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Rare-Earth Mineral Supply Getting Boost From California, Australia

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the don't-fall-into-the-sea-just-yet dept.

Businesses 84

An anonymous reader writes "In recent times, the world's supply of rare-earth minerals has suffered from both increased demand, due to their use in modern technological devices, and uncertain supply, as China restricts the flow of exports. Now, Molycorp's mine in California has re-opened, and another in Australia is set to open later this year, easing — but not erasing — worries about skyrocketing costs. '[The mine had closed] in 2002 following radioactive wastewater spills and price competition. The largest spills, from a pipeline to Nevada, occurred in the late 1990s, in protected lands in the Mojave Desert. The company has since changed its ownership structure. ... It's being rebuilt to produce up to 40,000 metric tons of rare-earth elements by 2013, which would be a 700 percent increase from its production target for the end of this year."

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84 comments

Who's paying for it? (1)

Servaas (1050156) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913714)

And they are sponsoring this little rebuild how? Want me to tell you what they will be oopsing about in 5 years?

Re:Who's paying for it? (2)

hguorbray (967940) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913774)

Hopefully they are not being given a pass on any Environmental impact or mitigation in the rush to access this resource.

(see Drill, Baby Drill, ANWAR, XL pipeline, etc)

although, in the long term, Rare Earths may end up being more important and irreplaceable to new tech than oil or natgas.....

-I'm just sayin'

yeah. better chinese workers die (0)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913958)

and we pretend we have a 'green economy' with our space-ship apple headquarters that run off of sunshine and unicorn farts.

fucking US hypocrisy is astounding.

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (1)

hguorbray (967940) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914020)

all you can do in this life is to try to set a good example

we would not set a good example by deciding to let our workers and citizens die due by ignoring safety and health just so we can join the 'race to the bottom'

I'm not saying that US corporations are not complicit in offshoring pollution and slave labor, but the US people have a greater sense of justice and morality than our corporations I think....I hope -and maybe someday that will make a difference

-I'm just sayin'

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916078)

But allowing China's citizens to die for us is okay in your world?

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#37917852)

But allowing China's citizens to die for us is okay in your world?

Allow? It's as if you pretend we have the power of life and death over them, their government and society.

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919752)

Didn't you get the memo? The US is responsible for every decision made in the world regardless of the country.

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37922438)

Which part of this chain is incorrect?

In China, people are dying at greater rates due to high pollution levels (I'll leave out Foxconn employee suicides).
The high pollution levels come from cheap factories that don't comply with expensive U.S. environmental regulation.
The cheap factories are built there because U.S. businesses would rather import cheap goods from China than pay the costs of doing the same manufacturing more cleanly in the U.S.
The businesses buy the goods from China rather than making them in the U.S. because they can keep prices down and still be profitable that way.
The reason they keep prices down is that customers won't buy from them if they raise their prices enough to cover the costs of the U.S. regulations.

Which step makes it easy to pretend you're not spending blood money?

(Okay, that last remark is maybe a little unfair. Buyers in America aren't automatically aware of all this, and even once you do become aware of it, there isn't much recourse. You can spend blood money for Chinese "misery" products, or you can do without a car (many parts are made in China), cell phone, computer, iPod, furniture, most household goods, and clothes. There isn't much recourse for most of the convenience and luxury that modern life affords)

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#37923532)

What part of context have you ignored?

That at least some of environmental legislation is set by politics rather than good science. That the EPA is forbidden by law to do cost analysis of its regulations.

That a company will go out of business if nobody buys its products, and almost nobody will buy its products if they're priced absurdly higher than similar products.

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37924118)

And it's the Chinese who choose to sell.

If it's blood money, that's their own collective decision (or, as the case may be, inability to decide) -- and when the rapidly growing Chinese middle class decides that they give a damn, I expect it to stop. In the interim, why should I as a customer feel the slightest bit of guilt?

(I'm likewise very happy to let them mine and sell their own natural resources below natural market price while we hold onto our own; if we wait until resources from China are no longer viable before restarting our own mining and drilling industries, we then at that time still have our resources at a point in time when they're scarcer and more valuable. That said, it seems they've finally realised the hole that they've been digging themselves into on this point).

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916402)

Hgorbray,
I think that you are just sayin' is nonsense..
I have no idea what it means what you mean to "set a good example". By your very act of submitting a message onto this message board, the costs included oil, rare earth elements, coal, and "slave labor" from Asia. We won't look at the cup of coffee you are drinking from Africa or Central America. We'll ignore any gems or precious metals on your fingers or your significant other. Let's not look at 1/3 of your education is supported by "loans" that were extended to you, your state or the US via China.

Regardless of where you are getting your energy; wind, water, coal, oil or gas, something as simple as a thermastat or an LED on that power strip is most likely imported. Please set a good example and throw away your power strip..

Walmart is not exploiting US workers, nor are their customers.. but Detroit assembly workers that would rather buy at Walmart because of the prices. Cost are critical driver to a global economy that creates a total inability of the US to be self sufficent in such critical items as food, clothing, energy, cars, radios, laptops, and cell phones and iPads.

Single Synapsed residences of Washington DC voted into office by dual synapsed voters think the future is safe in the US by patents and copyright. What they don't understand is that India and China is filing more patents than the US, which they can use against the US.. but more importantly, the US isn't in a position to get into a Country to Country trade war with where the stakes are drugs, electronics, energy, food, cars, medical instruments, and LEDs for power strips and the other 95% of commerce is not from the US and can't be.

There is not a single industrial country that can stand alone for very long if there were cut off from all other countries.
You seem to lack an understanding that the top 10% of the country in the US is giving the bottom 20% the means to have a life they will never have to experience in Asia or Africa. The bottom 20% would starve in Africa or Asia as they waited for the subsided food, cell phones, internet access, shoe, to be delivered and educational oppt. to pick them up. Go to Africa and watch children walk 5 miles to school for a half day because their economy can't afford full day education.

When US citizens are willing to walk to work, buy goods whose commodities are harvested in the US, manufactured in the US and pay the "living" wages to those in the US that provide those goods and services,,,, the you might be "just sayin'.. but in the mean time you are "just noisin'"

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37919978)

"There is not a single industrial country that can stand alone for very long if there were cut off from all other countries." Wanna bet? It would be hectic at first for sure but the US has several advantages. The US can ban any imports from China to start with. They don't produce anything we can't build domestically or get somewhere else. Meanwhile they depend heavily on food exports from the US and that dependence is growing larger every month. That takes care of potting the #2 economy. The US imports of oil from the middle east have been declining for years. Eliminating all oil imports from the middle east and making up the difference with imports from Canada and taking advantage of the US oil and natural gas reserves still in the ground can make up the difference. Oil companies did not stop drilling for oil in Texas because there was no more oil left, they quit because it was cheaper to import. Next the US could cancel all security guarantees for Europe, Asia, and the Middle East and let them get busy destroying each other in peace. The the US can cancel the Israeli aid because they can get by without it and they have their own military industrial capabilities they can rely on. Of course they won't have to really worry about that since the next time some jumped up Arab "freedom fighter" crosses the line the US ignore the situation and let Israel finish what they should have done in 1967. It's not like there is any other country in the world that would step in to stop them now is there? And it is also important to remember that the US is still the #1 manufacturer in the world even with all the countries using slave labor to compete. And last but not least if anyone has a problem with anything the US is doing they still need to get by the US military to register their complaints.

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914098)

How does Apple's HQ pretend that we have a green economy? Who's saying it runs off unicorn farts? Though "run off sunshine" is exactly what we're trying to do, and Californians have been doing more than most for generations.

If what you're complaining about is that the US has better environmental protection than China does, that's not hypocrisy. There's nothing stopping China from cleaning up the way the US did, except its greed for the dollar at the expense of its workers. And when China does, if its growing population of people with enough money to protect themselves from being poisoned does protect themselves, their rising costs will help the US compete with them economically.

None of that is hypocrisy. It's economics and the politics that follows it.

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (1)

englishknnigits (1568303) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914936)

Yes, and all other countries are honest, upfront, forthright, put the concerns of others above their own, and use their power responsibly and fairly. Gimmie a break.

Re:yeah. better chinese workers die (1)

electron sponge (1758814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915122)

and we pretend we have a 'green economy' with our space-ship apple headquarters that run off of sunshine and unicorn farts.

fucking US hypocrisy is astounding.

But your hypocrisy is just A-OK because you're edgy, right? Sitting there posting on the electrically-powered Internet with your computer made from petroleum by-products and rare earth minerals, powered by coal, natural gas, petroleum or nuclear. What's astounding is your stupidity regarding your own situation. Nobody's pretending we have anything other than what we have, which is not an optimal or efficient system. If you don't like what's going on, get an education and invent something better. Give it away for free if you're that worried. Otherwise my suggestion would be to dial back on the rhetoric and the America-hate and start advocating real solutions. Otherwise, you're just another douchebag troll.

Unicorn farts contribute to global warming, by the way.

Re:Who's paying for it? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914070)

Drilling in Alaska - two of your three examples - has never had a large environmental disaster. Exxon Valdez was up here, but that wasn't a drilling accident or a pipeline problem, that was a drunk captaining a ship.

ANWAR, unfortunately, isn't being developed.

Re:Who's paying for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914170)

ANWAR's potential amounts to a rounding error when it comes to significant production numbers. They only reason you've ever heard of it is because someone with money is putting words in congress critters mouths and on conservative propaganda outlets. Someone stands to make a lot of money from exploiting the area.

Re:Who's paying for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37917788)

And note that the money won't really be made from oil itself, but from (probably no-bid) contracts to build the infrastructure to extract what little oil there is.

Re:Who's paying for it? (2)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37917150)

Drilling in Alaska - two of your three examples - has never had a large environmental disaster.

You've missed one small, but rather important word : "yet".

Note - I'm speaking as a geologist in the oil business, currently on an exploration well off the east coast of Africa. You could claim that I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, but the companies who pay my invoices would probably disagree with you.

Re:Who's paying for it? (0)

mjr167 (2477430) | more than 2 years ago | (#37918694)

Aliens have not yet invaded. My furnace has not yet exploded. A nuclear bomb has not yet been dropped on the US. A tsunami has not yet wiped NY off the map. What's your point?

Re:Who's paying for it? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37954278)

Furnaces have exploded ; nuclear bombs have been dropped ; tsunamis have wiped out cities ; alien invasion ... if you're meaning extraterrestrials then we've no good evidence of it having happened, but for simply "foreign" aliens, that happens all the time.

For all of these events (with the debatable exception of the alien invasion), sufficient experience exists to estimate the probability of it happening again in the future.

On the basis of oilfield experience, the fact that Alaska has not yet had a major oil disaster (in drilling or production ; you've ceded the transportation example already, though quite why you consider that appreciably different isn't clear to me) is in significant part luck. At some point, there is likely to be a major disaster of this type. The more exploration and production that happens, the higher the probability of it happening in any particular time period in the future. Follows a Poisson distribution, IIRC my statistics courses.

Re:Who's paying for it? (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | more than 2 years ago | (#37958412)

I believe you missed my point... While other people's furnaces have indeed exploded, mine has not. It is still in my basement and I have no intentions of removing it simply because the possibility of it exploding exists. As you pointed out, all the disasters I listed are valid possibilities. That doesn't mean that we panic prematurely. We are not going to abandon NY just because the distinct possibility of a tsunami leveling it exists. There is a distinct possibility that I can walk outside and get hit by a buss and killed. The longer I live the more likely I am to be killed by some freak accident. I'm still going to walk outside.

Risk exists in pretty much everything that we do. It is important that we understand the risk and take *appropriate* mitigation steps. You claim that it is pure luck that has kept disaster at bay this long. If that is true, then it is pure luck that prevents an asteroid from colliding with the planet and destroying our atmosphere. Pure luck keeps a lot of disasters at bay. If, however, an oil disaster would be caused by humans, then it is not pure luck that keeps it at bay. Oil companies *do* pay geologists and other highly educated individuals lots of money to help them conduct risk analysis and understand the risks of their operations. There is a difference between understanding and accounting for risk and abandoning an activity simply because it is dangerous.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that oil companies be permitted to abdicate responsibility. If they break something, they should fix it, but to say that oil explorations should stop because there are risks associated with it and eventually something bad will happen is also irresponsible. I suspect you agree with that sentiment since you are in the oil business. What I object to is the idea that the possibility of an event occurring equates to that event definitively occurring when we all know that there are many events that are possible, but most likely will never happen. Pointing out all the unlikely, yet possible, disasters that can happen is a waste of time serving only scare and confuse the general public thus resulting in idiotic legislation and policy decisions with no basis on fact.

Re:Who's paying for it? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37983448)

It sounds like we both have a realistic understanding of probability and risk assessment. But you're taking a different line to "Wyatt Earp", to whom I was originally responding. At which point it's getting confusing.

Re:Who's paying for it? (1)

Adriax (746043) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913808)

Probably by selling futures or some other stock market derived scheme. Lock in your buyers before you even start producing so when china pricedumps again you've got a buffer.

Re:Who's paying for it? (2)

starfire83 (923483) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913926)

Molycorp, if you pay attention to the news at all, is a publically traded company as of last summer. It's being funded by the shareholders and obviously corporate interests that intend to make use of the products that Molycorp produces as well as people that have been buying their products for years. They get no breaks on environmental regulations, especially since they fall under California environmental laws along with federal law.

Re:Who's paying for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916444)

You right .. it is really fun to watch their stock.. it goes from 35 to 60 depending on the news....

I actually took a ride and got 20% return over 3 months.. but it totally unclear if / when they can really deliver. Never bet against the stupidity of the US Government and the EPA to make continue to allow the US the bitch of Boliva and China.

I only did it for a couple of months.. but no gut for a year ride.

  (Now if we could prove that Molycorp had the critical element that would allow TSA to image benzene based shampoo stored in iPad batteries that could imaged in the human colon, we have a winner.. (calling my broker now.. )

Re:Who's paying for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916072)

http://nasdaq.com and slashvertisements?

Potential upside of 30% and radioactive waste issues don't go together very well.
Add a zero and a 5-year EPA waiver it's game on.

California is in the USA, not Australia (1)

Bongoots (795869) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913736)

Duh!

Re:California is in the USA, not Australia (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913802)

Duh!

Seriously.
Don't know how they got the U S of A mixed up with Europe.

The headline lists two states of the US (1)

reluctantjoiner (2486248) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914392)

It makes more sense when you realise that Australia is the 51+Nst state of the US, so the headline is actually just listing the states of the US, not implying cartographical closeness.

Re:The headline lists two states of the US (1)

electron sponge (1758814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915164)

It makes more sense when you realise that Australia is the 51+Nst state of the US, so the headline is actually just listing the states of the US, not implying cartographical closeness.

Pfft, like we'd ever accept them into our Union, what with all their monarchism.

What if the market changes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37913762)

China has the ability to remove their restrictions on exports, pulling the bottom out of the price for these elements and putting these companies out of business again. What happens then? Does the US subsidize them? Yes, trade wars and subsidies are bad, but we don't have many options if someone else starts them.

Re:What if the market changes? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913864)

It's been working for OPEC for a long time - maintaining prices *just* low enough that countries without such accessible oil struggle to compete as suppliers.

Re:What if the market changes? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914106)

What are you talking about? Oil prices have been up around $100 or more for several years.

Let's have a legit citation or a retraction.

Re:What if the market changes? (4, Informative)

Zancarius (414244) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914776)

China has the ability to remove their restrictions on exports, pulling the bottom out of the price for these elements and putting these companies out of business again.

You do realize that this is why the rare earth mining operations in the US were shut down in the first place: Because of subsidized Chinese exports undercutting the industry. They destroyed the rare earth industry in the US, Canada, and Australia once before. One would hope that we wouldn't let them do it again, but I have little faith in our leadership.

Re:What if the market changes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916866)

Maybe they learned the lesson about rare earth mining, but wanna bet the same situation will have to be repeated in a dozen fields before there are any larger changes in technology policy.

Re:What if the market changes? (1)

Zancarius (414244) | more than 2 years ago | (#37930782)

Maybe they learned the lesson about rare earth mining, but wanna bet the same situation will have to be repeated in a dozen fields before there are any larger changes in technology policy.

That's also a possibility, and I suspect the Chinese were banking on two things: 1) our complacency with increase price pressure on rare earths and 2) the length of time and start up costs for restarting mining operations. Both of these will only benefit the Chinese, and in the time #2 takes, they'll be able to decide just how much to subsidize their exports and have time to restart their own mining operations to push the price back down.

Its a start. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37913768)

This isn't the only key industry that China has undermined via mass subsidization and unashamed trade policy.
That popular political punching bag Solyndra faces the exact issue that drove nearly all of the worlds rare earth production to china.

We'll need to be more careful in the future, and not let china control entire sectors that become indispensable.

Re:Its a start. (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#37923556)

According to T.J.Rogers, Solyndra had inferior technology.

Radioactive spills? (3, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913784)

Ok, management was replaced. Fine. Probably needed. But that doesn't tell me if the pipes were fixed or how the new management proposes to not have that kind of issue in the future. Nor does it tell me if the new management is proposing any kind of additional cleanup that may be needed in those protected lands (doesn't matter that it was a while back - Bhopal still suffers from uncleaned pollution and Florida has a gigantic oil sludge that will haunt it for a long time no matter how much it's officially declared gone).

In short, yeah, new sources of Rare Earths are great but the Earth is also fairly high on the Rare list and I'd rather not need a new source.

Re:Radioactive spills? (1)

starfire83 (923483) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913876)

The radioactivity from the waste water deposits is so low it's just above normal background radiation but still fall under the EPA's guidelines for radioactive containment. You wouldn't want to go bathing in it but it wouldn't take decades to clean up, that's for sure. The accidents were no where near on the scale you're comparing it to.

Re:Radioactive spills? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914292)

Just above normal background radiation levels, but you wouldn't want to go bathing in it? Normal background radiation levels are perfectly safe for bathing.

Re:Radioactive spills? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914700)

Why wouldn't I want to be bathing in it? Maybe I wouldn't want to drink it, but bathing is fine. Heck, you have more radioactive water in some places and they are called "health spas".

Re:Radioactive spills? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915350)

Your stomach is more radioactive.

Re:Radioactive spills? (1)

pgpalmer (2015142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37925054)

*stunned* Really? Can you cite your source?

Re:Radioactive spills? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#37929312)

Your stomach is putting out more non-ionizing radiation in the IR range than a fist-sized lump of unprocessed yellowcake uranium ore.

And you shouldn't need a source to know that one. That should be common sense (high school level) if you understand what IR radiation is - heat.

Re:Radioactive spills? (1)

pgpalmer (2015142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37997438)

Ah, my mistake. It didn't click in my mind that infrared radiation = radioactivity. When I think of radioactivity, I tend to think of the ionizing particles. (Whenever books and film talk about something being 'radiologically active', they don't use mean 'it's warm'.)

Re:Radioactive spills? (1)

starfire83 (923483) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915290)

I don't particularly like bathing in dirty water to get clean. Do you?

Re:Radioactive spills? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914394)

More specifically: "rare earths" refers to the lanthanides, plus scandium and yttrium. Elements 57 through to 71, plus 21 and 39. Chemically, they're very similar to the actinides - elements 89 through 103. So it's very common for rare earth mineral bodies to have considerable amounts of thorium, uranium, and other low-level radioactive materials mixed in. In the context of rare earth mining, they're waste, and they're sufficiently radioactive that they have to be dealt with under - as starfire83 says - the EPA's rules.

So most rare earth mines have radioactive "contamination" to deal with. It's not particularly serious, and if thorium reactors get under way, that contamination will become pretty useful. But, at least for now, it means that low thorium resource bodies will command premium prices - because they have less radioactive material to deal with. Combine with the general boogey man that the public views any radioactive material as being (don't eat that banana!), and it's not as straightforward as it arguably should be.

Re:Radioactive spills? (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#37918480)

Banana joke wins. "Did you know that all that evil potassium in your body is constantly irradiating you?"

financial engineering (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913940)

see also: Kerr-Mcgee and Tronox

Re:Radioactive spills? (2)

Local ID10T (790134) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914126)

Former management was rendered into an environmentally friendly pipe reinforcement (glue) and applied to the defective areas of the pipes... new management is greatly motivated to avoid future accidents.

Strangely enough (1)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914328)

such a policy would probably work quite well.

Re:Strangely enough (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914452)

Mod Insightful or "To Be Implemented" please.

Re:Radioactive spills? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915034)

general scenario:

Country A doesn't do activity X because it may not be done in a "green" manner.
Country B has no such qualms and does activity X to great profit.
Dying the death of a thousand cuts, activity X, just one, eventually, Country A economically and politically weak.
Country B does activity X in their newly purchased Country A location, in an even less "green" manner.

Map (0)

Rick Richardson (87058) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913806)

http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=35.475,-115.53&spn=0.01,0.01&t=h&q=35.475,-115.53

The Chinese (4, Insightful)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913884)

... probably thought they were awfully clever for a while.

Nice to see the good guys get up once in a while. Here's hoping that government policy makes it easy for these guys to get started and start producing economically and profitably. The less that hostile and aggressive foreign powers have over us, the better.

Re:The Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916458)

What's your opinion on hostile and aggressive domestic powers?

ie chinese radioactive spills dont stop production (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913928)

the reason it got shut down is because you can't outcompete a country where environmental activists are put into labor camps.

pretty simple, and yet, almost every media story on this thing hides the truth in vague generalizations like "cost competition".
its not cost competition, its fucking slavery.

Japanese probably investing huge amounts of money (4, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37913974)

I wouldn't be surprised if the Japanese are pumping huge amounts of money into this venture right now. With the Japanese economy being heavily invested in industries that use these minerals Japan definitely wants to wean itself off of reliance on China, and the insanely strong yen makes investing in the US incredibly cheap right now. Japanese companies would be incredibly remiss if they weren't taking advantage of this opportunity(and they may even get support for the government who wants to weaken the yen)

Looks like Japan / USA just became good friends.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914496)

Or even better ones..

Re:Japanese probably investing huge amounts of mon (1)

starfire83 (923483) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915346)

Mitsubishi and Sumitomo, so far.

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/business/T101219002181.htm

Shortage is a matter of price (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914068)

Remember how in the 70s people complained we'll be out of gas by 2000? Then again in the 90s, we should be out of it by today. Now we have just enough gas to last us 'til the 2030s.

Do we keep finding so many sources? Well, not that many. But what we find is more sources that get profitable with rising prices. Oil sands in Alaska, you think anyone would have even thought of exploiting that while the barrel was at 20 bucks? Of course not. It's not profitable. At 140, we're talking.

It's almost the same with REMs. First of all, the name is misleading. They're not rare by definition. Well, aside of the radioactive Promethium. Cerium is amongst the most abundant elements on our Earth's crust. The problem with them is that they're fairly evenly distributed. There are few places where they can be extracted economically. With rising price, maybe sieving them from desert sand might be commercially interesting.

A "shortage" of REMs means about the same as a "shortage" of well educated personnel: There's only a shortage if you are unwilling to pay the price required to get what you want.

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (4, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914284)

Nobody in the 1970s or 1990s said we'd be out of gas by now. Except the usual few nut jobs, who today say we'll never run out.

What we learned in the 1970s is that global oil production would peak around 2010. Which it probably has, despite the kinds of big lies oil corps and oil producing nations tell. Those lies produced major "corrections" to Iraq's, Nigeria's and several other countries' "proven reserves" during the past decade, when they couldn't keep lying anymore about the truly dwindling size of what they have left.

We also learned in the 1970s that after the global peak, the global output would drop off at about the same rate it increased to the peak. Because in the early 1970s we saw Hubbert's predictions [wikipedia.org] made in 1956 about the US come true, validating his theories which next predicted global peak in the late 1990s.

Meanwhile global oil demand just increases. With falling supply past the peak, the shortages grow rapidly.

Oil sands and tar sands are profitable only to the extractors and sellers until it's pollution. But then the costs keep coming, all externalized onto the general public (and worst onto the poorest in the public). $140 is still too little to pay for all the costs including the damage. But indeed the oil corps are talking about anything they can put into a barrel at $140 per. Regardless of who really has to pay the rest.

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916792)

That the price of a barrel is way more than 140 if you include the cost to clean up afterwards is a given. But as long as oil corps needn't pay that price, it's profitable to them.

If they have to pay, it's just not yet profitable.

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37918162)

But they don't have to pay, so it's profitable. Vastly profitable, as their record profits (during a record depression) prove beyond any doubt. And it didn't take $140 barrels to get those profits; most of the time the price was $90-120. And it didn't take those record profits to make producing the oil worthwhile; even at half the profits they were the most profitable corps on Earth, producing all around the globe.

You're arguing that oil is too expensive to drill in many countries until it sells for $140 or close to it. But the facts prove you wrong. You can't defend it with an hypothetical condition that's not necessary to cause them to act, as they already have.

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922048)

Maybe 60 would be enough to make exploiting the oil deposits we know of today profitable. The 20 bucks of the 70s just don't, and that's pretty much what I said. Back then, we had resources 'til the 90s because even the other deposits known were simply not profitable at 20 bucks. 60 bucks a barrel, though, is probably enough to make exploiting the current drilling fields profitable. But why sell for 60 if you can sell for 120? Supply and demand...

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (1)

bkaul01 (619795) | more than 2 years ago | (#37919562)

Aren't you kind of begging the question there by assuming that anyone producing evidence against those peak oil predictions is necessarily lying? I'm not saying there will never be a production peak/pretending that the supply is infinite, but I'm also not going to assume that a few vociferous alarmists are preaching the gospel truth and anyone who shows evidence to the contrary is a dirty liar ...

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#37923858)

Earth to be destroyed in giant fireball. The poor to be hardest hit.

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914338)

We used to pay ~5/kg for CeLaOxide a couple years ago while it currently sits at ~50/kg. Its a nice little cash extortion racket China has.

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916810)

We used to pay 30 bucks for the barrel of crude oil, too.

Ain't it nice to see that the commies finally learned our law of supply and demand?

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915148)

Nobody expected the Japanese car to be so fuel efficient either, or that the price of petrol would more than triple, at the least that is the case here in Australia, I'm mid-20's and I remember when petrol was 40 cents a Litre, the price is now $1.44/L

And our income hasn't gone up by much at all. Matter of fact with higher land rates, the cost of a new home skyrocketing, the cost of full 3rd party CTP and Comprehensive insurance being $1,400 a year for 1 male of my age, it might aswell be $5 a Litre, add to that a $400 tax to the government for paying for roads and two shiney metal things to stick on the front and back of my car.

Gee you might aswell say that Australia is just barely holding onto the Car.

The worst part is that the poorer people have to live with the older cars, the ones which guzzle down 10 litres of gas just to get through 1 small town, because of course everyone is driving Japanese cars, and driving like idiots too, doing 20km/h-50km/h over the speed limit in every region, unless of course there is a speed trap, then everyone slows down for a second or two, then speeds back up again.

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915444)

cerium? what the fuck?

Oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, titanium, carbon, hydrogen, manganese, phosphorus, fluorine, sulfur, strontium, barium, tungsten, vanadium, chlorine, chromium, zirconium, nickel, zinc, copper, cerium. It's three times more common than lithium and ten times more common than thorium. Even so, I really wouldn't call it "one of the most common". I think that should be reserved for stuff from sulfur up.

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37916088)

1. Cerium is not common
2. We are out of natural gas in north america, at least out of conventional natural gas. Current gas supplies are thanks to fracking, something that didn't exist prior to early 2000s.

Re:Shortage is a matter of price (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#37924080)

We are out of natural gas in north america, at least out of conventional natural gas. Current gas supplies are thanks to fracking, something that didn't exist prior to early 2000s.

The fact that doomsayers base their predictions on static technology is just one reason among many that they so often turn out wrong.

Some analysts are saying that the North American natural gas supplies now becoming practical represent a 100 year supply. Sounds overly optimistic to me, but there's surely enough to give lots of breathing room for the development of unrelated energy technologies.

Recycling! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37914180)

I'd still like to know where all that silicon and rare-earths are going from that past 20+ years of old technology that has been thrown out.

Yes, I'm aware of the shipments to Africa and Asia where they hobby smelt out gold and the like to scrape by a living, all the while getting lead/arsenic poisoning. Why are we not keeping all that here, in the US, and recycling it?

Here's an idea. subject all of said electronics to liquid N/H and shatter it. In a good closed environment, you could also re-purpose the N/H that goes into the air, and put it back into liquid form. Yes, this is reaching, but isn't part of the whole problem with re-using silicon and the like, getting it back to its constituent parts, i.e., elements?

How is there not a legitimate market here????

Re:Recycling! (2)

Goaway (82658) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914370)

The earth's crust is about 28% silicon. We're not going to need to recycle that any time soon.

Those jobs are NEVER coming back? (0)

Tailhook (98486) | more than 2 years ago | (#37914532)

We hear the refrain that jobs lost overseas are 'never coming back.' Yet the first time an impediment to supply appears mines get reopened, and in CA no less. Despite the fact that those workers will be paid living wages and probably have union representation you'll still be able to afford your iPhone. No, California's precious 'environment' won't be destroyed. The next time some wag claims this or that job is lost forever you'll know better.

There is an undercurrent building in the US. The effect of >70% of all imports being tariff free is too obvious to ignore any longer. The US has been trading away its prosperity for dubious diplomatic achievements [washington.edu] for decades. People have caught on. The 'oh noes trade war!' cry won't work any more.

When you get down to it with the common leftist they'll tell you they don't want industry returning to the US. Exporting pollution to Asia is just fine with them. Their leaders never hesitate to sign [wikipedia.org] away [whitehouse.gov] more of our trade leverage. Today the left's union allies are mostly service sector and government; they simply don't care about the industrial base.

While the big-business wing of the Republican party is all about 'free' trade, the party also harbors a buchanan wing of anti 'free' trade types. Curiously, that stripe is completely unrepresented among all of our presidential candidates today. I predict that will change; when someone that can articulate the problems inherent in trying to compete with disposable workers and indifferent regulation finally appears they will discover a broad and deep well of support.

Re:Those jobs are NEVER coming back? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37915224)

"At the east end of town,at the foot of the hill,
There's a chimney so tall,it says Belfast mill,
But there's no smoke at all coming out of the stack,
For the mill has shut down,and its never coming back.
[Chorus]
And the only tune I hear is the sound of the wind,
As she blows through the town weave and spin,weave and spin."
          The Fureys

Those jobs never came back.

Re:Those jobs are NEVER coming back? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#37916190)

Why would you set up shop in the US? You have to "pay" the dems and reps, locals and feds.
Then on going taxes, federal green issues, workers and toxic locals with very good legal teams.
In many parts of the world you pay one good entry bribe and solve the rest with a death squad.
No ngo, tribal leader, green group, press, political or labor leaders to worry about.
In Australia you "invest" and if your workforce is dying you pay out an always low soft capped amount in court with very very little press.

Re:Those jobs are NEVER coming back? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 2 years ago | (#37924228)

Cheap foreign labor, if the foreigners are not prohibited from saving their earnings, is a self-solving "problem." They get our money in exchange for their goods. Over time they accumulate money, and the more they have, the less they are willing to work cheaply. Eventually they come close to parity, like Japan. "Problem" solved.

There is hope in this (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#37915360)

We need a more robust semiconductor industry. More locally-available REs would hopefully (idealistcally) cause a price drop from local suppliers, making their equipment more affordable. For the local LED industry, this could be a MAJOR boost.

Largest rare earth mine in the world ... (1)

Jerry (6400) | more than 2 years ago | (#37922528)

was recently discovered in Nebraska [axcessnews.com] .

"Quantum Rate Earth Developments (TSX-V: QRE; OTC: QREDF) acquired the rights to what the U.S. Geological Survey called one of the largest deposits of niobium globally. The rare earth property, a 14-square-mile track of farmland in S.E. Nebraska, could employ hundreds once the mine is developed. ..."

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