, silver, etc), the down side is governments sometimes collapse, when that happens the currency becomes fancy toilet paper (ie: it wipes out 100% of peoples savings, eg:Zimbabwe). The smart thing to do is treat currency itself as a kind of commodity and turn the fluctuating value of it's various forms into personal profit, not that I know how to do that but those who do are extremely wealthy.

Oh boy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156143)

Now I'm more sure than ever that by the end of this century, China will take America's place as the world power. We're billions in debt to them, and now they've got the next green energy source?

I, for one, welcome out new communist overlords.

Just wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156147)

until they run out of Vespene gas.

Shame... (5, Funny)

cffrost (885375) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156151)

If only Japan coveted lead, they could come to some arrangement.

Re:Shame... (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156733)

... And if things go downhill from here, we may expect some uranium in our cereals all over the world, even if we didn't covet that at all.

OP and TFA (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156165)

have very little relationship to each other. OP simply doesn't say what TFA does. Who was it did the OP again?

How was it smuggled? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156191)

He hid them in the one place he knew he could hide something. His ass.

rare-earths (4, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156253)

are only rare on Earth. Time to start asteroid mining.

Re:rare-earths (1)

rumith (983060) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156441)

are only rare on Earth.

Citation, please?

Time to start asteroid mining.

You do understand, of course, the astronomic (pun intended) price of the resources mined in the asteroid belt?

Re:rare-earths (3, Funny)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156569)

You do understand, of course, the astronomic (pun intended) price of the resources mined in the asteroid belt?

You know what? [thebestpag...iverse.net]

Re:rare-earths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156841)

Adding a useless but widespread figure of speech ... mmkay.
Being a loser with an obscure web site and writing a wall of text about this same phrase - way worse.
Having a high point in your day by quoting the said web site as a life guideline - priceless.

in related news i probably need a life too ;)

Re:rare-earths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28157189)

If you don't know Maddox then I hereby take three internets away from you.

Re:rare-earths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28157323)

Help yourself. I suppose you're the loser with the website?

Re:rare-earths (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157525)

Sorry, if you don't think Maddox is funny, your funny bone must be broken. (Pun intended.)

Re:rare-earths (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157245)

You must be new to the internets.

FYI... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157313)

Re:FYI... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28157381)

You should get a quotation from that page for your sig perhaps?
Schiller maybe too obscure for the rest of the jerks in this thread.

Re:rare-earths (1)

cyberthanasis12 (926691) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156755)

Does China have an endless supply of rare earths? What happens when the mines are depleted?

Whether we like it or not, conquer of space will be necessary in the not too distant future.

Re:rare-earths (4, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157587)

are only rare on Earth. Citation, please?

Actually, it was all said tongue in cheek. Having gotten that out of the way... As someone else pointed out, they're only considered "rare-earths" for historical reasons. I believe some of the platinum groups are less abundant; but, equally necessary to support our technology. In either case, the relative abundance of elements on Earth should be relatively similar throughout the inner solar system, with some tendancy for sorting by mass as the original cloud condensed to form the Sun and planets.

You do understand, of course, the astronomic (pun intended) price of the resources mined in the asteroid belt?

It's very high. Most of the cost is in launching the equipment and supplies needed. Then there's manpower and support. Consider NEO 433 Eros, a relatively easy target to which we have sent a robotic probe. It has a metal content which, by one estimate, is worth $20 Trillion (US) at current market prices. The technology and marketplace might not support a mining expedition to Eros right now; but, it's conceivable that in the near future a business case could be made for such an effort. Now consider that 433 Eros is only 3% metal content. Another example with higher metal content is 4660 Nereus. There are hundreds more which have orbits that bring them near Earth.

Re:rare-earths (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156737)

They really aren't that rare. The naming is a historical relic. While they aren't common like, say, silicon, many other elements that aren't "rare earth" aren't either.

"large-scale mineral smuggling"? (3, Funny)

Norsefire (1494323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156257)

Like buying gold in WoW?

Why is this news? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156269)

Rare-earths aren't only in China. China is simply making rare-earths available cheaper than it would be for countries to mine them themselves.

News flash: Japan imports nearly everything.

 

the 1950's called (3, Funny)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156323)

it's time to start checking under your beds for communists kids.

Re:the 1950's called (0, Flamebait)

luther2.1k (61950) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156749)

Wouldn't you get in to trouble if you kept communist's kids under your bed? On a related note, thank goodness Ronald Raygun, that clown off of that advert for fat clinics and possibly even some sort of distorted republican Jesus with guns saved us all from the evils of sharing.
    Now we all work 16 hours a day to make rich people even richer (hell, it gets me out of bed in the morning. Gawd bless all those upper management and banking types, they need it more than we do) and the world is just peachy!

Tim

Re:the 1950's called (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156977)

And going around the country on a bus, with a Geiger counter, following that girl with radium glow-in-the-dark watch?

China's bastnasite and monazite supply for magnets (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156373)

Lithium (presumably for lithium-ion electric car batteries) is not a rare-earth metal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element

Which element(s) are we fussing about? Why are they useful for green tech?

Lanthanum: very useful for green tech. Hydrogen fuel cell-related.
Hydrogen sponge alloys can contain lanthanum. These alloys are capable of storing up to 400 times their own volume of hydrogen gas in a reversible adsorption process. Heat energy is released

Cerium: maybe useful for green tech. Maybe motor magnets.
Cerium is used in alloys that are used to make permanent magnets.

Praseodymium: maybe marginally useful for green tech. Lightweight cars.
As an alloying agent with magnesium to create high-strength metals that are used in aircraft engines

Neodymium: very useful for green tech. Strong motor magnets.
Neodymium magnets are the strongest permanent magnets known.

Promethium: probably not useful for green tech.
Light sources.

Samarium: probably not useful for green tech.
Headphone magnets.
Alloys.

Europium: probably not useful for green tech.
Red color in CRTs.

Gadolinium: probably not useful for green tech.
Garnets.
CDs.
MRIs.

Terbium: marginally useful for green tech.
Solid state devices.
Alloys that respond strongly to a magnetic field. Sensor, actuator applications.
"Green" phosphors. Ha.

Dysprosium: very useful for green tech. Strong motor magnets.
* Neodymium-iron-boron magnets can have up to 6% of the neodymium substituted with dysprosium[15] to raise the coercivity for demanding applications such as drive motors for hybrid electric vehicles.
* This substitution would require up to 100 grams of dysprosium per hybrid car produced.
* Based on Toyota's projected 2 million units per year, the use of dysprosium in applications such as this would quickly exhaust the available supply of the metal. The dysprosium substitution may also be useful in other applications, as it improves the corrosion resistance of the magnets
* Currently, most dysprosium is being obtained from the ion-adsorption clay ores of southern China.

Holium: maybe useful for green tech.
Very strong magnets.
Cubic zirconia.
Lasers.

Erbium: useful for green tech, but probably not in the article's context, which was automotive.
Nuclear control rods.
Cubic zirconia.
Lasers.
Cryocoolers.

Thulium: scarce; probably not useful for green tech.
Superconductors.
Microwave equipment.
X-ray devices, in a nuclear reactor.

Ytterbium: useful for green tech, but probably not in the article's context, which was automotive.
Convert infrared light to electricity in solar cells.
X-ray source. Steel dopant.
Optics, lasers.

Lutetium: scarce; useful for green tech, but probably not in the article's context, which was automotive.
Catalyst in process of making OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes).

It turns out China (and to some extend Australia) are rich in these ores that contain lanthanum, neodymium, terbium, and dysprosium:
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastnasite
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monazite
Other ores:
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenotime
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fergusonite
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadolinite
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euxenite
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycrase
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blomstrandine

The Australian News article is probably worrying over China controlling bastnasite and monazite, which notably have neodymium and dysprosium, which are used for magnets, which go in motors, which go in electric cars, which is a green tech. A car is pictured in the article.

Working the lanthanum angle wrt fuel cells seems less likely.

Also, an AC on /. that read Wikipedia is not a reliable source :)

Re:China's bastnasite and monazite supply for magn (0, Redundant)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156603)

Also, an AC on /. that read Wikipedia is not a reliable source :)

That's given, but thanks nonetheless.

Re:China's bastnasite and monazite supply for magn (3, Funny)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156651)

Wikipedia is not a reliable source

[citation needed]

Re:China's bastnasite and monazite supply for magn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28157103)

scientology...

Re:China's bastnasite and monazite supply for magn (2, Interesting)

wintermute000 (928348) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156665)

Interestingly enough, there is a major chinese financial stake in both major Aussie rare earths companies trying to develop Australian located deposits. ARU and LYC respectively. In LYC's case its a controlling interest. Haven't looked in depth into ARU as I don't hold.

The issue has seemed to be too far beneath the radar for the govt to get involved unlike say OzMinerals (where the federal govt moved to restrict how much stake the incoming Chinese companies were allowed to buy and specifically excluded their biggest resource, Prominent Hills, which is gold + copper).

disclaimer: I hold LYC, aussie citizen, ethnically chinese ;)

Lead? (1)

RudeIota (1131331) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156401)

Rare? If that's the case, then at least we know it is NOT Pb. There's plenty of that stuff [usrecallnews.com] to go around, apparently.

Re:Lead? (0)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156761)

Easy: They put all their lead in the toys, now they need more. :P

NOW China really has the US by the balls (5, Insightful)

The_Quinn (748261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156413)

What really stood out to me in TFA:

there are now a lot of [green] technologies that can't work without rare earths, and China is currently in effective control of the global supply.

So I am thinking to myself: 1) The U.S. is amassing trillions and debt, much of it held by the Chinese, and 2) The Chinese own the key elements required by certain Green technology - which the U.S. government is pushing toward.

Did I just catch a glimpse of the slow arc of the decline of the U.S.? Is the U.S. grabbing its own ankles, or what!?

Re:NOW China really has the US by the balls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156443)

China can't recall all of its debt without also destroying their largest customer. They can't use their debt as much of a weapon.

As far as the elements go, if the US can't get what it needs to make green technology cost effective, they simply won't use green technology. They'll continue to pollute more than other nations and the entire world will continue to suffer the cost. It's not like the pollution stays over the US. It moves around and eventually it'll move around over China.

I guess China could hurt the US as much as they wanted to, but they'd be ripping their own face off while they did it.

Re:NOW China really has the US by the balls (2, Informative)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156621)

All you people that think china has america by the balls have it back to front.

China is SHITTING itself that america might not be able to pay back all those debts, they recently became nervous about this and it's seen in them asking for reassurance that their investments are safe. After all america still has a military that could easily repell any hostile advances, so exactly what recourse do you think china is going to have if america really starts to pack it in? the USA will just tell china to wait for it's money like a good boy.

really it's in china's best interests to play nice with america as it's their number one customer, without them china's rise is finished as their own domestic demand can't support the double digit growth they have been enjoying (as seen in their 8% figure)

Re:NOW China really has the US by the balls (1)

jmv (93421) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157657)

the USA will just tell china to wait for it's money like a good boy.

Just tell *any* country/institution that you won't pay your debt and you're in for a financial collapse because then nobody else will lend you anything.

really it's in china's best interests to play nice with america as it's their number one customer, without them china's rise is finished as their own domestic demand can't support the double digit growth they have been enjoying (as seen in their 8% figure)

It's not because China depends on the US that it hasn't got the US by the balls. It's probably *because* they depend so much on the US that they want to make sure to hold all this US dept and be able to exert some control.

You'll never take... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156485)

my upsidasium!

OTOH, it might just float away.

What's the big deal? (3, Informative)

dimension6 (558538) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156545)

From what I understand from the article, China only holds 95% of the supply because they are able to provide the metals for cheaper. If these Chinese companies took advantage of their "monopoly position" by raising prices significantly, then other countries/companies would simply mine their own rare earth metals. Right now, there's simply no economic incentive to increase the mining capacity.

Re:What's the big deal? (2, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157717)

From what I understand from the article, China only holds 95% of the supply because they are able to provide the metals for cheaper.

It's a poor article.
China holds 97% of the output, mostly because they own the processing plants.
China only has ~50% of the global supply, but has bought control of even more.

If these Chinese companies took advantage of their "monopoly position" by raising prices significantly, then other countries/companies would simply mine their own rare earth metals.

It isn't about mining, it is about refining.
Almost all roads lead to Chinese processing plants.

** Cue Command and Conquer music "Act on instinct" (1)

zr-rifle (677585) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156631)

Coming next: "Japanese and Chinese production of Harvesters up 500%"

cha cha cha (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#28156681)

Talk about tempests in teapots....

Time to speculate! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156789)

Now Wall Street has something else to speculate on.

Hate to say I told you so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28156897)

Although what I'm about to say will surely anger Obama's new cyber czar, i feel i've got to give him the middle finger and post what i have to say anyway.

But first I should point out that I admire and respect Chinese culture. I'm not a china-hater.

That being said, I was warning people about China's attempt to control rare-reath metals back in 2005, but no one listened. I told people how Deng Xiaoping once said, "The middle-east has oil, China has rare earths" people laughed at me with haughty contempt. Now it's all coming true, just as I predicted. Just like I saw the current economic collapse we're in coming 2 years ago. Just like I'm predicting galloping inflation in a few years like we had in the late 70's. (just wait and and see) God, I hate being right all the time, but I guess it's the price you pay when you're a street-wise super genius.

The most important fact in international relations for all the world except America and Europe is that one naughty word, Race. Race is the rule that rallies the nations. It doesn't matter that Americans and Europeans are multi-culti. Chinese don't give a shit. "All for the race, nothing for the rest." is their way of looking at it. All you would-be Kissingers, if you want a key to understand world politics and economics, there it is. I know it's not very nice, but like I said all that pc bullsh!t does not make a fucc to anyone in the world but American hippies and public-school retards.

The reason China wants to control rare-earth metals is the same reason there is a two-tier pricing system for gweilos in China and every other country laowai like many of you visit. Think about it, if you're a gweilo, why do you always get charged much more for the same product than Chinese when you visit there? Why do you think gaijin can only rent apartments in Tokyo at twice the going-rate as "ware ware Nihonjin" (we Japanese). Why do you think, during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, that the Persian hostage-takers released ALL the black hostages after the first week and held only the white ones for the rest of the year? Why do you think Chinese politicians don't use the word "America" in their writings and dialogues, instead they refer to us as "the hegemon"? Why do you think Indian tech companies even here in America only hire only other Indians except for a few token whites, yet get by with it even though we have discrimination laws? Why do you think that all the best OEM hardware and semiconductors off the assembly line in China are only used in products destined for the mainland or Taiwan/Japan, while the products that barely pass quality control are dumped in a container and shipped to America? (#1 reason Americans believe Made-in-China=defective. That's cos the crap we get is what's been scraped off the plant floor and shipped to Malaysia for assembly by companies like Motorola or HP before finally being sent here in the form of crappy consumer products)

They way they see things, it's their race against yours. It's the Boxer Rebellion pt 2. They want revenge for "The Century of Humiliation" even though you or I weren't even alive during that time and have probably never even heard of the Opium War. It's all in their textbooks. I'm sure some idiots will say I AM the racist for pointing out what they don't want to hear, but I guess I could say don't hate the player hate the game. Just don't read into my words and try to say "Well, I know a lot Chinese and they're the nicest people I ever met and blah blah..." because I already agree with you. I would just say remember one thing, most of the Chinese you meet here are the ones who have come to America after hearing nothing but good things about it, or who have problems living in their own society for whatever reason, so they are biased toward liking this country. You should know they're the minority back at the maniland.

There's a few books that everyone should read if they ever find themself asking "what the hell is going on" with China today.

Unrestricted Warfare
  --the definitive book on unconventional warfare against America written by 2 Chinese PLA Army colonels back in 1999 that mentions Osama bin Ladin BY NAME and discusses the possibility of crashing planes into America's skyscrapers as one of many ways to destroy America. Also talks about cyber-warfare against Pentagon defense computers and satellites ( just a lucky guess, that just happened to came true last year with the Chinese anti-satellite missile test and energy grid being hacked by chinese sources a few weeks ago, right? )

Art of War - Sun Tzu
On War - Clausewitz
The Discourses- Machiavelli
Politics and Change in the Middle East - Roy Andersen et. al

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nly67CQW-3A [youtube.com]
Youtube clip of fmr Chinese UN ambassaodor talking about possible war with America

If you just want to know how the economic side of warfare works and prove to yourself that I'm not bullshitting you, read these:

Looking at the Sun - The Rise of the New East Asian Economic and Political System by Jim Fallows
The Rise of Ersatz Capitalism in Southeast Asia - Kunio Yoshihara
Beyond Capitalism: The Japanese Model of Market Economics
Rich Nation, Strong Army - Richard Samuels
The Natural System of Political Economy - Friedrish List
Rivals Beyond Trade - Dennis Encarnation
Business Organization and the Myth of Market Economy
Money, Banking and the US Economy - Harry Hutchinson
International Economics - Salvatore

Could mention more, but would have to go through my bookshelf...got better things to do like digging up Neodymium in my backyard.

Irony (1)

markdavis (642305) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157277)

Oh fun... what irony.

So we will go from being dependent on foreign oil to being dependent on foreign rare-earth metals? So much for alternative energy setting us free from political messes over energy?

Re:Irony (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157549)

> So we will go from being dependent on foreign oil to being dependent on foreign
> rare-earth metals?

These metals are found at low concentrations pretty much everywhere. The highest-yielding deposits currently known may be in China but they aren't much better than lower yielding deposits elsewhere. Also, there has not yet been much exploration for them. It is likely that the best deposits have not yet been found.

China's military expansion of Lebensraum (4, Informative)

Anonymous Bullard (62082) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157379)

BACKGROUND: From 1930's until 1945 Imperial Japan and Nazi-Germany were engaged in a militaristic expansion of their Lebensraum (lit. german expression meaning "living space for their own ethnicity") while attempting to grab foreign countries' natural resources to feed their industries (including the important military-industrial complex). This was in fact a "modern" replay of age-old imperialism and something that the most recent dominant empires, such as Britain, Russia and China had been at until then.

After WWII, (Soviet) Russia emerged as the greatest beneficiary in terms of imperial territory, while the recently democratized Britain had to begin surrendering the sovereignty of most of their empire's territory back to their native peoples.

Meanwhile the secretive and reclusive Chinese empire of Middle Kingdom, with its age-old imperial view of its neighbouring countries (of non-Chinese and non-sinicized peoples) as mere vassal states, was being taken over by Mao's communist dictatorship which uniquely combined the Marxist doctrines (like internationalism) with its own Han-Chinese chauvism (racial and cultural superiority akin to Nazi ideology).

Thus after the 1949 takeover of China by Mao the Soviet-backed "people's liberation" communist army was quickly sent to "liberate" and annex the vast territories of China's historical western neighbours, Mongols, Tibetans and Uighurs. Manchus in the north had at that point mostly been demographically assimilated already, despite Manchuria's widely recognized declaration of independence in 1932.

The sparsely populated and non-Chinese Central-Asian nations of Tibetans, Mongols and Uighurs, however, were soon put under systematic colonial exploitation, including the sinister policy of settling massive numbers of uprooted Chinese settlers into the occupied territories in order to consolidate de facto Chinese imperial rule there for eternity.

TODAY: The territories of Tibetans, turkic Uighurs and (South) Mongols (as Northern Mongolia regained its independence from Soviet Union in 1991) have been integrated into the centrally-planned industrial system of the (formerly communist) nazional-socialist Chinese empire by the virtue of their massive exploitable natural resources such as oil, gas, water and vast deposits of precious and industrial minerals of all kinds. Native people are still an annoyance to be dealt with, mainly through policies of Han-chauvinist propaganda and systematic sinicization enforced through strict military control.

Here is one example article detailing China's ongoing industrial exploitation of the occupied territories. While this particular article doesn't refer to rare earth metals specifically, both South Mongolia and Tibet [highlandmining.com] are being mined for them.

China mines Tibet's rich resources [cnn.com]

The railway link to Tibet now appears to have been part of a broader plan to exploit vast deposits of metals in the disputed region, explains Fortune's Abrahm Lustgarten.

When China opened its controversial new railway to Tibet last July, international critics howled at the prospect that the region's culture and environment would be ravaged in search of resources. China repeated a solemn refrain, its officials insisting that the $4 billion project was aimed not at plundering the disputed territory but at bringing prosperity and economic development to Tibetan society.

So much for that. Now China's Ministry of Land and Resources is disclosing monumental new resource discoveries all across Tibet, and it turns out the findings are the culmination of a secret seven-year, $44 million survey project which preceded the railway construction in the first place.

In 1999 more than 1000 researchers divided into 24 separate regiments and fanned out across the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, geologically mapping an area the size of California, Texas and Montana for the first time ever. Their findings: 16 major new deposits of copper, iron, lead, zinc and other minerals worth an estimated $128 billion, according to articles published last week on the website of the China Tibet Information Center, a government-run portal.

It should also be noted that the figures above refer to the "TAR" (Tibetan "autonomous" region) only and over half of the pre-invasion territory of historical Tibet was annexed into bordering Chinese provinces like Sichuan, Yunnan and "Qinghai", mainly during the 1960s and 1970s by the Chinese communist party state.

This policy of totalitarian expansion of China's Lebensraum is something people should be at least aware of when the world is faced with China's centrally-planned involvement in the globalistically open world economy and China's interest in monopolizing key industrial natural resources to the detriment of other industrial or industrializing countries.

PS. This post can be considered anti-Chinese imperialism/dictatorship but not anti-Chinese people, yet unfortunately some Chinese fen qing [wikipedia.org] (angry young nationalists) are likely to see red...

The sky is falling. (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28157653)

In other news, China is also competing for oil, steel, and hair care products....G7 nations are in a panic and the world economy is probably going to implode and civilization as we know it will end at midnight tonight.

Check back tomorrow for all the details as this exclusive story unfolds.

Resource limitations (1)

tdp252 (519328) | more than 5 years ago | (#28158039)

If "Going Green" in a big way will require a bunch of metals that are of finite availability and more scarce than oil, then how long can this mining be sustained before the price of these "Green" solutions is so high that it makes more sense to return to oil ?

This entire situation appears to me as a mad resource rush due to the earth becoming less sustainable to humans after years of unbridled-growth and mass consumption. This "doing more with less" mind-set is fine until a great number of first-world countries start to feel the backlash of starvation or forced to institute policies like birth restrictions.

I just hope that at the very moment the masses start to realize that we've strip mined this rock we're on of all resources and need to look for another home, that we're technologically advanced enough, and have enough resources left to be able to blast off and move elsewhere.
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