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California Rare-Earth Mine Reopens

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the antimony-arsenic dept.

Businesses 244

burnin1965 writes in to let us know that the looming crisis in rare-earth materials (which we have discussed recently) has prompted Molycorp, the erstwhile operator of a California mine closed in 2002, to announce plans to reopen it. "With increasing prices on rare earth ore, tariffs raised by the Chinese government, and the threat of embargoes that would damage United States high-tech manufacturing Molycorp now has the needed incentive to reopen the California Mountain Pass mine. They will spend the capital needed to implement badly needed updates to environmental controls that will mitigate the radioactive waste water releases that plagued the mine in the past. Chinese imports in the 90s nearly halved ore prices and the California mine experienced multiple failures in environmental controls that resulted in the release of huge volumes of radioactive waste water. Updating the mine to address the environmental issues was not financially viable due to the cheap Chinese imports so it was closed in 2002." Within two years the mine could be producing 20% of the amount of rare earths we import from China.

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Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34677700)

Finally, someone bringing resources and manufacturing back to America!

Re:Good! (3, Funny)

matthewncohen (1166231) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677710)

Finally, someone bringing radioactive waste water releases back to America!

better then buying for mines where works make $0.5 (0)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677756)

better then buying for mines where works make $0.50 hour with no little safely and very long over time.

Re:better then buying for mines where works make $ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34677976)

better then buying for mines where works make $0.50 hour with no little safely and very long over time.

Soooo, where will the workers that were working in the unsafe mine go? To the next best alternative...a mine that pays even less and/or even more unsafe!

Re:better then buying for mines where works make $ (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678376)

Those workers aren't going anywhere. Those mines will not be shut down just because the US may produce up to 20% of our rare earths domestically. The rest of the world still needs rare earths, and we still need to get 80% of ours from someplace else.

The summary is way off. (4, Informative)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678796)

The article says the mine will produce about 20% of China's current output, not 20% of the amount we import.

By the end of 2012, the company is aiming to produce 20,000 tons of rare earths

China, on the other hand, produced about 124,000 tons of rare earths in 2009

Re:The summary is way off. (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678878)

Well, it is all guesswork anyhow, and Molycorp has a fairly fraudulent past. More than likely, this mine will never open and the investors will see their money disappear into a giant hole in the ground. Molycorp will claim that the big bad government stopped them with its evil environmental laws, but I'm guessing they have no more intention of reopening the mine than they had any intention of running a clean mine in the first place.

Re:Good! (0)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677760)

I don't know where TFS got this mention of "radioactive waste water", it was not in TFA.

However, what about it? The waste water contains what's left from refining the ore, all the radioactive components in the water were in the soil to begin with. What's the difference between letting the radioactive wastes in the ground and putting them back in the ground after you get the ore out?

Re:Good! (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677830)

Really? You are confused here? What is the difference between concentrating radioactive elements and running hundreds of thousands of gallons of water through them, and having tiny amounts of water percolate through the same elements widely dispersed in their natural state? You need help figuring that out, do you? Take off the blinders and stop apologizing for people who will gladly ruin your entire family's health and take no responsibility for it.

This is basic, people, something we all should have learned no later than preschool: you make a mess, you clean it up.

Re:Good! (-1, Flamebait)

trum4n (982031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678006)

You burn in hell. Your the reason we don't have solar and nuclear power and flying cars. Progress will run you over of you want to be left behind.

I burn in hell for demanding responsibility? (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678140)

Progress does not consist of a small group of people enriching themselves at everyone else's expense. Progress consists of better things for everyone, not a trade off where some people must lose in order for others to win.

All I ask is that people pay all the costs they generate, rather than asking others to pay. Why should I burn in hell for asking that people take responsibility for their actions, and how their actions affect others?

I'm all for real progress, but poisoning people, animals, plants and ecosystems in order to extract useful minerals is not progress. When we extract those minerals without harming others, that is progress. Making things better for some by making things worse for others is not progress.

Re:I burn in hell for demanding responsibility? (4, Insightful)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678736)

Technically, one would have to weigh the benefits against the cost.

If we slag 100 acres of wilderness to produce modern medical technology, I would call that progress. If we destroy the entire biosphere of a continent to save 5 cents at the gas pump, probably not.

As a general rule, most people when voting with their dollars have chosen cheap goods over cleaner. When they get to vote with what they perceive as other people's dollars, however, suddenly clean sounds a lot better.

Re:I burn in hell for demanding responsibility? (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678858)

Someone always pays the cost for pollution. It is a negative externality. Most people are only conditionally moral creatures, and do not mind externalizing costs onto someone else, especially when diffusion of responsibility lets them think "Well, it wasn't ME that did it, it was ALL of us." No one raindrop thinks it caused the flood, and all that.

That is the point: people are NOT voting with their dollars for cheaper, less clean products, they are voting with other people's dollars. They are voting with the dollars of the people who will get sick, and they are voting with the dollars of people whose land gets ruined. That is what externality means, someone else pays the true cost.

Re:I burn in hell for demanding responsibility? (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678922)

With a proper tort law setup this would only really be a problem for air pollution. Water and land pollution tends to be fairly localized and easily traceable. That's not unpaid externalities, that's property damage.

Re:I burn in hell for demanding responsibility? (4, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678958)

Or, rather than waiting for the damage to happen and suing the people who cause it, we could stop it BEFORE it happens through proper enforcement of regulations. You can trace pollution, but putting it back in the bag once it's loose is problematic.

Another problem is that externalizing costs lets an entity rake in unfair profits that can be used to fight any lawsuits, and in our legal system, David loses to Goliath more often than not. Goliath simply has to keep fighting until David runs our of money. I'd love to see tort reform that put the rich and the poor on even legal footing, but I'm not holding my breath.

Re:I burn in hell for demanding responsibility? (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 3 years ago | (#34679148)

And thankfully we have wise people with no personal agenda nor lobbyist influence making decisions about what is proper regulation.

Re:Good! (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678316)

Did you sleep through the part of EC101 where they talk about "externalities"? Or were you attending the "You can't make an omelette without killing some people" school of progress, where they skip that part entirely?

Re:Good! (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678414)

Likely took the alternate, RP101 (Rape & Pillage 101); This beginning course in self destructive economics will provide you with the foundation of modern day slash & burn or salt & till economics. Prerequisites include RJ101 (Religious Justification), IC101 (Inhibiting your Conscience), and RB101 (Robber Barons)

Re:Good! (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678630)

I call it "The Tragedy of the Privates." There is no incentive for a private owner to manage a resource sustainably when they can simply use their profits to buy another resource to exploit. Democratically manged resources will be managed sustainably, as everyone has an incentive to leave the resource usable by their children, and no one can withdraw all the profits and move on.

The better known "Tragedy of the Commons" is a fairly useless parable, as it compares privately owned resources with unmanaged resources, as opposed to comparing them with democratically managed resources.

Re:Good! (1)

Undead Waffle (1447615) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678920)

There is nothing tragic about my privates.

Re:Good! (0)

niftymitch (1625721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678260)

Golly... this mine is in the high desert. There is no
such thing as hundreds of thousands of gallons of water....
Any water used will be recycled....

In this part of the desert folk drive 40 miles to the mail box.

This is not to say that they can ignore environmental cautions
and concerns but -- for goodness sake get some facts right.

Re:Good! (3, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678354)

The Mountain Pass rare earth mine [wikipedia.org] uses froth floatation [wikipedia.org] , a water intensive process. For goodness sake get some facts right. Even in the high desert, we have these things known as "pipes."

Re:Good! (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678480)

It is not that hard to research the facts...

Mountain Pass Mine Environmental Impact [wikipedia.org]

In the 1980s, the company began piping wastewater as far as 14 miles to evaporation ponds ... This pipeline repeatedly ruptured during cleaning operations ... federal investigation later found that some 60 spills—some unreported—occurred between 1984 and 1998 ... about 600,000 gallons of radioactive and other hazardous waste flowed onto the desert floor

Re:Good! (-1, Troll)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678730)

Some unreported means how many 2? 3? 9? 52? Over 14 years. Spilled on the desert floor.

Hmmmm. I don't give a fuck.

Re:Good! (0)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678946)

Hmmmm. I don't give a fuck.

Move to China, their policies seem to suit you.

Re:Good! (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678492)

"Golly... this mine is in the high desert. There is no
such thing as hundreds of thousands of gallons of water...."

I have to assume you don't live in California. I'm an hour away from the high desert, and the WHOLE REGION has just had two weeks straight record rainfalls that beat anything in the past decade.

TRY MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF WATER, n00b.

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678284)

The radioactive element that occurs in association with rare earths is thorium, it isn't even as slightly soluble as uranium. The naturally occurring isotope is Th-232, with a half-life of 14.05 billion years. For comparison, U-238 has a half-life of 4.47 billion years, and u-235 has one of 704 million years. Yes, that means the mine tailings are radioactive. Slightly. Less so than yellowcake. But regulations are regulations, and just saying the R-word and some people lose all common sense.

Re:Good! (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677844)

What's the difference between letting the radioactive wastes in the ground and putting them back in the ground after you get the ore out?

They weren't putting it back in the ground, they were pumping it 14 miles away to evaporative ponds, except for the 60-odd times the pipe broke over 14 years [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678236)

They weren't putting it back in the ground, they were pumping it 14 miles away to evaporative ponds, except for the 60-odd times the pipe broke over 14 years [wikipedia.org] .

Oh, horrors. Such intractable problems! Shut down everything!

I mean, fixing the pipe, that's not an option, because nobody's ever figured out how to run liquids through tubes anymore. Building a new pipe out of something a little more resistant to scale buildup? Naw, can't happen, there've been no developments in plastics or polymers in the past century. Run little scrubber robots down the pipe to clean it out more frequently? Of course not, robots don't exist either.

If you'd prefer to get your rare earths from China, (where nobody cares about the environmental impacts) just say so. If you'd prefer to simply live without rare earths - and consequently, without the capacitors in your high-efficiency power supply, the magnets in your electric or hybrid vehicle motors, again, just say so. I drive an old internal-combustion-engine-powered vehicle myself.

But don't try to pretend that engineering problems are intractable problems.

Re:Good! (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678708)

No one was claiming these were engineering problems. The problem is obviously not an engineering one, it is a profit motive problem. The owners would rather have someone else pay for the impact they cause. Even after numerous warnings, they refused to fix things. They were shut down as punishment, because they refused to pay for their mistakes the honest and easy way, they had to pay for their mistakes the hard way. You see, that is what civilized countries do to people who profit off of harming others: we stop them.

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678854)

Except, of course, when we don't.

Re:Good! (5, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678912)

Who said we were a civilized country anymore? We're being run by a band of brigands intent on looting and pillaging rather than inventing and building, just like a third world banana republic. We ship raw materials and import finished goods, just like a banana republic. We lack any national health care system, when every other civilized nation has one. We execute people. We have more people in prison, per capita, than any other developed nation. We have a higher infant mortality rate than other developed countries. In all ways, we are becoming an uncivilized nation, and I didn't even mention reality television.

Re:Good! (2)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678786)

But don't try to pretend that engineering problems are intractable problems.

Don't try to pretend that capitalism problems are engineering problems. Replacing a 14 mile pipe costs money. Money you don't have if some company in China that just dumps the waste in the nearest ditch is undercutting you, but which might become available when the Chinese government tells their company to stop competing with you (by preventing it from exporting out of China).

Re:Good! (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678332)

Luckily, when you spill thorium-laced water over a large area of desert, it never gradually turns into wind-borne radioactive dust...

Re:Good! (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678534)

Ssssshhh, you'll burst the bubble that is keeping the stupidity contained to themselves.

Re:Good! (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677974)

What's the difference between letting the radioactive wastes in the ground and putting them back in the ground after you get the ore out?

You mean other than the fact that the relative concentrations of these radioactive wastes are many times higher afterwards than they were originally in the soil?

Re:Good! (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678230)

What's the difference between letting the radioactive wastes in the ground and putting them back in the ground after you get the ore out?

Leaving it in water lets it seep down into the water table and away from the site.

Re:Good! (1)

darrad (216734) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678468)

Your statement leads me to believe that your are OK with radioactive waste water releases as long as they are not in America. Since you do not seem to indicate that you are against the uses of rare earth.

Re:Good! (2)

matthewncohen (1166231) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678668)

People jump to a lot of conclusions on the internet.

Re:Good! (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678762)

Your statement leads me to believe one of two things: you are either stupid or dishonest. No one said they are okay with pollution in China. You present a false dichotomy: either accept pollution, or do not use rare earths. What about, pay the full cost of extracting using rare earths in an environmental fashion? Personally, I would be fine paying a little more if that is what things really cost. I'm not comfortable making other people pay for the things I use, yet that is what happens with rare earths. I get them for cheap, while other people get sick and die. I'd rather pay more and have less of the getting sick and dying thing.

So, were you deliberately ignoring the obvious third choice, "Pay the full cost for what you use rather than harming others and refusing to pay for it" and are therefore dishonest? Or could you really not see that choice, and are therefore stupid?

Re:Good! (1)

frank_tudor (746299) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677784)

I am trying to bring a Rare Earths Elements Company online (I have two mineral resources right herre in the U.S. ....But sadly, I can't find funding to start operations.

Re:Good! (0, Offtopic)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677874)

I am trying to bring a Rare Earths Elements Company online (I have two mineral resources right herre in the U.S. ....But sadly, I can't find funding to start operations.

Why should we trust someone who can't spell or punctuate a short post correctly to handle radioactive waste properly?

Re:Good! (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678348)

Why should we trust someone who can't spell or punctuate a short post correctly to handle radioactive waste properly?

I think he must be buying it in a WOW auction. He'll probably do more damage there anyway.

Re:Good! (1)

choko (44196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678654)

I was unaware that the two skills are somehow related. Some of the most "powerful" people in the world have terrible grammar and punctuation skills.

Re:Good! (3, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677886)

I am trying to bring a Rare Earths Elements Company online (I have two mineral resources right herre in the U.S. ....But sadly, I can't find funding to start operations.

Wait a second, I call shenanigans. We gave all kinds of tax breaks to the rich, just so they would have money to invest in things like this. Are you trying to tell me the rich aren't investing in American businesses? Next you are going to tell me that rather than funding businesses here, they are investing it all in foreign corporations in countries with cheaper labor and no environmental laws.

Re:Good! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678160)

DEAR MR. FRANK_TUDOR, MY NAME IS NIMBU-ADAMINABI, I AM THE SON OF THE LATE FORMER DIRECTOR OF RARE EARTH MINING, EXECUTIVE MBUDAH-ADAMINABI OF THE NIGERIA RARE EARTH MINING COMPANY. DUE TO POLITICAL REASONS, MY MINING COMPANY, ESTIMATED TO BE WORTH IN EXCESS OF 78 MILLION DOLLARS, CAN NO LONGER OPERATE IN COUNTRY AND IS IN NEED OF ASSISTANCE TO BE RELOCATED TO THE USA FOR START UP. WE ARE WILLING TO FUND STARTING OPERATIONS FOR YOUR COMPANY, BUT REQUIRE ASSISTANCE TO LIQUIDATE AND TRANSFER THE 78 MILLION DOLLARS IN ASSETS OUT OF THE COUNTRY. ALL I NEED FROM YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE IS:

1) YOUR BANK NAME
2) ACCOUNT NAME
3) ACCOUNT NUMBER
4) BANK ADDRESS, TELEPHONE AND FAX NUMBERS TO ENABLE ME TO TRANSFER THE 78 MILLION DOLLARS INTO YOUR ACCOUNT.

AS COMPENSATION FOR YOUR SERVICE, I AM OFFERING 20% OF THE ASSETS OF THE MINING COMPANY, I REALLY WANT TO INVEST IN YOUR COMPANY AS IT IS LOCATED IN A STABLE GOVERNMENT, SOCIAL, AND ECONOMICAL REGION. TO PROVE MY TRUSTWORTHINESS, I HAVE ATTACHED A COPY OF THE ASSET CERTIFICATE FROM THE BANK OF ADIJUBA IN NIGERIA WITH A LIST OF ALL COMPANY ASSETS. MY LATE FATHER CALLED ME TO HIS BEDSIDE BEFORE HIS CALL TO GLORY (R.I.P) THAT I SHOULD PRAY TO GOD FOR FIRST, BEFORE FINDING A PARTNER IN THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY OF USA. GOD GUIDED ME TO YOU AND HELPED ME AVOID EVIL MINDED AND GREEDY PEOPLE WHO MIGHT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME AND MY COMPANY.

THANKS AND GOD BLESS.

BEST REGARDS,

NIMBU-ADAMINABI (NREMC)

Bad (4, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678038)

I think the US should sit on this resource for now. China only has 37% of the world's proven reserves of rare-earth minerals, but they are fulfilling 97% of the world's demand. Let them burn through their easily harvested natural supplies, so a decade from now they will be reliant on other countries for a critical resource. This could provide one of the few checks and balances for dealing with China as a communist super-power.

Re:Bad (3, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678322)

Because it's going to take nearly a decade (ok, 12/ a decade minimum) to spin up their operations. If they start now, they'll be ready when the Chinese market collapses.

Re:Bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678984)

Hmm... do you not think that some western mining companies, the US government, etc. would not all work together to set up mines and basic refineries so that the bulk of the processing still ends up being finished into usable product in China?

China's arguments sound like they would be assailable in the WTO courts, but... somehow, I don't think most of the western governments would be willing to push the issue. The US, especially. (Unless Sarah Palin or some other tea-bagger goes all cowboy on this after 2012, presuming Pres. Obama isn't reelected in 2 years). Now there is a happy thought...

Fppppp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34677708)

Fp

BS (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34677714)

Barbara Boxer will shut that down. This is California you fuckers! No mining allowed. Oh, and we've decided that Spanish will now be the official primary language of the state.

so one thing i don't get... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34677764)

If I'm in the market for rare earth metals, why would I buy from this US source?

It seems like the factors that drove them out in the first place still exist, no? They still have environmental regulations to deal with that the Chinese suppliers don't, they'll still have far higher labour costs than their Chinese competitors, and so on. So if China wants to drive the price back down and run them out of business, they can do so.

Re:so one thing i don't get... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34677782)

China is raising the prices, not lowering them.

So you want to sell your nation away (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677794)

So you want to sell your nation away people like you should go to a re education camp!

China Is Threatening to Ban Exports (0)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677814)

To the US [slashdot.org] and Japan [slashdot.org] . And I've heard all sorts of speculation why but I'll leave that up to the reader.

Re:so one thing i don't get... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677870)

As we run out of oil, transportation costs will only go up. World wide demand for rare earths is rising, at the same time supply is dwindling. Previously, it was just not financially feasible to mine rare earths in environmentally friendly ways. The true costs were externalized. Mine owners got rich at the cost of other people's health. But we have gotten better at doing things in safe, clean ways now. So it looks like we are at the intersection of rising prices and demand for rare earth, and declining costs of environmental technologies.

Re:so one thing i don't get... (2)

careysub (976506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677922)

If I'm in the market for rare earth metals, why would I buy from this US source?

It seems like the factors that drove them out in the first place still exist, no? They still have environmental regulations to deal with that the Chinese suppliers don't, they'll still have far higher labour costs than their Chinese competitors, and so on. So if China wants to drive the price back down and run them out of business, they can do so.

Shortly after acquiring their monopoly on rare earth supply China began demonstrating to the world how monopoly power can be used - raising prices at will, using supply as an economic/political weapon, etc. Companies and nations affected by these tactics (which are most users of rare earths outside of China) are not amused and will be willing to pay premiums for a reliable supply at predictable prices. Expect to see companies hedging their bets by entering long term contracts with MolyCorp even if they also continue to buy from China.

Re:so one thing i don't get... (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677946)

If I'm in the market for rare earth metals, why would I buy from this US source?

Illiterate troll is illiterate. From the first line of the summary: "With increasing prices on rare earth ore, tariffs raised by the Chinese government, and the threat of embargoes that would damage United States high-tech manufacturing..."

So if China wants to drive the price back down and run them out of business, they can do so.

The point of the embargo would be to threaten the US with. "Don't push us on human rights / Taiwan / copyright bullshit / economy stuff / national pride / corporate stuff or we'll stop selling you your precious metals." If we can credibly respond with "Fine, we'll just dig up our own in our backyard," that makes the threat pointless. We could go back and forth with it, China says we won't sell, we start digging, china sells, we stop digging, china stops selling etc, but that's not really in anyone's interests to stress the market like that, you'd just be introducing chaos to a big economic sector.

Whether or not the right actors realize that and are mature enough to deal with the problems rather than playing games with billions of dollars is one thing, but assuming the Chinese diplomats and government isn't completely bullheaded about it, they'll either back off from threatening the embargo once they see it won't be that big of a deal for us, the US will the the mature one and not make too big a fuss out of too many issues (ideally focusing on human rights rather than unimportant corporate/copyright issues, though that's doubtful), or both will compromise.

Re:so one thing i don't get... (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678562)

Why is it that people like you don't move to China to live and work in their factories?

Re:so one thing i don't get... (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34679046)

Because it's a commodity. As long as the cost of production is less than the market price, you will buy from them. The labor and environmental regulations will affect their profit margin. As the purchaser of a commodity, you don't care about that.

This is true for any fungible commodity. When you buy gold, you don't care if it cost $500/oz or $1000/oz for a particular miner to extract. You only care that it costs $1400/oz.

No! Totally wrong approach (2, Funny)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677806)

The more we mine them, the less rare they will be. Doesn't this defeat the purpose? .... ;)

Re:No! Totally wrong approach (3, Informative)

Palmsie (1550787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677880)

Rare earth materials are actually quite common, despite their name. Some of them are actually more common than lead or nitrogen.

Re:No! Totally wrong approach (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34677978)

I've always preferred my Earth Material medium-rare.

Re:No! Totally wrong approach (1, Redundant)

jensend (71114) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678108)

No. The only way to make rare earths less rare is to make more earths, duh. Among other things, the cost of shipping a whole factory-built planet to the nearest Sol-like stars and the loud-mouthed protests of tree-huggers whining about resource depletion (jeez, it's not like anybody else was USING every little yottagram of that feldspar anyway) tend to discourage this.

On a side note: at least the FedEx guy could be a little more POLITE in telling me they don't ship to Tau Ceti. Sheesh. And just FYI, the USPS flat-rate boxes top out at a pathetic 1.3E-11 km^3.

Re:No! Totally wrong approach (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678250)

The more we mine them, the less rare they will be. Doesn't this defeat the purpose? .... ;)

Not if we don't overcook them.

Re:No! Totally wrong approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34679086)

They are common trace metals like gold is very common in soil and water. The difference is the geological processes haven't concentrated them like gold, copper and iron have. You've got to process tons of ore to get just a few ounces or even grams of the elements. That's where they become expensive.

They can't do this! (1)

Yaos (804128) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677840)

Don't you guys read articles and look at infographics? All technology and infrastructure instantly hits a standstill the second those articles and infographics are released. By opening this mine they are destroying the fragile web of stupidity created by the idiots that make those things. Just think, somebody may even try to create technologies that use less rare-earth minerals!

Molycorp's production is going straight to Japan (5, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677876)

Despite the story's GO AMERICA slant, a lot of material is going straight to Japan, where most of it is consumed in the first place. Like to Hitachi: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6BK5PL20101221 [reuters.com]

Oh look. They also signed deals with Sumitomo and Mitsubishi: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/business/T101219002181.htm [yomiuri.co.jp]

They got huge piles of cash from Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi...which is why it's hilarious to hear the CEO of Molycorp waving American flags in various quotes. Oh, and Molycorp's stock has shot up since their IPO in July: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-07-28/molycorp-s-ipo-aims-at-chinese-grip-on-smart-bombs.html [businessweek.com]

Also, how interesting that the EPA announces cleanup plan of Molycorp site just a few days ago: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=12460111 [go.com]

The EPA said contaminated material from the Molycorp site includes about 328 million tons of acid-generating waste rock, more than 100 million tons of tailings and acid-rock drainage at the mine and seepage at the tailings facility.

Anyone want to place bets on whether or not the US government will press environmental regulations on Molycorp this time, now that national security interests are involved?

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (3, Insightful)

Spoke (6112) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677962)

Uh, how is exporting raw materials (many of which will end up in electronics back on our shores) bad for America?

Sure, it would be better if those materials were used in local manufacturing facilities, but opening a source of those raw materials will make it more financially viable to do so.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678826)

Uh, how is exporting raw materials (many of which will end up in electronics back on our shores) bad for America?

Who said it was bad for America?

ure, it would be better if those materials were used in local manufacturing facilities, but opening a source of those raw materials will make it more financially viable to do so.

Agreed. But lets not put the celebrations ahead of the victory. The company press released is something of a "Mission Accomplished" moment, and that is what is being poked fun at.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (1)

Spoke (6112) | more than 3 years ago | (#34679094)

Who said it was bad for America?

The GP said:

which is why it's hilarious to hear the CEO of Molycorp waving American flags in various quotes

Seemed to me that he was implying that opening these mines in the USA is only good for the Japanese companies funding the project and bad for the USA who is stuck with the cleanup costs.

Any substantial investment into the USA is a good reason to wave the flag, especially in a state with 12.5% unemployment.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678018)

Anyone want to place bets on whether or not the US government will press environmental regulations on Molycorp this time, now that national security interests are involved?

Not really; but if they have issues and US EPA won't go after them, you can be sure Cal EPA will.

Of course, then you would just have a bunch of right-wing bloggers screaming, "Why does California hate America???" but that isn't exactly new.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678040)

What? Exports are good for America whether its in the form of something that was machined and assembled or just dug out of the ground. Are miners not people?

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678204)

Are miners not people?

The courts have often rules that minors aren't people.

*rimshot*

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678600)

Corporations have more rights than minors for the simple reason that they can vote.

Of course, the same is true when comparing corporations to any other group...

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (1)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678618)

<HECKLER> If they were Incorporated then they would be legal individuals! Instead they prefer to be commie unincorporated human beings. </HECKLER>

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (2)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678044)

Considering the mutual hatred the Japanese and Chinese share toward each other, it's not surprising that the Japanese would want to buy rare earths from us rather than the Chinese. In my narrow view of economics, any time we can export something it's a plus. Our trade deficit hasn't exactly been ideal lately.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (4, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678186)

That's too narrow. (or maybe not narrow enough?)

Equitable trade is mutually beneficial.

Being a net exporter means that you lose all your stuff and get a wad of IOUs of uncertain value (inflation, for instance, kills the value of your holdings)

Being a net importer means you incur debt, but get all the wonderful stuff.

Neither of which is particularly healthy, and certainly can't possibly be sustainable in the long term. Think about it: China's status as the world's provider of cheaply manufactured goods means that their own citizens are not benefiting from that massive industrial capacity as much as they could be, and they're sure as hell not benefitting from that capacity if the import side of that is money or ownership stakes in foreign countries, and not, y'know, stuff.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678412)

If I could, I would grant you points. Consider what we import from Japan versus what we export to them. It is balanced in their favor at the moment.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (2)

Sleepy (4551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678812)

China's status as the world's provider of cheaply manufactured goods means that their own citizens are not benefiting from that massive industrial capacity as much as they could be

China's status as the world's largest manufacturer - and soon the world's highest-tech manufacturer - plus all those IOUs they own means that they will be able to do whatever the hell they want. China's not interested in raising their standard of living too fast, if it means that a huge disparity exists between the poor and the really dirt-poor. China doesn't want the manufacturing to race to the next developing nation, and it's big enough that they know there will always be suitable numbers of desperate unemployed population to keep wages (and worker demands) very low.

But China's not stupid, they're plowing this money and tech into their military. Their submarine navy for example isn't made to carry nukes, but they ARE made to act as underwater troop carriers.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (5, Insightful)

DCFusor (1763438) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678142)

No, it's not all going to Japan, just some. A lot of the Japanese companies are going to use this stuff *here* and might as well, because many of them manufacture little things like cars, um, here to sell to us. Molycorp is going mine-to-magnet right here, and that's where the value added is. I'm glad of it, having bought quite a lot of their stock when it was priced about half what it is today...yum. (I trade for a living, and this has been one of the good trades this year).

RE mining has been an environmental problem for a long time. For whatever reason, the RE ores always seem to have a lot of thorium in them also -- there's your radioactive issue, and why we don't just refine and use that too, I'm clueless, as the price of uranium is also doing well (and I own stock in that too that is also doing well). As the Indians know, it's part of a useful fuel cycle as it can be bred into fissile fuel just like U238 can be. The other issue with RE's is that most of them are so chemically similar that they can be real tough to get apart into the individual RE metals. GM and others have done some work on making pretty good magnets with "what you get" rather than what you'd have in a perfect world, slightly reduced performance compared to perfect, but far lower costs at a few stages of the process.

At the instant of this writing, MCP is up 10.2% *in one day* which is about a usual annual return from the stock markets. REMX, an ETF that tracks RE's is only up 0.87%. No guts, no glory. I don't know about the other bucks for sure, but the profits trading on MCP are going to this redneck engineer American to be spent here. I'm sure like any news driven stock, that it will either go back down, or flounder around awhile before going up again. That's why I call myself a trader -- I don't invest, I trade, and know when the heck to get out and put the money back into first bank of mattress....

Copper is doing pretty well these days too, some due to manipulation, but in general we're finding out that Malthus was right, just in the wrong century. Won't be many decades before old landfills become a "mineral rights" issue. We really do live in a finite place.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (1)

Yosho-sama (800703) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678232)

Despite the story's GO AMERICA slant, a lot of material is going straight to Japan, where most of it is consumed in the first place. Like to Hitachi: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6BK5PL20101221 [reuters.com]

Oh look. They also signed deals with Sumitomo and Mitsubishi: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/business/T101219002181.htm [yomiuri.co.jp]

They got huge piles of cash from Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi...which is why it's hilarious to hear the CEO of Molycorp waving American flags in various quotes. Oh, and Molycorp's stock has shot up since their IPO in July: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-07-28/molycorp-s-ipo-aims-at-chinese-grip-on-smart-bombs.html [businessweek.com]

Also, how interesting that the EPA announces cleanup plan of Molycorp site just a few days ago: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=12460111 [go.com]

The EPA said contaminated material from the Molycorp site includes about 328 million tons of acid-generating waste rock, more than 100 million tons of tailings and acid-rock drainage at the mine and seepage at the tailings facility.

Anyone want to place bets on whether or not the US government will press environmental regulations on Molycorp this time, now that national security interests are involved?

This smacks of isolationism and ignorance as to how economics work. My guns and butter are more valuable being sold to Japan than in America, then sell to Japan. I get more money out of it, Uncle Sam gets more taxes out of it, my American employees get paid for creating the product, and I don't have to worry about Japan suddenly stockpiling MY products in order to stifle trade. It's literally the biggest amount of Win/Win that can occur. China made mining in America not as profitable as importing it. Now that that is over, the mine is reopening. It's as simple as that. That radioactive waste water snippet did raise my eyebrow though.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678362)

Your points aren't really relevant. The US is once again producing something and selling it to another country. That's a good thing and lowers our trade deficit. While we'd all love for all the materials to be mined here, and all the equipment made here that goes into our military equipment... the fact of the matter is, the loop that goes: Mined in the US, made in Japan, assembled in the US is a heck of a lot better than: Mined in China, Made in China, Assembled in the US.

As far as the pollution goes, simply forcing the industry into a country that has no environmental regulations at all isn't solving the problem. We all share the globe. Even if MolyCorp only cleans up half what they should, that's still 50% better than what they are doing in China.

Re:Molycorp's production is going straight to Japa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678550)

Unless we live in some bizarro world where the Japanese live in houses made of rare-earth metal and eat it for breakfast whilst the ragged American hobos starve, it is highly likely that a lot of these metals are going to be made into export items and electronics. Whether the mobile phones and bomb fall systems used by Americans are created by Americans or by Japanese is pretty irrelevant. The availability for use is the important point.

I guess in your rather bizarro world a good company is one with a low stock price, and a high stock price is somehow a character flaw or sign of shenanigans. Can't help you cure that affliction.

Not surprising if the EPA cleans it up for free. A country is able to expend its resources to further its national goals. How this is new to you is beyond me.

Summary was TLDR, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678000)

Getting Rare Earth back together to do a gig in California is an event worth celebrating. [youtube.com]

Legitimate question: (1)

Regnad2k7 (1045284) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678008)

Re:Legitimate question: (1)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678228)

It looks like they are standing in one of the evaporator ponds for the radioactive waste.

Re:Legitimate question: (1)

Regnad2k7 (1045284) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678266)

prolly should have been

the real reason (1, Funny)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678014)

I have a feeling that they're banking on China getting mad that the US will have a significant mine. If they say "Oh, you want to make your own? Fine, BANHAMMER!" and stop all rare earth exports, that mine will turn into the sole source for the US and they can charge whatever they want. If they start getting materials and China doesn't do anything different, the US company still has to compete with China's current prices which aren't THAT high right now. It's all just theoretical that China could skyrocket the prices if they wanted to. So since they won't make much money otherwise, they definitely have to be speculating that China will try to retaliate and it will work in their favor.

Re:the real reason (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678272)

I don't think that I'd actually want to find out the hard way; but it would actually be quite interesting to know how absolute a banhammer the Chinese government could wield...

Over the mines themselves, a fairly limited number of sites, the state could probably just use the PLA if it came to that(and hope that half the officer corps isn't supplementing their pensions by doing a little smuggling on the side)...

Unless they felt like shutting down domestic manufacturing of a huge number of products, though, which would run counter to their current 'aggressive-industrialization-with-mercantilist-tendencies' policies, they would have to permit rare-earth movement to domestic manufacturers all over the place. From there, either they would have to grow a big pile of domestic demand, or continue to permit export of finished products (at least to friendly client states, if not to specific rivals). Some of their friendly client states are a bit... porous... so re-export from there would seem likely.

Prices would, obviously, be higher than under a like-shit-through-a-goose export policy; but it would be pretty hard to wall of supplies entirely without crashing domestic manufacturers in a number of sectors, risking substantial labor unrest, etc...

Re:the real reason (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678564)

"but it would actually be quite interesting to know how absolute a banhammer the Chinese government could wield..."

None at all. We have these things called treaties, and these other things called alliances.

You do realize we're right on the precipice of WWIII, right?

It's going to be corporations and the governments they control versus the people of the world.

Re:the real reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678688)

I doubt it. The Chinese government is corrupt, greedy, nationalistic and oppressive, but that doesn't make them stupid. They know that starting a trade/resource war with their largest market (and biggest debtor) is a terrible idea. They can and will mess with the ratios/tariffs to cause ruckus and get concessions, but them pulling that sort of extreme act is like them denying us use of a bottle of bleach by drinking the contents themselves.

Wonder about the pricing (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678032)

They probably closed the US operation because China could manufacture it cheaper.  Kinda puts the California company in a position to exploit the market.

So does this mean... (1)

_0rm_ (1638559) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678168)

We may finally see some devices that bear the sticker "Made in America"?

Old news (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678252)

The Molycorp restart has been known for months. The IPO was back in July.

"Rare earths" aren't really that rare. There are many potential mining sites worldwide. They're sparse, in that huge amounts of rock have to be processed to get small amounts of metal. Because of that, rare earth mines produce vast amounts of useless tailings, contaminated with the chemicals used in extraction. That's why nobody wants one nearby. The big one in Inner Mongolia is considered an environmental disaster area even by Chinese standards [dailymail.co.uk] .

Cold War with China (1, Insightful)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678436)

Can we finally admit that we're in a cold war with china? Finally?

Re:Cold War with China (1)

Arnold Reinhold (539934) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678676)

Uhh no. We have some trade issues with China, but they hardly rise to the level of Cold War.

Re:Cold War with China (2)

Jeng (926980) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678888)

Can you please state what makes you think we are in a cold war with China?

Capitalistic competitors, yes, but not cold war adversaries any longer.

another group of scam artists (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678538)

There are only a few principals in Molycorp, each with millions in salaries plus bonuses. They managed to lose over 80 million USD on 22 million USD in equity in just three short years. They hired a couple firms to shake the fear lobby public relations/news tree. The Japan-China rare earth thing occurs regularly every couple of years, and this incident is no different. You may find in the next SEC filing that the principals have unloaded significant paper dilution in the latest round of scamming. I expect they will close again once the stock sale scamming has peaked.

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