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China Moving To Restrict Neodymium Supply

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the not-for-all-the-tea-in-oh-wait dept.

Technology 477

GuyFawkes writes with this quote from the Independent: "Britain and other Western countries risk running out of supplies of certain highly sought-after rare metals that are vital to a host of green technologies, amid growing evidence that China, which has a monopoly on global production, is set to choke off exports of valuable compounds. Failure to secure alternative long-term sources of rare earth elements (REEs) would affect the manufacturing and development of low-carbon technology, which relies on the unique properties of the 17 metals to mass-produce eco-friendly innovations such as wind turbines and low-energy light bulbs. China, whose mines account for 97 per cent of global supplies, is trying to ensure that all raw REE materials are processed within its borders. During the past seven years it has reduced by 40 per cent the amount of rare earths available for export."

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FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624500)

Indeed.

and why not ? (4, Insightful)

Zurk (37028) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624502)

They have fought to secure those same elements and done their homework. it gives them an economic advantage with both manufacturing and raw mining/refining done in the same place. most western countries in the same position would do the same as would any corporate entity in the western hemisphere. they can export the finished products at a huge markup compared to what they would get for raw minerals.

Re:and why not ? (4, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624626)

Exactly, and I think we will see much more such too. China is improving its economy fast currently, with the USA's economy crisis and huge debts. They're getting their foot between the door, and I think both China and Russia will be starting to have a lot larger influence on global economy soon. Russian entrepreneurs are already [techcrunch.com] buying big shares of US companies and gaining larger share of US corporations. China (and Taiwan) is attacking from the cheap manufacturing and resources supply front, India is attacking from the cheap programming and computer technology front, and Russia is attacking from the ownership of US companies front. With the huge government debts and economic slowdown, what will happen to US? It's already known the spendings are too much and theres no possibility to live on debt forever.

Re:and why not ? (3, Interesting)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624842)

I think both China and Russia will be starting to have a lot larger influence on global economy soon

China currently has unprecedented influence on the US, even if none of us wants to come right out and say.

Re:and why not ? (3, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624850)

Funny side note- I thought one of the big points of "green" tech was to cut down on Americas dependence on other countries when it comes to energy.

Re:and why not ? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624942)

The chinese economy is a bomb waiting to happen. Not because they will explode with growth but because sections are in an unsustainable bubble (real estate, stock market, speculation, etc) and there will be a major contraction within 10 years. Chances are, it won't be pretty.

Re:and why not ? (3, Insightful)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624652)

In a free trade system U.S. buyers could negotiate with various Chinese suppliers. It sounds to me like the Chinese government is creating a defacto monopoly where there shouldn't be one.

We buy far too much chinese stuff as it is and it's largely due to the false economy of the chinese currency. Another factor in the trade deficit is their willingness to simply rip off Western IP. Most of their products are very low quality anyway and end up costing more in the long run.

Re:and why not ? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624722)

> Another factor in the trade deficit is their willingness to simply rip off Western IP

And the fault for that lies where, exactly? With the countries dumb enough to shift their economy to make trivially copied virtual products? Or the one smart enough to create actual goods which other people want to buy?

Yep, I thought so. One side is being an idiot. The other is being smart. News flash! Smart eventually wins.

Re:and why not ? (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624892)

For all the wailing about such trajectories, Western industrial economies still produce 4 to 5 times as much as China's.

Re:and why not ? (2, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625028)

4 to 5 times as much what? Good by retail value? Mass? Volume? I ask because I don't think I could find anything non-consumable in my house (or garage, I have a Chinese motorcycle) that's not made in China. I have two French cars, but the Chinese bike is more reliable.

Re:and why not ? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625048)

All of your furniture? Really? Why?

Re:and why not ? (2, Insightful)

Romancer (19668) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625250)

Have you looked at your furnature? The cloth, nails, foam, and porbably all the shaped wood excluding the frame itself was probably made in China. Even the major brands get the majority of the raw parts from the cheapest distribution methods out there, and that's China. Mexico really for the local labor of assembly. Even La-Z-Boy relocated their assembly shops down there last year.

Cost wise, the computer parts and kitchen equipment components in your house all count as parts from over seas manufacturing plants.

Re:and why not ? (1)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624970)

Exactly , this is a global economy now , no more isolation , this means in order for us to evolve the rest of the world needs to come to our level , or we need to evolve to the standards of another country.

The us needs to figure out how to bring production and industry back within our borders , or we suffer the fate of becoming the 3rd world countries we currently abuse. The Brazilians are building an alternative fuel future , to power south america soon. The russians are buying up "profitalbe" companies, which eventually will not be profitable if no one here is working and unemployment slips into the 15 % range. And will become a power house when debt collection comes. They have oil , enough to power Europe for quite some time.

Industrious nations who are producing items that are real are doing ok without us dollars. Colombia, Venezuela, most of SA is fine. Europe is going to end up hurting like the us as well , they let IP become a foundation. As long as nations like China and others ignore IP then the nations producing the IP are destined to fail. They need to generate IP and manufacture it as well. Which we need to learn how to do with out damaging the planet like China.

Re:and why not ? (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625094)

I'm unclear on your final statement.
If you mean, without damaging the planet like china inflicts damage the planet, then okay.

If you mean to learn to not damage the planet the way china does not avoid the planet, you are seriously mistaken about china. They are like Russia in that they do enormous damage.

Re:and why not ? (0, Troll)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625220)

Sorry should have made it more clear , I mean without destroying the planet like China does. I was looking at the google overlays of the area just 15 minutes ago , it looks like they are flushing a shit filled toilet into the sea from thier river.

It is a real shame they are destroying thier chunk of the globe.

Re:and why not ? (1)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624854)

Ever been to a foreign country ? As I sit in Colombia at the moment , every local store has rip offs from china , in every form , they are cheap enough that they can use them here for low cost and not worry about it for a year.

This sentiment is being drilled into the american consumers head as well. It's really disappointing. I see so many pirated products it's scary. We need to start developing a world money very soon or we will face countries like China falsely inflating and under inflating values.

It took me 3 days to find a motorola cell phone here to use , I refuse to buy the chinese knock off iphone for $50 , the psiphones run android but are made to look like an iphone and run like utter garbage.

Re:and why not ? (3, Insightful)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625224)

The rule you're looking for is "If it works, it isn't stupid."

And for China, the current economy works wonders of almost biblical proportions. Millions have now decent homes, electricity, food, water and clothing who previously had none. Billions in the world now have cheap commodities and consumer goods. They will not stop any time soon and frankly I can't hold it against them, because currently it works extremely well.

While we spend our energy battling ecological strawmen and Islam, China will begin to top out the US in terms of power and wealth.

I would rather ask what we did wrong so it could come to this, what our faults were concerning the trade balance, national debts, tax, regulations, protective tariffs and all that.

Re:and why not ? (4, Informative)

abigor (540274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624686)

No, China is a signatory to the WTO and curbing raw materials exports is a violation. The WTO is looking into the issue: http://www.purchasing.com/article/441486-WTO_to_study_China_s_raw_material_export_curbs.php [purchasing.com]

No Western country could get away with limiting raw materials exports for secondary and tertiary onshore processing, though some have tried.

Re:and why not ? (4, Insightful)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625012)

China is in the drivers seat here , do you really think they will stop abusing the power they have ? China is not going to give in easily , more then likely they will agree to some agreement that allows them to do what they want , and then cut production to fall under the line and keep doing what they want.

Everything is made in China , they can be penalized and they won't care. They will keep doing it until we bar all Chinese products , good luck doing that.

Re:and why not ? (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625170)

Thats interesting. What about oil? The OPEC controls the price of oil by controlling the production. I presume China having more power than OPEC, could pull off control of prices of these metals, quite easily.

Re:and why not ? (2, Insightful)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625254)

Exactly , what happens when OPEC decides they want more ? They cut production. And the WTO just begs for them to produce more. Any of these organizations are a waste of money and barely ever serve a purpose.

Re:and why not ? (1)

mochan_s (536939) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624696)

They have fought to secure those same elements and done their homework. it gives them an economic advantage with both manufacturing and raw mining/refining done in the same place. most western countries in the same position would do the same as would any corporate entity in the western hemisphere. they can export the finished products at a huge markup compared to what they would get for raw minerals.

Well said.

Especially, since China has sold out almost everything in pursuit of money: their labor, their environment - it would be good for China to groom it's own industries which it already has a natural advantage at.

I know other countries would like to buy Chinese raw materials and sell them finished products and make huge profits. I would have thought with carefully targeted bribes at the right man in power, these raw materials could be bought but I think it's a good progression that China is able to look after it's interests as a country.

at least 3 solutions (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624708)

Right, we're pretty well pwned in this case. Even if we ("we" being the nation as a whole) were smart enough to deal with this, it's probably too late.

In theory though, your "and why not?" attitude suggests at least three solutions.

1. One obvious and somewhat suicidal solution is war.

2. Another solution in keistering. Keistering is what you do when you realize that these metals are already so expensive that it's no big deal to pay somebody to hide it up their butt.

3. Another solution is neodymium gold clubs. We can have them made in China you see. :-)

Re:at least 3 solutions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624884)

War is only suicidal if you are planning to lose.

Re:and why not ? (1)

turnstile (697629) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624766)

most western countries in the same position would do the same ...

So North America isn't shipping off any raw materials?

Re:and why not ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624856)

nope. the only US rare earth mine was shut down in favor of buying from the PRC.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Pass,_California

Re:and why not ? (3, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625006)

If you think about it, it's allowing China to profit twice on the same resource. They get mark-up on the material, and then if you have to process it in-country, they get markup a second time in processing. They'd be fools to do it any other way, since there's approximately zero chance of anyone bringing rare earths INTO China and providing them with processing business for ore other than that produced in-country. Processing their own ore is the only way they make business on it, may as well demand all you can.

That was all because of Bush (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624518)

I feel sure that now that Obama is president, the Chinese will be much more accommodating.

Obviously (1)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624520)

So, no export of raw materials so that we buy finished parts from them. And support all the industries in between mining and retail in in China. Sounds like the WTO could have a bit of leverage considering how much comes out of China right now that could be gradually restricted...

Re:Obviously (3, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624548)

Sounds like the WTO could have a bit of leverage considering how much comes out of China right now that could be gradually restricted...

And replaced with what? And what if the Chinese decide to retaliate and simply shut down exports for a couple of months? Who do you think will cry uncle first?

Re:Obviously (1)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624568)

And what if the Chinese decide to retaliate and simply shut down exports for a couple of months?

In this economy, I think the Chinese would suffer more.

The West needs to stop shipping their dollars to China for finished goods. If China were to help with the weaning off process, it would be excellent.

Re:Obviously (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624634)

I always have to wonder at what point the "if you owe the bank $10,000 you have a problem, if you owe the bank $10,000,000 they have a problem" principle kicks in...

The willingness of China to send actual goods(at the cost of deferring domestic consumption) in exchange for little green US treasury gift cards as some sort of neo-mercantilist scheme is rather convenient.

Re:Obviously (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625056)

No kidding. The chinese are stupid if they haven't realized we're going to inflate our way out of this mess at some point. I wonder what their contingency plan is for that.

Re:Obviously (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624666)

In this economy, I think the Chinese would suffer more.

Exactly which Chinese would suffer and why do you think they would not blame the West? Or do you think the Chinese leadership would be voted out by their suffering electorate?

Re:Obviously (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624682)

And what if the Chinese decide to retaliate and simply shut down exports for a couple of months?

In this economy, I think the Chinese would suffer more.

The West needs to stop shipping their dollars to China for finished goods. If China were to help with the weaning off process, it would be excellent.

In this economy? "This economy" doesn't hit China nearly as much as US, because their base industries are all self-sufficient.

And another thing to consider is that they're pretty much the only supply. You either buy what they offer or be without.

Re:Obviously (3, Interesting)

forghy (749877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624976)

Useless retaliation. Only stuff is worth something. Try to build an hard disk magnet with an alloy of steel and dollars if you are able to. Chinese are just leveraging their resources, which, by the way, does not come cheap in terms of labor and environmental damage. Maybe you didn't notice , but Chinese government is trying to spend as fast as possible those mountains of soon-to-be-rubbish banknotes called dollars. They go after everything: from nationwide mining deals to subsidizing the buy of small groceries shops in northern African countries or restaurants in Italy. Because, at the end, only real, solid stuff matters.

Re:Obviously (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624902)

Replace it with what you ask? Where do you think the Chinese get their cheap shit made? Places like Vietnam.

Re:Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30625116)

Replace it with what you ask? Where do you think the Chinese get their cheap shit made? Places like Vietnam.

And the factories are owned by the Chinese. Sheesh! Have you ever spent anytime in Asia at all????

Re:Obviously (1)

konekoniku (793686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624910)

The Chinese government would hurt more. Since Deng Xiaoping the CCP's legitimacy has come almost entirely from its ability to bring continued economic growth to its citizens, and that economic growth is in turn based almost entirely on its export economy. See, for example, the mass unemployment, bankruptcies, and economic disorder that hit the manufacturing-and-export-heavy Guangdong Province with the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008. One thing is for sure: the Chinese government would do everything in its power to keep a repeat of that from happening.

Re:Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624980)

It's China. What's the problem? If they have excess workers, they can just run them over with tanks. And when demand picks up, they can go round up more peasant dirt farmers from the countryside.

Re:Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624948)

The West would hurt, but ultimately it would be the yuan and the Chinese economy who wouldn't be making the Q1 2010 sales figures. As of now, it is easy for people to contract out to Chinese factories. Their government isn't stupid. If businesses realize that they don't get their stuff made on time, they will take their business to another country such as one in Eastern Europe, Vietnam, or another stable, but impoverished nation.

Of course, China wants to keep the goodies for themselves, but unless they want to pursue a policy of pure isolationism (and look how much good that has done for North Korea), taking their toys and going home, they are going to remain a player in this game, even if they have to export rare earth as devices or materials.

Well if that's not a case for invasion (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624528)

I don't know what is.

After all, last time, all the Chinese did to warrant invasion by Britain was cut off the opium supply. (google it if doubtful.)

Re:Well if that's not a case for invasion (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624648)

you're forgetting something: china has 1.3 billion people, and a millenia-long tradition of practicing tai ji martial arts. oh. and you've also forgotten the fact that they're a nuclear superpower. so the days of war-mongering are over. get used to it.

Re:Well if that's not a case for invasion (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624812)

they're a nuclear superpower

But amazingly enough, they're also a developing nation and deserve favorable trade and carbon treatment. Go figure.

Re:Well if that's not a case for invasion (5, Informative)

PatDev (1344467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624710)

Umm, the Chinese did not cut off the supply of Opium. They cut off the demand for opium. The British were illegally smuggling opium from India into China, then the Chinese enforced their laws, leading to war.

Proof free trade is a failure. (5, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624532)

The whole point of free trade was to unlink, fundamentally, resources from national ownership. Now that the Chinese have crossed the rubicon on the basic issue of access to materials on open markets, what is really the point of pretending that they are genuinely interested in free trade? Do we still want to pretend that they are interested in moving towards western liberalism. As much as Republicans called liberals Chamberlins on other issues, conservatives still ignoring the growing failure of free trade with the east are really, fundamentally, the genuine Chamberlins of our day. I hope they choke on their Walmart stock.

Re:Proof free trade is a failure. (2, Insightful)

that this is not und (1026860) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624592)

I think you're confusing Corporatists with Conservatives.

And Corporatists come in all political flavors. Did you think the left wing of that particular ugly flapping bird won't be choking on their Target stock?

Re:Proof free trade is a failure. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624714)

And Corporatists come in all political flavors. Did you think the left wing of that particular ugly flapping bird won't be choking on their Target stock?

Good point. Really, the entire health care bill the Democrats are building could be renamed:

"The National Walmart Has to Buy Health Insurance for Its Employees Act".

They aren't fundamentally changing the balance of things, just throwing a little sugar on it for the masses.

Re:Proof free trade is a failure. (3, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624758)

Indeed, and the comparison is apt. Fundamentally, China is practicing mercantilism, but we've hamstrung ourselves by making it politically impossible to fight back.

Re:Proof free trade is a failure. (2, Insightful)

jandersen (462034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625034)

The whole point of free trade was to unlink, fundamentally, resources from national ownership

I think you are wrong. Ownership doesn't enter into the question at all - free trade is simply a matter of making it easier to conduct business; there is nothing to say that national governments or state-owned enterprises can't take part in that.

I think your attitude is bizarre; it seems that you think that anything done or provided by society is by definition evil. I guess this is the sad result of the Cold-War conditioning that afflicts so many Americans - you have learned that government is a sort of Communist conspiracy that is only out to take your money and that tax is nothing short of state-sanctioned theft. Strangely, those who think this way don't seem to feel that using infra-structure, which has mostly been paid for by other tax-payers than themselves, is theft from their compatriots.

However, the real thieves in this picture are not ordinary tax-payers, but the big corporations, who are more than happy to use roads and other things paid for by the public, but who are rather reluctant when it comes to paying their taxes - ie they prefer to be free-loaders.

Re:Proof free trade is a failure. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625138)

. Ownership doesn't enter into the question at all - free trade is simply a matter of making it easier to conduct business; there is nothing to say that national governments or state-owned enterprises can't take part in that

No. Ultimately, the government actually owns all the land. It alone has the power of arms, and it alone has the power to make law as to what can be done on that land.

I think your attitude is bizarre; it seems that you think that anything done or provided by society is by definition evil...

Society is not government, guess that's where we would part ways...

I guess this is the sad result of the Cold-War conditioning that afflicts so many Americans - you have learned that government is a sort of ... conspiracy that is only out to take your money and that tax is nothing short of state-sanctioned theft

That's pretty much just the truth of the matter. Government doesn't work for the people, it works for the people who work for it.

And, many of us Americans felt that way long before the cold war was even a thought. In fact, many Americans felt that way throughout the national history. Tis why so many Americans left Europe, and their worship of government. Government's a tool.

Maybe Not! (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624550)

With the world economy falling downward China may well soon be willing to sell their sisters' socks with their sisters still in them.

Re:Maybe Not! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624930)

The Chinese economy is not falling, but the American economy is....

Re:Maybe Not! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30625206)

...ass ugly as my sister.

Maybe more countries should keep what they have (1)

stilldead (233429) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624560)

It seems to me that every country owns there own resources and it is a countries prerogative to keep them for them self. That being said, turn around is fair game. In the US, the interest of our citizens might be better served if we held on to a little more of our own resources instead of allowing them to be shipped off to the highest bidder with no return to any of us except the business who took them at pennies on the hundred dollar bill.

not so green, huh? (1, Interesting)

lkcl (517947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624596)

very gooood. i think this is highly amusing, on several fronts. the first is just the irony of the country touted as having "A Bad Human Rights Record" (when in fact they are just using common sense to keep control over 1.3 billion people) happens to now hold a damocles sword over the rest of the world if it wants to go "green".

the second irony is that it takes rare metals, which are, by definition, in limited supply, to go "green" in the first place. the missing bit that is not specifically stated is, "if the world wants to 'Go Green' (tm) and still maintain a high level of technology".

there is a simpler way to "go green" and not be dependent on chinese exports of rare earth metals: a return to subsistence-style living and community-driven societies, with countries like Poland, who have just absolutely amazing self-reliant and vibrant communities, already leading the way in that regard, having not really changed their way of living for centuries in the first place as "technology" passed them by.

whilst this suggestion of a solution is pretty much guaranteed to provoke outrage in certain (lazy) 1st world westerners, such lazy individuals might want to think about this: that the combination of restrictions on supply of "rare earth" metals, and the predicted "peak oil" period due to hit only next year, i think it's pretty much on the cards that the "technological age" which consumes 50% of the world's resources in the U.S. alone is almost certainly coming to an end.

so the only remaining question to ask is: are you ready for that change; are you just going to "wing it", are you going to stick your head in the sand, or are you just going to sit there until you die, waiting for the lights to come back on, the phone to ring and the gas boiler to provide you with heating again?

Re:not so green, huh? (2, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625132)

Subsistence style living is not an option ... large scale commercial style farming is the only way to feed the number of people we have (and it isn't enough, really). So if we're headed down the path of subsistence living ... well ... buy a lot of guns and bullets, because there isn't enough to go around.

Re:not so green, huh? (3, Insightful)

Praseodymn (195411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625134)

the first is just the irony of the country touted as having "A Bad Human Rights Record" (when in fact they are just using common sense to keep control over 1.3 billion people)

What the...?
People don't say that China has a bad human rights record because of the One Child Policy. They say that for, among other things, the One China Policy. Did you hear about the unrest of the Tibetans and the slaughter they endured as a result? Did you hear about the Uyghur towns in XinJiang Province wherein the government went in one day saying that everyone needs to be in their homes tomorrow or be shot and then coming through the next day and killing everyone on the streets?
You seem like a relatively informed person, did you hear about the rocket tests that destroyed entire towns?
How about the supremely corrupt officials covering up reports of lakes polluted to the point of poisoning absolutely every last person in the bordering towns?

Don't get me wrong. I love China. Wonderful place, great people, amazing food, and a beautiful land. But that government is abhorrent when it comes to treating its people right.

Re:not so green, huh? (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625166)

You're assuming that 99% of the people "preaching green" today won't say "fuck it, drill Alaska and mine coal" if gas costs more than $5/gallon for more than 3-6 months. If the only way to "go green" is to use rare earth elements, and China makes them too expensive, Europe might be fucked by its Greens and governments, but the US will just say 'screw green' and get on with life as usual.

Re:not so green, huh? (3, Informative)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625186)

very gooood. i think this is highly amusing, on several fronts. the first is just the irony of the country touted as having "A Bad Human Rights Record" (when in fact they are just using common sense to keep control over 1.3 billion people) happens to now hold a damocles sword over the rest of the world if it wants to go "green".

According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org], this entire article is just silly. Neodymium is not rare, nor only occurring in China.

Re:not so green, huh? (1)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625222)

with countries like Poland, who have just absolutely amazing self-reliant and vibrant communities, already leading the way in that regard, having not really changed their way of living for centuries in the first place as "technology" passed them by

Huh? Ever been to Poland in the last 10 years? They are still poorer than the rest of Europe, but catching up fast.

Re:not so green, huh? (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625228)

so the only remaining question to ask is: are you ready for that change; are you just going to "wing it", are you going to stick your head in the sand, or are you just going to sit there until you die, waiting for the lights to come back on, the phone to ring and the gas boiler to provide you with heating again?

No, as usual the only question is how long before and in what format western powers choose to knock the shit out of China again. I don't think China actually has control over these resources however, there are normally many more sources that are just a little more expensive to extract.

Rare Earths Not Necessarily Rare (5, Informative)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624612)

This has been discussed here on Slashdot before, but rare earths are not as difficult to mine and produce as the term "rare" implies; they are rare only in a relative sense compared to other common elements of the Earth's crust. They are mostly not rare on the same order as gold or platinum group metals, although there are exceptions. There are plenty of sources for most of these elements in the continental United States and other nations outside of China; it just costs a certain amount of money to mine and refine them. If China chokes off supplies from their own mines and processors then it will make those same sorts of mines and processors cost-competitive again here in the United States and elsewhere in the world. This really isn't that big of a deal.

Re:Rare Earths Not Necessarily Rare (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624990)

I think what is important here is not the availability of the resource, but their behavior in controlling it.

Re:Rare Earths Not Necessarily Rare (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625046)

This really isn't that big of a deal.
And it might even be a good thing for the United States long term. Relying on one country for an important mineral is almost always a bad thing. Doubly for a country like China that's we've not always been on the friendliest terms with.

Re:Rare Earths Not Necessarily Rare (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625120)

Yeah, the current Chinese monopoly on current production for many of the elements is just because they've undercut all other producers, so rare earths are too cheap to be worth mining outside of China. There was quite a lot of rare-earth mining in the U.S. in the 1980s and 90s, and many of those mines are still waiting to be restarted when the price gets high enough to be worth it. Here's [molycorp.com] a timeline from the largest U.S. miner (currently not mining, but sitting around processing some existing stocks of ore).

Re:Rare Earths Not Necessarily Rare (1)

bucuo (795414) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625160)

This is true. However, I would want to have at least a few mines operating when a crisis hits, as it's a substantial amount of time before a new mining operation can be executed in. I don't know for certain but I'd guess probably 1-2 years, if we're in a hurry. However, us Westerners would have to work like the Chinese, which is generally very very hard my friends. As they might say, we might need to learn how to "eat a little bitter" in the meantime.

Japan had better mend relations quickly... (1)

SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624618)

Considering how much Japan's economy depends on rare earth metals such as Neodymium.

Take the Prius, for example -- it has about 50lbs of rare earth metals in it alone, and Toyota expects to sell them by the millions by 2012. Not to mention things such as all the consumer electronics Japan makes that also are dependent on them, particularly the flat screen televisions that adorn homes and restaurants alike.

The Japanese still haven't apologized to China to this day for what they did in WW2, and even deny things like the Rape of Nanking even occurred. The Chinese haven't forgotten, however -- state-run television there shows movies about Japanese massacres on a near daily basis. There's also other issues like Taiwan, leftover chemical weapons, national perceptions of one another, and the sort.

Japan had better begin rebuilding their relations quickly with the Chinese -- especially for the US's sake, considering how many high-grade/precision military weapons they use in Afghanistan require them as well. The hundreds of billions of dollars in war reparations the Japanese owe to the Chinese would be worth it to prevent what would be their total economic collapse if China cuts them off...

Re:Japan had better mend relations quickly... (4, Informative)

konekoniku (793686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624822)

Or more likely, Japan will just shift its neodymium orders to mines in the US, Australia, Brazil, and elsewhere, as these will increase their output when China drives up global prices by restricting her exports. Rare earth metals are only relatively rare -- we're not nearly about to run out of the things, and China isn't the only country with significant total reserves. At any rate, Japan doesn't owe China war reparations anymore anyway: Mao Zedong waived all reparations as part of the price for buying Japan's diplomatic recognition in 1972.

Time to explore for new deposits (2, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624620)

Time to explore for new deposits. If the price of rare earth elements increases enough, it'll be worthwhile. Australia, the American west, and Africa still have vast unexploited mineral wealth.

Re:Time to explore for new deposits (1)

jarek (2469) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625104)

Exactly. It will take some time to reopen the old mines that were put out of business by cheap Chinese labor but in the end we will come out of this. However, we should not let China destroy our economies by selectively applying tariffs until we are dead without reciprocal action. If they want our business, they should accept all of it or nothing.

Re:Time to explore for new deposits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30625216)

We don't explore and mine in the American West. We lock up vast areas to preserve the wilderness.
This could be interesting though - one group of fringe enviromentalists battling another.

Re:Time to explore for new deposits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30625218)

This is already being done, and has been for some time now. Some of the large potential sources are Canada and Africa, but with Canadian supply being far more secure than either Africa or China.

Toyota just gave Great Western Minerals inc (GWG) money to explore a particular property. There are many large corporations funding exploration through Canadian juniors. There are some companies exploring in Montana and North Dakota, but very possibly, like Uranium in the USA, are very small deposits. Thus, it is likely Canada and Australia that will be prime exploration targets as other locations are often less secure/safe.

Like one poster said, REE's are not that 'rare' the rarity comes from there being no geologic mechanism that concentrates the material, like uranium, copper, gold, chromium etc. This is almost like trying to mine gold from everyday igneous rock, though they try to find rocks that are naturally slightly higher in the desired minerals.

@lkcl Until you ditch your own technology, thus no longer post to slashdot, don't be preaching about subsistence lifestyles using no raw materials or energy. That is a pipe dream, and unless you cut world population significantly, would be the quickest way to destroy the planet.

Time to Recycle important stuff like this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624700)

Except in order to recover the rare materials in junked electronics we send them to...China because we've made it nearly impossible to conduct that business in the US. Of course now the focus of OSHA is to assist companies in complying rather than prosecuting them. Oh, wait, I was thinking of the Bush administration; Obama's Secretary of Labor has made it clear that they're "back in the enforcement business". I guess recycling isn't an option after all.

Get ready to kneel (0, Troll)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624736)

I hope we all got a lesson from Obama when he bowed to royalty. China will indeed allow limited exports of these precious metals - but only to proper nations who know how to kneel and bow to the superiority of China. China does not recognize and has no tradition of equality. Everybody is either superior or inferior. You think the Chinese didn't get the message loud and clear from Obama's bow? One only bows to superiors. And Obama did a really good bow too...the full 90 degrees (a most inferior position).

Study history, China was like this hundreds of years ago, too. They had no problem cutting the outside world off from trade. Hell, there were wars over it. China has no interest in joining the community of nations as an equal member. You will acknowledge China as superior and humiliate yourself, or you will get no Neodymium. And even then, companies owned by Chinese-Americans will be favored over companies owned by barbarians (that's you, unless you're ethnic Chinese).

Re:Get ready to kneel (2)

BitHive (578094) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624940)

Thanks for catching that, I'm much better able to participate in this and future discussions having read your post. I'm glad someone with your insight and expertise on China is watching Obama so that we don't miss these crucial turning points in history.

Re:Get ready to kneel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30624972)

>China does not recognize and has no tradition of equality. Everybody is either superior or inferior.

That would give them one more state than the US then, for whom all are inferior. Evidenced, ironically, by the very 'bowing incident' you allude to.

There ARE Alternatives (3, Interesting)

Greg Hullender (621024) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624800)

A lot of the reliance on neodymium has been because it was cheap. Apparently there was a big switch to it from cobalt some years ago because cobalt had got expensive due to unreliable suppliers.

http://www.choruscars.com/Chorus_NEO_WhitePaper.pdf [choruscars.com]

There are plenty of prospective or former mines around the world; it's just that China was so much cheaper that it made little or no sense to exploit those sites until now.

The real trouble here is the sudden change in price, but at the rate demand for it has been going up, it seems inevitable that engineers are going to need to find alternatives to it -- regardless of what China does.

--Greg

This is what happens... (1)

diewlasing (1126425) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624824)

...when we rely so heavily on China for its exports. If they want to play this, levy tariffs on products coming from China (if they aren't going to ship anyway might as well show them how expensive their strong arming can be), and while we're at it, restrict their students coming to the US for education so they can't go back and show their countrymen how to process mined quantities or engineer mining safety equipment or safe mines.

Hold them to higher standards also when it comes to mine safety. There are probably some human rights violations going on in those "illegal" mines.

Not that dire (1)

m.dillon (147925) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624834)

All it really means is that products which currently require large amounts of rare earths will continue to evolve and require less of the stuff over time. This has in fact already happened to some degree with mature technologies such as catalytic converters. The same thing will happen with newer technologies. An increase in the cost of rare earth materials will also push nanotech development over time, in particular nano-featured surfaces.

So it is hardly a catastrophe.

-Matt

SO? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624858)

What do you suppose the total use of "raw materials" in the US was in the last couple of years? Likely as not, nearly zero. Manufacturing of anything in the US has nearly ended and what manufacturing there is consists of putting parts together that were made in other countries.

So I guess you could say that Dell "manufactures" computers by taking the parts made in other countries and putting them together. Does Dell make any of these parts? No.

Most of the parts in cars which are assembled in the US come from somewhere else. It is just an assembly job other than metal fabrication.

Face it, US labor has pretty much priced itself out of the global market. It is cheaper to have the stuff made in China, Singapore or Malaysia and shipped here than it is to pay the incredible wages and benefits of US workers. Pretty much the same for Western Europe, except they have a low-wage state right next door in Eastern Europe.

The 21st Century will be marked by decreasing pollution from manufacturing in the West and dumping all of the polluting industries into the third world where wages make it practical to do labor-intensive operations.

Always turning a blind eye (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624966)

How long are we going to ignore China's blatant flouting of trade and IP law? Laws don't exist if they are not enforced. The world salivates at the thought of having access to the anticipated Chinese consumer base and keeps letting things slide to not endanger that opportunity. Are they really going to give us access?

Only one mine on earth? (1)

kill-1 (36256) | more than 4 years ago | (#30624982)

The article says

Nearly all of China's supply of rare earths comes from a single mine near the city of Baotou, in Inner Mongolia.

I can't believe it would be a big problem to find those are earths somewhere else.

Green? (1)

pr0nbot (313417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625020)

Just how green is an energy that relies on a non-renewable resource?

Or are these rare metals, once used in green tech, easily recycled?

Monopoly? (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625026)

Having most actual mines don't mean that in the country is the only resource of the mineral, just the place that have in this moment most mines of it. If you can't build new mines for it in your own country or in a willing to sell country, you can try alternate approachs if can be done in an efficient way. Not sure if there is feasible to mine under the ocean (if could be there) or filtering it from the ocean itself, but in both places should be enough "rare" resources to make them look abundant.

There are ways around. Just dont even think in the usual historic way to get resources from "others".

Crank up those old monazite and bastnäsite mi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30625088)

It could be that China will be able to continue controlling the supply of these types of elements as long as they pay their folks € 0,25 a day to dig it out.

The cost of going green may go up if production has to shift to the more expensive-to-operate mines in Western countries.

Looks like there is a lot of the stuff around: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neodymium#Occurrence_and_production

I sense military action in the future (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625096)

Bad enough they are presently the worst global polluter, now they are hampering green tech materials? If there is one thing I know, it's that when the U.S. wants something, the U.S. kills lots of people to get it.

Why doesn't China make whatever it is they want out of lead? It's not just for toys you know.

Maybe Some Cheese with Our Wine? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625124)

The Federal Government has told low life dirt bag Software Engineers to "Retrain" ourselves. I guess maybe when this logic is applied to other areas, it appears to have some unforgiving flaws. Would T.Boone Pickins like to have the phone number to the "Wally Thor School of Trucking?"

I wish I fully understood (1)

insufflate10mg (1711356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625176)

Please don't flame, this is genuine curiousity. I wish I fully understood the fundamentals of the relationship between China and the US. It seems to me, even through my veil of misunderstanding, that the Chinese economy has a stranglehold on the US economy due to inflation (or something along those lines). I want to know why this is incurable. Is it true that I could take $10,000 from the US and go to China and have x10 the shopping spree than I could in the States? Is that where the problem lies? I'm all about reading and doing research, but I just don't understand where to begin. I'm simply confused by the whole situation.

Not looking for rude comments, also not looking for a hand-out, but if someone more versed in economics than myself could give me a brief explanation or a step in the right direction I'd be very grateful.

A very convenient excuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30625204)

This strikes me as a very convenient excuse to keep using petrol.

Wanted: new age alchemist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30625208)

We'll just make neodymium out of lead.

So China is the new Microsoft. Copycat indeed.

Time for the weekly China bashing article, I see (2, Insightful)

Petkov (1011081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30625236)

I dunno whats more funny: idiots here who still use words such as "free trade" when describing USA or idiots who are going along with the corporate owned media in bashing CHina when it's obvious this is just another article to create some kinda problem to try to impose some kinda sanctions on CHina at WTO level.
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