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US Sits On Supply of Rare, Tech-Crucial Minerals

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the third-of-a-chip-fab dept.

Earth 324

We've recently discussed China's position as the linchpin of the world's supply of rare earths, and their rumblings about restricting exports of of these materials crucial to the manufacture of everything from batteries to wind turbines. Now an anonymous reader sends this MSNBC piece on the status of the US's supply of rare earths. "China supplies most of the rare earth minerals found in technologies such as hybrid cars, wind turbines, computer hard drives, and cell phones, but the US has its own largely untapped reserves that could safeguard future tech innovation. Those reserves include deposits of both 'light' and 'heavy' rare earths... 'There is already a shortage, because there are companies that already can't get enough material,' said Jim Hedrick, a former USGS rare earth specialist who recently retired. 'No one [in the US] wants to be first to jump into the market because of the cost of building a separation plant,' Hedrick explained. ... [S]uch a plant requires thousands of stainless steel tanks holding different chemical solutions to separate out all the individual rare earths. The upfront costs seem daunting. Hedrick estimated that opening just one mine and building a new separation plant might cost anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion and would require a minimum of eight years. [But the CEO of a rare earth supply company said] 'From what I see, security of supply is going to be more important than the prices.'"

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fisrt (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499386)


Supply and demand? (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499410)

If these rare earths are so rare and valuable, and only going to become more so, why should the upfront cost matter? The plant should still make a huge profit, unless I am misunderstanding basic economics.

Seems people in America only want to invest in fraudulent get rich quick gambling schemes these days. Actual resource extraction and manufacturing is for the peons.

Re:Supply and demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499484)

$1 Billion for a mine/plant = too expensive.

$1000 Billion for wars on terror = well spent.

Priceless = America

Re:Supply and demand? (1, Offtopic)

Jeff-reyy (1768222) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499518)

You're just mad because we get to eat all the poop. Mmm, delicious poop.

Re:Supply and demand? (3, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499532)

Most likely the high cost and long wait times resulting from EPA, OSHA and various state agency regulations (not to mention fighting Greenpeace and other hippies) make it more economical to just import the stuff from China rather than try to mine it and build a processing plant here.

Re:Supply and demand? (1, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499620)

Not likely, given the supply and the current and projected demand. But we should seriously start suing countries like China for unfair trade practices like destroying the environment. It's the same thing as subsidizing an industry. I like our environmental laws, people should not be allowed to dump the costs of their actions onto others, they should take personal responsibility.

Re:Supply and demand? (4, Insightful)

KermodeBear (738243) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499968)

Yes, because we can sue, and win, and force payment from, the country of China in our own courts.

That's about as effective as getting a Very Very Sternly Worded Letter from the UN warning you that you should stop murdering lots of people, otherwise you might get a Very Very VERY Sternly Worded Letter in the near future.

Onoes, please, anything but that.

Re:Supply and demand? (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500158)

We have international courts and trade agreements. If they don't play fair, they can get slapped with tariffs or outright bans. And if they won't play ball at all, well, by our own rules we should not be trading with them.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

badran (973386) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500256)

Ban China.... You must be kidding... How will everyone get their 10 cent stuff??? And where do you think most of your PC is manufactured?

Are you serious? ROFLMAO (0)

tacokill (531275) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500300)

But we should seriously start suing countries like China for unfair trade practices like destroying the environment.

This is one of the funniest things I have ever read on Slashdot. Really? Sue the Chinese because they are polluting the environment? What if they turn around and sue us for jealousy?

Re:Supply and demand? (3, Insightful)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499792)

People really underestimate the greens when it comes to obstructing progress.

I mean come on, how can you trust a group that bitches about how unclean coal is and then holds up the building of Solar power with litigation waiting for environmental impact studies of plopping solar arrays in the middle of a desert.

Re:Supply and demand? (2, Informative)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499942)

Or wind turbine farms that ruin the view of our politicians. []

Re:Supply and demand? (5, Insightful)

Walter White (1573805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499806)

The minerals will sit there waiting until we are ready. In the mean time, separation technology will improve and (unless other sources are discovered) proce/value will increase. Once shortages occur, prices will skyrocket and producers will argue that we need to fast-track and sidestep environmental concerns in the name of security.

- Profit!

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499970)

Ultimately, separation costs are limited thermodynamically by the energy needed for separation. Therefore, they are tied to energy costs, which tend to go up lately. I have that feeling that the increase in energy costs might eat up the cost decrease by improved separation technique.

Re:Supply and demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499820)

Dont forget that when these minerals are running out it'll be easier to get subsidies from the government to help
stop an entire industry or sector from dying and to generate more taxes/jobs/whatever.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

TheWizardTim (599546) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500036)

Yes, because I really want to get cancer from drinking water that is polluted by the mine that gathers these elements, or die in a mine collapse because the mine owner is too cheep to provide for safety bunkers.

The number one rule for business is to internalize the profits, and externalized the costs.

It is why gas is taxed to high in Europe. They are trying to capture the costs of the pollution and environmental hazards caused by the use of oil. It is why coal miners in the US die in a collapse, and the European coal miners spend 3-4 days in an emergency shelter waiting to be dug out.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

Kagato (116051) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500094)

Cheap labor and no environmental concerns. You pollute the local village and give most of the kids cancer the maximum downside is they close the factory. It's just a building. You can always pull all the equipment out and build a factory somewhere else. That might change in 20 years, but right now China is still in the middle of it's Industrial Revolution.

Re:Supply and demand? (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500130)

Most likely the high cost and long wait times resulting from EPA, OSHA and various state agency regulations (not to mention fighting Greenpeace and other hippies) make it more economical to just import the stuff from China rather than try to mine it and build a processing plant here.

If you had been alive before Nixon signed the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water act you wouldn't be so anti-environment. When I grew up in Cahokia, you could not drive through Sauget past the Monsanto plant with your windows down, even in hundred degree heat. It didn't just stink, it burned your lungs. Nowdays it's rare that you even smell anything.

I think my right to breathe should trump Monsanto's privilege of making billions of dollars of profits more than they already do. THIS is why Free Trade is a BAD idea -- how can someone who likes to breathe compete with a country who doesn't give a damn how filthy and poisoned their country is?

As to OSHA, that protects YOU. Did you know that more people die in Chinese mines than all the other mines in the world? Protecting workers from sociopaths who don't value human life in the least is a GOOD thing, unless you're one of the sociopaths who don't care about human life and don't work in a dangerous industry.

EPA regs are a GOOD thing, and only the woefully ignorant think otherwise. It would do you good to read a little history.

Now get off my lawn, yuppie!

Re:Supply and demand? (-1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500226)

>>>Clean Air Act and the Clean Water act

Those are good acts but still unconstitutional (per Bill of Rights 9 and 10). The U.S. Constitution should be amended to specifically grant Congress said power to regulate the air and water's clarity. I believe in following the Supreme Law as written, and amending it as needed to assign new powers to the U.S. government as time advances.

>>>THIS is why Free Trade is a BAD idea -- how can someone who likes to breathe compete with a country who doesn't give a damn how filthy and poisoned their country is?

The typical argument is that Free Trade will raise China to our economic level, and then its wealthy citizens will demand clean air and water, just as the Americans and Europeans and Japanese did.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500150)

IMHO it makes more sense to save our resources while the rest of the world's supplies dwindle to nothing. Then the United States (and Canada) can charge a small fortune since we will be the sole supplier for coal, oil, and other rare minerals. We will be as wealthy as Arab shieks.

BUT that's long term thinking. It will be ignored.

I was reading an interesting story about how enterprising New Englanders would transport frozen lake ice from Massachusetts/New Hampsphire, down the Alantic coast, and sell it to Carolinians/Georgians to provide refrigeration (in the 1700s). Where has that kind of bravado gone? It seems Americans would rather let the Chinese take those kinds of risks, and that's why they have mineral processing plants while we do not.

This is somewhat similar to how most of the productivity in the late Roman Republic moved away from Italy and into the provinces. Of course that eventually led to heavy taxation to support the central Italian power/welfare state, and eventually feudalism in the 300s as the middle classes lost their private lands, and became serfs.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500298)

Of course! Government regulation and hippies, the scapegoat for Slashdotters the world over! What didn't *I* think of that??

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499538)

Because the common man (not you -- the general "drill baby drill" public) doesn't seem to grasp a few concepts. Minerals, including oil and rare earths, are of finite supply. Eventually, they will run low or out totally. When that happens, do we -- the U.S. -- want to be on the SUPPLY or DEMAND side of the equation?

This is why the entire concept of "stop using foreign oil" is wrong. Who do we want pumped dry first? The Middle East, or the U.S.? Ditto with other critical resources. Which is why as long as the rest of the world is selling, we should happily be buying and sitting on our own resources.

Re:Supply and demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499628)

What a wonderfully humane way of thinking...

Re:Supply and demand? (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499782)

What a ridiculously short-sighted point of view. THEIR resources will run out eventually, and then we'll start using OUR resources, which will run out as well. Then what? Mad Max time?

The only way to solve energy problems in the long term without eventually running out of resources is to use resources that are (for all practical purposes) infinite or infinitely renewable, like solar power or wind. With anything else, you're just kicking the can down the road.

With things like minerals it's harder of course, because the reason we use these rare earth minerals is they have certain properties that make them desirable for the purpose we use them for. However, we can still put effort into developing renewable (or at least more abundant) alternatives where possible, and aggressively recycling materials whenever we can.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499930)

Well, strictly spoken, the earth is a (largely) closed system in terms of mass flow. Material resources don't get lost, only diluted. The more diluted, the harder they are to recover, energetically. From a thermodynamic point of view, we can't really have a resource shortage at all - only an energy shortage. You are absolutely right, though, that under that consideration, taking energy out of non-renewable sources is not the best idea. With the sun giving us 1.3 kW/m2, we should be fine in the long term, as long as we act accordingly.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500202)

From a thermodynamic point of view, we can't really have a resource shortage at all - only an energy shortage.

Hahahaha. Technically, you're right. But let's re-join reality for a moment. How many orders of magnitude more energy does it take to recycle bits of "diluted" materials than it does to dig them up out of huge monolithic sources? We can't even manage to offset a tiny fraction of our total current energy usage with renewables, and that's just counting energy, not extropy. Add in trying to offset physical resource depletion, and you'd have to cover entire countries with solar collectors to even come close to sustainability. From a thermodynamic point of view, in the "long term", we're screwed. And what we're doing now is trading short-term non-screwedness of energy abundance for medium-term screwedness of resource scarcity.

Re:Supply and demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499972)

But kick the can down the road far enough and you might find a trash can with a soccer ball in it!

Re:Supply and demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499856)

It depends on how easily recyclable these elements are - if we only need a finite supply in circulation, then it might make sense to go ahead and profit from our supplies where as oil is gone when its gone.

Re:Supply and demand? (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499558)

From TFA: "But Cowle, the CEO of U.S. Rare Earths, seems hopeful that momentum has already begun building for the U.S. government to encourage development of its own rare earth deposits."

Translation: "Dear Congress, give my company lots and lots of taxpayer money for free, or the yellow peril will eat your children, and you wouldn't want that, would you?"

It sounds like he has every intention of making a huge profit, he'd just prefer to have taxpayers build his plant, offer him some nice tax "incentives", maybe waive an inconvenient environmental protection rule or two first...

Compare Nuclear Waste (5, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499952)

While this is probably an accurate portrayal of the thought process, you've given it a modicum of unnecessary spin. Specifically:

...maybe waive an inconvenient environmental protection rule or two first...

NIMBYism [] is rampant in the United States, and the phrase "thousands of stainless steel tanks holding different chemical solutions" struck me as the kind of phrase that immediately gets people up in arms. While Cowle's remarks might be interpreted as grasping for handouts, they also sound like the laying ofgood-feelings groundwork for the kind of PR he will have to engage in to get legislative approval of this kind of project.

Middle America's aversion to industry is based in large measure on its media exposure to some very real problems, but eventually the cost/benefit analysis is sufficient to cut through that aversion.

Alternative translation.... (0, Flamebait)

tacokill (531275) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500076)

Yea, it could be the way you describe....or....

We could take "encourage development" as another way to say "keep the fucking government out of my business and let me run it". As a business owner in the process control industry, I bet I know which translation he means. Believe me, nobody wants to cozy up to the government right now and certainly not this administration. Companies only do so out of political favor or out of fear.

If you think otherwise, now is your chance to start your own company and deal with the government. (sarchasm on) I am sure they will treat you fairly and I am sure they will do everything they can to make sure you keep as much profit as you can since you are risking so much by starting your own company.(/sarchasm) If you are really lucky, you can work in one of the industries that government is currently "helping" with: finance, insurance, medical, or energy. Good luck!

What's that you say? You don't want to take that kind of risk? Well....neither does this CEO. That's why he wants the government in on the deal on the front end. It minimizes the risk that they will screw him down the road...

Re:Supply and demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499562)

Yes. You sit a generation of learning machines in front of a monitor that tells them that the way to life is to party and that work is for someone else - what did you expect the end results to be?

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499572)

Seems people in America only want to invest in fraudulent get rich quick gambling schemes these days. Actual resource extraction and manufacturing is for the peons.

Probably the environmental impact statement for opening such a separation plant outweighs (and outcosts) the equipment itself.

Oddly, it's the so-called capitalists who have become stymied by paperwork and government bureaucracy, and the bureaucratic communists of China who have not. Of course they don't mind at all if their people drink and breathe poison.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499978)

Some of the nastiest and most polluted places on the planet are in the ex-Soviet Union.

Totalitarianism does make certain things easier up to a point.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

Jeian (409916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499576)

Well, if a company were to set up shop here, they'd have to comply with all applicable federal/state/local environmental and safety guidelines, and pass on the cost to their buyers.

Companies operating in China have no such problems (or, at least, not to the degree that they would here) and therefore would be able to sell those materials at a lower cost.

Consequently, such a venture wouldn't be profitable UNLESS China cut off their exports of those materials.

Re:Supply and demand? (2, Interesting)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499780)

Seeing as demand for rare earths far outstrips supply, I don't think your explanation holds water. Even given the unfair trade advantage China holds by not upholding environmental standards, a US supplier could make a huge profit. Also, given that this story comes from a rare earths company, if environmental issues were a factor, you would have heard their whining. Plenty of new mines have opened up in the US. Heck, we're stripping the tops off of most of the Appalachians as we speak. I sincerely doubt that any of this has to do with our entirely reasonable and responsible environmental laws.

Re:Supply and demand? (3, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499956)

Well, we don't even know how much of the rare earth minerals are in the US. Vast parts of the United States are either under surveyed or not surveyed at all.

I'm up in Alaska and there is a huge fight over expanding mines and new mines. [] [] []
"In 2009, rare earths were not mined in the United States."

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500208)

Wow, yeah, sounds like those mines are costing everyone else a lot of money by polluting. Why should I subsidize someone else's mining operation? They should pay all the costs they incur, and pollution costs money.

What we should do is fine importers who damage the environment, in order to cover the costs. That will help out local industries that do the right thing and do not try to externalize their costs.

Re:Supply and demand? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499588)

"There is already a shortage, because there are companies that already can't get enough material, " ... at the price they want. The cost of extraction in the US is likely to be significantly higher than in China, due to environmental rules/lawsuits if nothing else. In all likelihood, the first such operation will be buried in lawsuits and bare the cost of setting case law. There is also the early adopter penalty - if we are only beginning to mine these elements, then it is likely that we have not developed the best practices for such mining and later opening mines that use more refined methods may be at a competitive advantage. Another thing to keep in mind is that if demand is growing, then the value of the reserves also grows by leaving it in the ground. Just as the Saudis have an interest in not extracting oil as fast as possible, so the landowners/ mining right owners have an interest in not overdeveloping mines until demand at a suitable price is there.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499604)

Actually, it's the same reason alternatives to gasoline weren't heavily researched (at least publicly) until after gas hit $3 per gallon. Below a certain cost, these processes just aren't profitable. It only makes sense to build if you honestly think the cost of the products in question will go up in the future (or stay the same) and maintain a profit margin long enough to justify the investment. What the companies are afraid of, is that they'll dump the $500M into the plants/mines, and then get into a price war with China (and lose all hope of being profitable). But if China ever puts an embargo on us, or a huge tax is put on these minerals (Either via a Tariff or other measure), then it may become economically feasible (and companies will jump in on it)...

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499902)

It is also a matter of opportunity cost. If you have no morals, and can make 100% profit on some insane debt gambling, in six months, or you could make a reasonably hefty 20% profit on this, but in eight years, where would you invest your money?

Until we put a stop to Wall Street insanity, there will be no money to invest in actual useful projects like this.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499706)

Real simple, if I have $20 million and it costs me $1 million a year to maintain my rights to the minerals and it is going to take me 25 years to get all the permits I need to start producing product, I will run out of money before I can start selling anything.
The problem is that there are large legal barriers that create delay in actually getting a return on investment. The larger the start up costs and the longer between initiating activity and actually generating any revenue, the more money one needs to start the company. At some point that number becomes too large for anyone to bother.
On the other hand there is a possibility he is just hitting up legislators for government money.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499784)

If it takes a billion to build the factory and needs eight years to get going, then you need to be able to raise a billion dollars, keep a float for over eight years before even hoping to break even (because you know that first year isn't going to produce a billion in profits).

Not a scenario many can pull off.

Re:Supply and demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499940)

Mod parent up. All the other replies in this thread have been bullshit, but parent actually knows something about the state of the economy.

If only the banks would stop it with their bullshit get rich quick schemes and start lending to people with solid business models again.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

TheWizardTim (599546) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500118)

The Nuclear Power Industry does this all the time. They have a horrid record when it comes to cost over runs and delays. Now they are trying to get rate payers to pay for the possible construction of a new nuclear plant that may or may not be built in the next 5 to 10 years.

No insurance company will insure a nuclear plant.*
No bank will loan money for construction of a nuclear plant.*

*Without government guarantees.

Re:Supply and demand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499986)

Seems people in America only want to invest in fraudulent get rich quick gambling schemes these days.

Wouldn't have anything to do with battalions of Sierra Club lawyers causing construction costs to quadruple, or just preclude the whole enterprise. No, couldn't be that. Must be the stoopid get rich quick amerikans!!!11

misunderstanding basic economics

You have your 'basic economics' right. What you're missing is some political reality. Building refineries, separation plants or opening new mines is the US is no longer feasible.

Re:Supply and demand? (1, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500132)

Citations or STFU.

Tell you what, I'll stay here where the clean air and water is, you can go live in China and breath filth all day long. Sound good?

I'm sick and tired of the wealthy telling us we should clean up their mess for them, that they won't play ball unless we subsidize them by paying the costs of pollution.

US mining is politically uneconomical (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499988)

The vast mineral districts in the western US are very expensive and risky to develop even though there are large, high-value mineral deposits available there. While old mining sites are sort of grandfathered in, developing a new mining site is prohibitively expensive for regulatory reasons such that the value of the resource has to be atypically high to offset the regulatory overhead. In short, opening a new mine in the western deserts has become kind of like trying to build a new nuclear power plant. There are so many lawsuits and interminable amounts of politics and paperwork that it has become effectively impossible even if it is theoretically economical.

Instead of developing US mineral wealth, most mining companies are developing mineral resources in countries with less regulatory overhead and fewer environmental lawsuits. It is not that the mining companies do not want to develop US mineral wealth, it is that the US government has made it all but impossible to do so as a practical matter.

Re:US mining is politically uneconomical (0, Troll)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500102)

Could you back any of that up with some links or citations? Everyone likes to blame our environmental regulations, but I like clean air and a lack of pollution. I also think people should take personal responsibility for their actions and not expect others to clean up their mess. I hear a lot of people who want me to clean up their mess whine an awful lot about how unfair it all is, how China lets them do whatever they want, and how we should all be thankful for the opportunity to clean up their mess, but it all sounds like self serving bullshit to me.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

Kaboom13 (235759) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500114)

Welcome to economics 101: Opportunity cost. Right now, investing in congressmen gives obscenely high returns, with little risk. Even when the bubble you paid them off to create bursts, they bail you out in a way that makes you even more money. Investing in this might be guaranteed to return a sizable profit at the end of 8 years it takes to build , and the 10+ years of operation it takes just to pay off it's construction. But that's 18 years you could have been making money hand over fist, and have even more money to invest. And assuming you do build that plant, and pay off the costs, and start seeing a profit? The people who invested in congressmen are going to use them to help themselves to a sizable percentage of your profits. After all, it's easy to paint your company as an evil environment destroying mega-corp making billions in revenue on the backs of the working man, and pass taxes that will end up as wealth redistribution to the politically connected.

It's not enough to make profit, to attract large scale investment you must make MORE profit then the other available opportunities, or people who invest in you are throwing away money. Seeing as it is fair to expect people with $1 bil in capital to invest to do some research before investing, why would they invest in something that will make modest returns many years from now (assuming the plant gets finished on time, underbudget, and the EPA doesn't kill it completely halfway through) they could make massive returns right now with 0 risk?

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500250)

We have a winner! The answer is "Opportunity cost!" That's right, why invest in things society find useful when you can gamble outrageously, crash the economy, and get paid billions? We've created a system that encourages pathology and rewards sociopaths. Yay us.

Re:Supply and demand? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500236)

If these rare earths are so rare and valuable, and only going to become more so, why should the upfront cost matter? The plant should still make a huge profit, unless I am misunderstanding basic economics.

You're misunderstanding basic economics on two fronts;

  1. High prices don't mean huge profits if there are high costs involved.
  2. And there will be high costs involved here - due the need to commit funds years in advance to work through the regulatory process, the inevitable lawsuits from NIMBYs. acquisition of machinery, construction, and start up. The interest charges alone will amount to quite a sum.

Your official guide to the Jigaboo presidency (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499412)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat

Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd. WOW!

They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

And you were expecting what?

When you came in here, did you see a sign that said "Dead nigger storage"? .That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

Re:Your official guide to the Jigaboo presidency (0, Troll)

Krau Ming (1620473) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499486)

you are fucking disgusting.

Re:Your official guide to the Jigaboo presidency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499540)


Even rarer than rare... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499418)

I've never even heard or rare earch.

What Problem? (4, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499512)

Buy cheap stuff from abroad while available and cheap. Mine locally if overseas supplies are restricted or prices get too high.

Re:What Problem? (2, Funny)

Jeff-reyy (1768222) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499546)

Thanks for the advice, Sam Walton.

Sam Walton believed in buying locally (2, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500038)

Thanks for the advice, Sam Walton

IIRC Sam Walton believed in buying locally, or at least domestically. Corporations do not always continue with the policies and practices preferred by their founders.

Re:What Problem? (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499582)

Only it isn't cheap, these are some of the most expensive minerals on the planet. Given that demand outstrips supply right now, local owners could be making money off of this. And given that it takes eight years to get a plant going, wouldn't it be prudent to start now, rather than waiting for the Chinese to take all their balls and go home? Oh, but I guess I am asking the Free Market to actually think ahead instead of focusing on next quarter's immediate profits, silly me.

Re:What Problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499912)

Well, it's kind of a chicken and egg thing.

For starters, it suggests they can make a lot more money in the future than they even can now. Secondly, no one really uses those materials locally. Practically all of the manufacturing with those materials happens outside of the US, so while those companies would love to get the materials from another source, they also want to get them cheaply, and the Chinese will almost certainly be able to beat the local mines on price.

Now, when some factories start getting tired of having all of their technology stolen, then cloned and owned, and they come back to the US, then I can see a really good reason to start mining, once the Chinese pipelines start to fall off. This will hopefully serve to choke off China, after they have recently started choking the rest of the world off from these materials.

Re:What Problem? (1)

fbartho (840012) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500070)

Dude, this is a classic supply demand problem. If they wait while china uses theirs up, they'll have cornered the market on the supply.

Re:What Problem? (2, Insightful)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500170)

You are misunderstanding the problem. The mining companies would *love* to develop the rich mineral deposits in the western US -- all mining is a long-term investment -- but it is politically impractical. Not only are there many years of regulatory overhead before you can even get permission to start (archaeological clearances, environmental impact studies, etc), you also find yourself plagued by routine lawsuits by environmental activist organizations. In short, you can waste decades trying to develop a new mineral deposit with nothing to show for it but a lot of well-paid lawyers. There are difficult regulatory problems even exploiting existing rare earth mines.

It is cheaper to explore and develop countries like Australia and Chile, both of which have mineral deposits similar to the western US, than it is to develop existing US resources that we already know exist. This is not the fault of the mining companies. Indeed, the free market is working precisely as it should when one supply is priced far beyond what is reasonable due to political intervention.

Re:What Problem? (0, Troll)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500278)

Indeed, the free market is failing like it always does by not taking the cost of externalities into account. Who will pay for the cost of pollution if not the polluter? Do you believe free market ideology trumps personal responsibility?

Re:What Problem? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499608)

While that is generally a good strategy(and having China, among others, willing to screw its workers and poison the hell out of its environment in exchange for paper IOUs is pretty handy), it works slightly less well if startup times are high and forecasts of future conditions are poor or unavailable.

Re:What Problem? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499654)

The problem is the lack of processing in this country.

Kinda like how the Middle-East was buying petroleum products from the US because we had the refineries. We could mine the hell out of the minerals, but if we can't process it someone else will be getting the profit.

Re:What Problem? (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499896)

Didn't the article say a new plant has about a 10 year ramp-up time?

Re:What Problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31500242)

Didn't the article say a new plant has about a 10 year ramp-up time?

The article also mentioned that could be a lot faster with a government handout. As others have pointed out. This is a thinly veiled attempt to get governmental assistance.

Infrastructure and funding opportunity (1)

soup_laser (616676) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499522)

With such a high start up cost I'm guessing we would only be building one? Well, that makes for a good opportunity to pick a good location safe from natural disasters. Since we'd build it to protect national interests perhaps there would be funding from the defense side of the budget? It also seems to present a great reason to strengthen the railroad infrastructure for delivering ore from mining locations to the new plant. A strong rail system would be good for other reasons too and would probably sell well with the current administration.

Re:Infrastructure and funding opportunity (1)

crashumbc (1221174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499810)

Things like this are "almost" always built on site. I have a suspicion that the mine would be of the "strip mine" variety. Which would include insane amounts of raw materials being processed.


I knew I was saving them for a reason... (1)

semi-old-geek (791138) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499568)

I wonder does this make all those old pc's I havn't fixed yet. No I mean, circuit boards I have been saving worth more for salvage?

No one's thinking long term anymore (2, Interesting)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499586)

For the same reason they aren't drilling for oil off the coasts. You know, if you don't start now, it's going to take even LONGER before production is spun up. And by then, we'll have yet another dumb ass in office and we can't mine this stuff out for whatever reason (NIMBY, clean air, whatever). Even if the company stockpiles it, the material is still an asset and can be used when the Chinese decide to close their borders because of another cultural revolution.

Re:No one's thinking long term anymore (4, Informative)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499908)

The real reason we are not drilling offshore, is that it will not reduce gas prices more than 2 cents and will not make the US energy independant. There have been extensive studies on this and the oil is not just there. The EIA estimated that offshore drilling would reduce US gas prices by 2 cents. The areas offshore entire states contain enough oil to supply the US for only a few months. We could save more energy if people installed some more insulation in their homes and inflated their tires than we would ever get from offshore oil drilling. The idea that we can solve our problems with domestic drilling is a lie told by the public relations of the Oil Industry and Republican puppets.

The second point is it cannot be done safely. That is a fact. Last year there was a massive oil spill off of Australia using the same "Clean safe" technology that the oil companies wanted to use offshore in the US. The fact is, it would take just one spill to destroy miles of beaches and pollute and contaminate the very seafood we eat. A study of the environment around oil rigs found fish around there with vastly higher levels of heavy metals and the seafloor covered with heavy metals and toxic carcinogens including arsenic. Unfortunately there are some who seem to think it is acceptable to pollute our environment with toxic waste that will kill us in order for oil companies to make some more profit.

Here again we see the oil company propoganda at work. In the real world unexpected things happen, pipes break. An oil rig can have a drill shaft miles deep, a leak anywhere in that can pollute and contaminate ground water, cause long running leaks into the ocean which can last for months and destroy hundreds of miles of ocean environment and beaches.

All of this means offshore drilling simply isnt worth the risk. Just one spill and we have ruined the environment, and for nothing at all, it simply will not solve energy problems.

Re:No one's thinking long term anymore (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500228)

That's hilarious that you think drilling our own oil is a long term solution.

shortage?? (4, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499630)

'There is already a shortage, because there are companies that already can't get enough material,' said Jim Hedrick

May be, it's not just a shortage, but a cost of doing business. The real question is: if those companies were willing to pay ten times the amount for those rare earth minerals, would they be able to get them? Probably, I think. Personally, I think this is just another industry that's trying to get the government to subsidize 90% of its infrastructure costs.

Re:shortage?? (1)

crashumbc (1221174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499862)

Also the fact that EVERY company that uses these items is looking for ways to cut down or even eliminate their use.

What happens if you spend 1 billion building the plant and the prices drop?

Re:shortage?? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500260)

It used to be that government welfare was only for poor people. Now welfare is only for rich people.

Re:shortage?? (2, Informative)

wintercolby (1117427) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500264)

From Great Western Minerals website [] it appears that supply and demand are fairly close, and that China is still the largest consumer as well as producer of Rare Earths. In fact it looks like MolyCorp has been ramping up production of Rare Earths for three years. [] They had been producing and processing Rare Earths up to 1998, but they stopped because they were no longer able to use "Off Site evaporation facilities."

More than a short term supply problem (2, Interesting)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499692)

One thing that does not seem to be talked about much is that all rare earth metals will be completely depleted, in any practically extractable reserves, within the next 50-100 years. The response to the shortage of rare earth metals seen here is similar to a fishing fleet who is pushing the fish population to total extinction through overfishing, doubling the number of fishing boats in order to make up production decline... it only speeds up the extinction process, and that repeatedly we see fishing industries opposing any efforts to allow fish populations to rebound, thus dooming destruction of the very fish population being fished, forever. This is short sighted thinking, it is far easier to carry on business as usual for fisherman even though the species is going extinct, in the short term, in the long term that behaviour leads to a much worse outcome.

A difference with these metals is they cannot regenerate. Once they are gone, thats it. Still today metals are being used like its an endless supply, and people throw away everything from electronics to batteries which contian precious metals. In the process, we are throwing away our future. Knowing this one realises that with all environmental and resource issues, recycling is not a joke, and the people who have been pushing for it desperately are not "environmental nutjobs", they understand what is really going on and the true ramifications. I find this is true with nearly all environmental issues which are often ignored by the vested interests from pollution which threatens to severely damage our health adn well being to resource depletion.

The concerns over metal are also existing for oil as well, which is now predicted to peak as soon as 2014, that is a question of when, not if.

Re:More than a short term supply problem (4, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499798)

Landfill: A future mine.

Re:More than a short term supply problem (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499878)

On the plus side, when stuff gets thrown away it has a tendency to end up in landfills. Once things get unpleasant enough, the landfills will be the most economically viable deposits(of all sorts of useful materials) around.

For recyclable materials(like most metals), the dangers to long-term supply are those activities which dilute the material in question since, generally speaking, the lower the concentration, the more expensive and destructive the extraction. Incineration is likely bad news. Trying to recover traces of indium or whatever that have been oxidized and spread over thousands of square miles will only really be economic in some utopian post-singularity scenario. By contrast, sending robots, or dudes in hazmat suits, or expendable children(depending on how unpleasant things have gotten at the time) to pick through large piles of garbage that have been buried and more or less just sitting there, much of it mechanically sortable, is not much more difficult than mining.

Re:More than a short term supply problem (0, Redundant)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499910)

Once they are gone, thats it.

Where do they go? The landfill? In which case the landfill becomes a "high yield rare earth mine"

Or the sea.

Re:More than a short term supply problem (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499960)

...with these metals is they cannot regenerate. Once they are gone, thats it.

Maybe commercial asteroid mining will finally become a reality.

doesn't seem a like a lot of money (1)

paulcone (1388145) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499696)

I have a friend who manages fab production at Intel chip plants in Oregon, New Mexico, and elsewhere. He tells me the cost of a new chip plant is about a billion dollars.

You mean... (1)

tizzo (1616443) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499710) oil?

That would explain the rise in testicular cancer. (0, Troll)

Kenja (541830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499720)

Them metals is warm.

Re:That would explain the rise in testicular cance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499992)

Almost funny, but rare earth != radioactive.

easy as pie... (4, Insightful)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499726)

See, first we eat all of their pie, cheaply.

Then, when they're all out of ingredients to make cheap pie, we open up our fridge and start making
our own pies.

Then we can eat our pies, and if they want pies then they'll have to pay a lot more for it. Because we've got the only pie in town.

1872 (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499738)

Will the 1872 mining law apply? Let the plundering begin. (sarcasm)

"Move Over Rover And Let Jim Take Over" (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499770)

said Jim Hedrick, a former USGS rare earth specialist who recently retired.

Wink, wink...

Well, being born in November 1942 would make you 67 years old now, eligible for proper retirement following your "retirement" from the public spotlight in 1970.

But come on, how about one final blast of "Star Spangled Banner" with your teeth, Jim... or should I say "Jimi"?

Let's channel Frank Spedding (3, Interesting)

shis-ka-bob (595298) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499828)

When the Manhattan Project needed rare earths, they turned to Frank Spedding, a chemist at Iowa State. He managed to get the job done with a lot fewer resources that what is being discussed here. I fear that we Americans have become too lazy and in love with a quick return on the buck. Some things are hard work, even if you are really bright. See [] . He also created the Ames Laboratory, the one near Offit Air Force Base, not the Ames Research Center near the Navy's Moffitt Field.

Re:Let's channel Frank Spedding (3, Informative)

snoop.daub (1093313) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500148)

A bit of a nitpick I guess, but uranium isn't usually considered a rare earth. The transactinides do share some chemistry with them, which is why the Spedding process for uranium purification was used after the war for lanthanides.

The problem with rare earths is that they are very evenly spread out in the crust, they don't tend to form concentrated ores the way most other metals do. There's actually more lanthanides around than many precious metals, for example, it's a problem of purification.

I think there's plenty of uranium in North America, especially in Canada.

Re:Let's channel Frank Spedding (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31500258)

If by 'near Offutt AFB' you mean 3 hours away from, then I suppose you are right.

Ames Laboratory is in Ames, IA at Iowa State University. See for more info.

democracy to more countries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31499894)

Does it really matter how short the supply is. The mighty US will bring democracy to couple more countries and build these plants in those countries, expose the people of those counties to any/all toxic waste and just get the processed rare earths.

Re:democracy to more countries (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500024)

Does it really matter how short the supply is. The mighty US will bring democracy to couple more countries and build these plants in those countries, expose the people of those counties to any/all toxic waste and just get the processed rare earths.

It's the non-democracies that are easy to poison because they can be kept in the dark. The local gov't doesn't care if they get a nice kickback.

The DR Congo (1)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31499994)

This is exactly why the warfare in the DR Congo is so important to the world. If anyone took a close look at it they'd realize that the modern world is raping that country by any means necessary in order to secure cobalt and other rare minerals. A lot of shady actions being taken by world governments and multi-nationals for control.

use it ? (1)

Spaham (634471) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500112)

I may be silly, but if those are *rare* resources, and if they are to become more and more rare, shouldn't states pile them up or save them instead of encouraging companies to build expandable things like cars ??
What if we find that it can save millions of lives, or stop global warming or whatever, 20 years from now ?

That's Black Gold, Jim (1)

introspekt.i (1233118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31500122)

Texas Li!

just who 'owns' what about to be resolved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31500230)

many of our greed/fear/ego based 'borders' are dissolving as we fail to communicate/care for one another etc...

never a better time to consult with/trust in your creators, who, it appears, are willing to share everything with everyone at no charge. wonder what the problem is? borders?

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