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Rare Earth Elements Found In Jamaican Mud

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the worth-more-than-the-common-and-uncommon-earth-elements dept.

Businesses 100

stevegee58 writes "Jamaica was once home to a thriving bauxite (aluminum ore) industry. While Jamaican bauxite mining may have fallen on hard times, it seems that the bauxite tailings in the form of red mud are rich in rare earth elements. Japanese researchers have discovered rare earth elements in high concentrations in this red mud and have already invested $3M in a pilot project to extract them. Perhaps Chinese dominance of rare earth deposits is on the wane as global manufacturers continue to search for and find other deposits of these valuable minerals."

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100 comments

Ok, let's all wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599691)

Let's see how long somebody claims that the Rare Earth Elements are not rare.

We'll offer to trade their supply for some iron.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (3, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#42599855)

You mean, let's see how long until we declare that the Jamaican people need to be "liberated".

Or . . . how long until we need to send a massive force there after a "natural disaster" to help out.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599951)

You mean, let's see how long until we declare that the Jamaican people need to be "liberated".

Or . . . how long until we need to send a massive force there after a "natural disaster" to help out.

Hey it's alright. Finally niggers have something of value other than cocaine and guns and welfare!

Re:Ok, let's all wait (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42600337)

You mean, let's see how long until we declare that the Jamaican people need to be "liberated".

Or . . . how long until we need to send a massive force there after a "natural disaster" to help out.

Hey it's alright. Finally niggers have something of value other than cocaine and guns and welfare!

WTF. You are a complete fuckwit!

"natural disaster" (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#42600059)

Or . . . how long until we need to send a massive force there after a "natural disaster" to help out.

Oh, that can be arranged ...

Re:Ok, let's all wait (1, Insightful)

black6host (469985) | about a year ago | (#42600093)

You mean, let's see how long until we declare that the Jamaican people need to be "liberated".

Or . . . how long until we need to send a massive force there after a "natural disaster" to help out.

In the old days one might interpret "massive force" as military. I think we could go straight to a massive corporate presence as it is they who control things anyway. If that doesn't work then we have trade sanctions, etc and finally the military. If this scenario is not for today, my guess is it will be soon.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#42600869)

"Corporate presence" and "military" are getting close all the time. Blackwater (whatever its name is this week) has the largest non-governmental arsenal in the world, larger than some countries in fact.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (3, Informative)

nu1x (992092) | about a year ago | (#42601267)

Academi, formerly known as Xe, formerly known as Blackwater -- killing people, for money !

Ahoy !!

Re:Ok, let's all wait (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42600141)

Luckily, Jamaican people really do need to be liberated from violent crime. Especially gay Jamaican people.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42600429)

Maybe they shouldn't act like faggots.

Re: Ok, let's all wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42600477)

They aren't acting.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#42600675)

Really? You are suggesting that the US will invade Jamaica to get rare earth metals? Go Obama?

Re:Ok, let's all wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42602841)

Really? You are suggesting that the US will invade Jamaica to get rare earth metals? Go Obama?

Since the US will only intervene in places where there's money to be had it isn't an unreasonable conclusion.

In this case they'd probably give them favorable trade or immigration policies in return for first access to this stuff at a cheaper price.

Or do you still think the US goes into places on moral principle and Iraq was about terrorism? Because America pretty much ignores the places where there isn't economic gain to be had even if they pose bigger security risks.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42601125)

You mean like France is now liberating Mali. Third biggest producer of gold in Africa, with natural resources such as uranium.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (1)

aurispector (530273) | about a year ago | (#42601927)

Mali is essentially a failed state with islamic jihadis fronting the "revolution". Nice guys, those.

If they take over, nobody will mine anything in their religious paradise on earth.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (0)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#42602919)

You mean, let's see how long until we declare that the Jamaican people need to be "liberated".

Probably never. We only "liberate" countries that resist our influence and don't have the military might to get away with it. I could be wrong, but I don't recall hearing anything to suggest that Jamaica's leaders were no longer for sale to the US.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#42600425)

"We'll offer to trade their supply for some *xx-iron-xx* lead."

/Sorry, /. doesn't do <strike>

Re:Ok, let's all wait (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42601119)

Yes they are not rare, why so many articles about new deposits? The problem is the processing industry. It is difficult to separate the individual rare earths since they are chemically very similar. The industrie needed for this is expensive and dirty.

Re:Ok, let's all wait (0)

davydagger (2566757) | about a year ago | (#42605141)

they are not rare.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element

they are called such because outdated naming conventions. They are all over the globe, and very common. They are "rare" because they never occur in any more than trace amounts, and its a great effort to refine them, and tons of dirt to dig to get them

In fact the largest mine used to be in california, before it got shut down for enviromental reasons, like what the chineese are doing now with their mines.

Jamaican Rum is like... (4, Funny)

isopropanol (1936936) | about a year ago | (#42599695)

Mudders Milk..

Re:Jamaican Rum is like... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599981)

i want to suck on your mother's milk makers

Re:Jamaican Rum is like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42603905)

Yeah, and when she drinks a fifth of vodka beforehand, it's like a white russian!

Awww, man (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599703)

There goes my investment in Bucky Balls.

"continue to search for and find other deposits" (5, Informative)

trdtaylor (2664195) | about a year ago | (#42599709)

You make it sound like China is the only place in the world for Rare Earth metal deposits. The United States has the largest known deposits of Rare Earth metals, with mining plans in the works as we speak.

Most important part of this story is extraction of rare earth metals that does not harm the local environment / still profitable

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (4, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#42599771)

Read up on Bukit Merah, Malaysia where rare earth metals where processed slag from old tin mines.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/business/energy-environment/09rareside.html?_r=0 [nytimes.com]
Thats the PR you have to face when you want to set up and "not harm the local environment"... in 201x
You wonder why press releases talk of not doing rare earth projects in Australia due to
power, water, chemical costs ...
for some reason they go back to 'other' parts of the world :)

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599879)

I'd love to wish that companies would not be so stupid as to leave 80,000 barrels of radioactive waste lying around, but like they say about wishing in one hand and peeing in another...

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (4, Informative)

Carnildo (712617) | about a year ago | (#42599843)

"Rare earths" aren't really all that rare. What's rare is finding them in high concentrations.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (4, Insightful)

Fnkmaster (89084) | about a year ago | (#42599893)

Funny, I thought what was rare was finding them in high concentrations in places where labor is cheap and environmental laws lax.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (4, Interesting)

NReitzel (77941) | about a year ago | (#42601363)

Finding "rare" earths isn't that difficult. In this country, the problem is that rare earth elements (technically lanthanides) are invariably associated with the other f-series elements (the actinides), specifically thorium. Mining rare earths produces thorium oxide as a byproduct, and "disposing" of this ought-to-be-valuable stuff is a real difficulty. In China, it's less of a problem, for two reasons. First, it's apparently OK to dump radioactive waste in your local waterway, and second, the Chinese government doesn't shun all things nuclear. Like reactors, and bombs, and Oh Yes, thorium deposits.

Now, finding rare earth deposits with almost no thorium in them is a real feat, and getting the US government to find ways to store thorium would a world-class miracle.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#42601673)

Now, finding rare earth deposits with almost no thorium in them is a real feat, and getting the US government to find ways to store thorium would a world-class miracle.

Are you saying that the issue is that there's no way of storing thorium acceptable to the regulators, or that you want to have the government responsible for handling the cost of storage? Because those are very different things: The first case is legitimately the regulator's fault, but the second case is businesses just trying to make the taxpayers pay their costs of doing business.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (1)

Creepy (93888) | about a year ago | (#42604319)

Actually, the first assertion is very close to the truth - the NRC highly regulates access to thorium because of proliferation concerns, even though you'd need a nuclear reactor to make it into a useable nuclear weapon and it wouldn't be terribly effective in a dirty bomb. China just dumps it into landfills. It is an insoluble metal, so worries about it getting into the water table (alpha emitters are only really only dangerous if ingested, and thorium is a relatively slow one) is probably a non-issue.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42602153)

Uhm why not just put the Thorium back into the mine, where it came from?

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (3, Informative)

careysub (976506) | about a year ago | (#42603363)

Uhm why not just put the Thorium back into the mine, where it came from?

That is often impossible in an active mine, and in a strip mining situation there is no "mine" to put it into.

By its nature mining takes solid consolidated rock in which nasty materials are locked up (which is why they are there to be found in concentrated form) and turns it into powder from which is now easily leached or transported by water and wind. It is possible to find ways to secure the tails, but that costs money and drives up prices (making the product less competitive) or cuts into profits, both of which mining companies hate. Only strict outside (usually government) oversight keeps mining companies from turning most every mine site into a leaky, ugly toxic waste dump.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (1)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about a year ago | (#42604167)

Now, finding rare earth deposits with almost no thorium in them is a real feat, and getting the US government to find ways to store thorium would a world-class miracle.

No, a world class miracle would be getting the U. S. government to fund the development of an LFTR that would provide the world with essentially unlimited cheap electricity, provide us with ample supples of rare earth elements and other exotic but useful isotopes as a side effect, generate almost no nuclear waste (LFTR consumes nearly all of the meso-scale "waste" like plutonium and turns it into energy), in a process that cannot melt down (the reaction just stops) in a reactor vessel that is not pressurized, using fuel that does not have to be hand assembled and delivered only by the company that made your reactor originally, at a small fraction of the cost of solid Uranium Oxide fuel, using reactions that make it relatively difficult to build bombs undetected, while eliminating world (energy) poverty without the use of carbon (whether or not you happen to think CO_2 is a problem, carbon fuels release more radioactivity than all the nuclear plants on earth combined times 100, soot, a variety of known carcinogens, teratogenic mercury, and acid precursors).

But no, we have to protect General Electric and Westinghouse and our ability to scavenge plutonium from expended and enormously expensive fuel. Big oil or coal is happy to invest all sorts of chump change in solar and wind projects because they know that they are not viable without subsidy and the subsidy is always enough to make them break even or win a bit economically without threatening their main profit stream. Thorium would disrupt the entire energy delivery system and drop the cost of energy in all forms dramatically, at the expense of huge recurring profits for some huge players that make equally huge contributions to the entire political establishment. So while storing thorium would make enormous sense, we will neither store it nor invest in using it until the need to do so exceeds the price of votes in Washington. Which, sadly, will be around a decade after the Chinese perfect the technology and market it to the entire world, including us, while maintaining a virtual monopoly on the heavier rare earths (as noted, almost always found with Thorium as a "pollutant"). Hell, even fusion might happen first, and that is an uphill battle all the way.

It's actually an excellent bellwether of the Green movement. At the moment, it is perfectly happy to condemn two billion plus of the world's population to continue to live in energy poverty so profound that they burn dung to cook on, wash clothes (if at all) by hand, and use oil lamps (if anything) to light the night while pushing enormous sums into technologies (like wind) that are visibly a major fail and will remain so into the indefinite future. They trumpet the dangers of CO_2 and catastrophic global warming in the distant future while perpetuating the ongoing real time catastrophe that affects over a third of the earth's population right now, while playing into the hands of the very agents that provide the carbon based power they demonize as the alternatives they push are not technologically or economically feasible (yet).

The one existing technology that "could" permit the continuation of civilization and reduction of global poverty while reducing CO_2 production at a feasible cost is nuclear (which is not a single technology but a many technologies, some of them the subject of research and development). Thorium based reactors are in a sense proven technology -- they were built back in the 60s and 70s and successfully run long enough to verify that they are indeed almost certainly a safe, meltdown-proof nuclear technology with far lower risks and far greater benefits in every category from cost to waste to nuclear proliferation -- but they do require four or five years of intensive research to complete an engineering cycle to scale. The day the Greens recognize this and take their foot off of the backs of the world's poorest people, the day the US government wakes up to the idea that Thorium could actually provide the energy needed to run a global civilization on a millennial time scale at an acceptable cost and without producing CO_2 as a side effect, that's the day I'll believe that CO_2 is something other than a complex scam by people who hate civilization -- except when it benefits them personally. You don't see many Greens washing their clothes by hand on river rocks, going to bed when the sun goes down, and cooking their food on dried dung.

rgb

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42600047)

The better description is that the rare earth metal industry is china is like the corn industry in the states. They have been subsidized to destroy the competition.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#42600277)

The subsidy part could be compared, but not the destroying competition. No one else even WANTS to grow corn to compete - the subsidy is because of all the farmers who don't know how to do anything else, so they keep growing it when no one even wants it.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year ago | (#42601081)

Wow, that's an even bigger waste of taxpayers money than I originally thought. Can't they use the money to educate the farmers how to grow something useful and which foodstuff will grow on their land?

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42603747)

Can't they use the money to educate the farmers how to grow something useful and which foodstuff will grow on their land?

But that's socialist command economy talk! Farmers should be allowed to grow whatever they want, that's a free market!

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (1)

MrNiceguy_KS (800771) | about a year ago | (#42604213)

The free market says eliminate the subsidies - farmers will figure out for themselves whether it still makes sense to grow corn.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#42605653)

And now you understand why most American cattle are corn fed (even through grass is their natural food, healthier for the cattle and tastes better for the beef consumer), soft drinks use high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar, and fuel ethanol is based on corn instead of other significantly more efficient ethanol sources...

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (1)

jrumney (197329) | about a year ago | (#42601225)

Most important part of this story is extraction of rare earth metals that does not harm the local environment / still profitable

/ in a country that is willing to overlook the environmental and health issues.

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42608315)

The United States has the largest known deposits of Rare Earth metals, with mining plans in the works as we speak.

And they were sold to the Chinese. (China is not done buying them yet.)

Re:"continue to search for and find other deposits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42609407)

You think so; try to buy them- they all come from china. Unitl a politician figures out a way to line their pockets or finance a campaign- nothing will be done about it.

"high concentrations" are still low... (4, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42599711)

Must be quite low concentrations still, as otherwise they would have certainly known about it before. After all they've been mining bauxite there already, so certainly done a lot more research on that specific mud than on most of the rest of the mud on Earth.

Re:"high concentrations" are still low... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599863)

Hardly. That testing costs money, and most of it is residue from decades before the rare earths were relevant.

Just ask how the Culliname was found. Sheer dumb luck.

Well Hurray for Mud! (1)

rve (4436) | about a year ago | (#42600459)

The place I live has an abundance of mud. The mud here is heavy and pitch black, and absolutely everywhere some 9 months of the year. It would probably be good for growing food if temperatures ever rose over 65 degrees. If only it were as useful as that rare Jamaican mud, this place would be rich.

Re:Well Hurray for Mud! (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#42600813)

It's official. We have discovered Elbonia. Soon, Jamaica's principal export will be mud.

Re:Well Hurray for Mud! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42601161)

65 degrees is already 20 degrees over the point where proteins start to degenerate.

Re:Well Hurray for Mud! (2)

Ed_1024 (744566) | about a year ago | (#42601431)

This mud is no ordinary mud. There are significant deposits of Ganjonium, Tokalite and Reeferine alongside the rare earths...

Maybe not (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#42600831)

The tailings may be gravity seperated into conveniently concentrated layers especially if a lot of water was involved.

the USA has it too (0)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#42599751)

Rare earth elements are in the usa also. Hell, diamonds and emeralds are sprinkled all throughout the carolinas too, but they're just not extracted. PArt of the reason for that is the cost of extraction. But another part of the reason is "hey why not let the other guy extract all of their mineral content and we BUY it from them, and save our own minerals for when they finally run out. Then we can use ours AND we won't have to share ours with them!"
.
Pretty much strip mine and use the other guys/gals stuff before we even touch our shares. (Like the mormons who keep a stockpile of grain and such to last them for a year or longer in case something drastic happens on this earth. Until then, they keep buying from the grocery store like everyone else. Use up other's resources before using up our own!)

Re:the USA has it too (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599833)

Hell, diamonds and emeralds are sprinkled all throughout the carolinas too

Is it really that bad in the Carolinas?

Re:the USA has it too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599911)

i chuckled. but i kept it on the inside.

Re:the USA has it too (2)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#42600037)

Haha. As a Californian, I can sympathize with west-coastie-toasties who do feel that being stuck in the Carolinas is "hell", but I truly did not intend to imply that sort of meaning at all. Hell is more likely to be sprinkled amongst the 'zonies with the constant left-turn blinkers on! (ducks for cover as the 'zonies get their GPS's to recalculate their bearings to come attack me with bad driving...) ;>)

Re:the USA has it too (1)

mortonda (5175) | about a year ago | (#42602583)

Haha. As a Californian, I can sympathize with west-coastie-toasties who do feel that being stuck in the Carolinas is "hell",

Funny, I was thinking the same thing about being stuck in California... ;)

Re:the USA has it too (2)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about a year ago | (#42604539)

Hell yes! Sapphires too. Even gold mines (one of the largest gold mines in the world prior to the California gold rush is a few miles from where I'm sitting). But you do have to watch out if you want to mine any of this stuff, or you'll catch hell.

North Carolina has Uranium as well, but there is so strong a NIMBY movement that any politician that suggested that we mine it and achieve energy independence in the state would find himself going to hell in a handbasket. Thorium too -- in the form of Monzanite Sands, which are -- surprise -- around 24% lanthanum, about 17% neodymium, and full of other useful stuff as well. The minute somebody realizes that national "rare earth shortages" are complete bullshit caused almost entirely by our reluctance to treat Thorium as a potentially useful nuclear fuel instead of as a pollutant, there will be hell to pay, but in the long run North Carolina has more than enough heaven in it to compensate.

Personally, sitting as I am a mere fifteen or twenty miles from Shearon-Harris (a pressurized water nuclear plant with one of the largest nuclear waste cooling pool facilities in the world) I'd be thrilled if our state took a hell of a risk and directly invested in the promotion of rare earth mining with the deliberate extraction of the associated Thorium and in the further investment in Thorium based nuclear reactors that produce "no" nuclear waste in comparison with Uranium Oxide, but between NIMBY and corporate interests that currently make shit-piles of money providing UO fuel or coal based energy, it will be a cold day in Half Hell, NC before that happens.

rgb

Jamaica has a BoB Sled Team! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599785)

Go Team Jah!

Know what to expect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599825)

A tsunami or earthquake soon, followed by militant compassion, aka US intervention.

Rare Earths (4, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#42599845)

Rare earths are NOT rare. They are in fact abundant in the crust.

The problem with these materials is that deposits of rare earths are usually associated with stuff like Thorium. This makes the mining waste rather annoying.

China has been willing to ignore this problem thereby cornering the market. Now they are getting the idea that being the world depository of rare earth mining waste may not be a good idea and are declining to sell to every Tom Disk and Harry at cut rate prices.

So folks are looking for alternatives. The bauxite one sounds interesting.

Re:Rare Earths (3, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#42600089)

Thorium? Problem?

I thought there was a potential nuclear fuel cycle under development that uses Thorium. So, while it may require some special handling, it has value and isn't a waste product to be dealt with.

Re:Rare Earths (2)

Telvin_3d (855514) | about a year ago | (#42600361)

Thorium's not particularly rare either. And like most radioactive material it's far too big a pain-in-the-ass to bother with actually stockpiling it long term. The long term costs of string it will almost always exceed the cost of just refining it when needed.

Re:Rare Earths (1)

careysub (976506) | about a year ago | (#42600929)

Since there is virtually no market for thorium at present (world trade figures are in the single digit tons), and none for the foreseeable future, it is a waste product that must be dealt with.

Re:Rare Earths (0)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#42601939)

it has value and isn't a waste product to be dealt with

the interests that control the USG are against the development of thorium-cycle reactors. And the USG will kill people to see to it that thorium-cycle reactors aren't available on a commercial scale anytime soon. Anybody who thinks this is incorrect is welcome to go ahead and start building one without their permission - if you have a way to succeed let me know and I'll invest!

Re:Rare Earths (2)

careysub (976506) | about a year ago | (#42603139)

the interests that control the USG are against the development of thorium-cycle reactors. And the USG will kill people to see to it that thorium-cycle reactors aren't available on a commercial scale anytime soon.

Which is why the U.S. is active in the international Generation IV reactor research effort, that includes thorium powered designs?
http://www.gen-4.org/ [gen-4.org]
http://www.gen-4.org/Technology/systems/msr.htm [gen-4.org]

Re:Rare Earths (1)

Creepy (93888) | about a year ago | (#42604665)

The US/US industry doesn't care about thorium reactors - the industry is only interested in the Integral Fast Reactor, burning uranium. At least IFR can burn nuclear waste, so it isn't a total loss, but we've already lost the race to develop them to Russia by continuously canceling our test reactors (Russia has two ~2000MW online and is building a full scale reactor from what I remember). The industry estimates that IFRs burning just nuclear wast can power the world for 1500 years. When the US (and British) nuclear industry talks about thorium, they ALWAYS mean in solid fuel reactors where it is an inferior fuel. When thorium advocates talk about thorium, they ALWAYS mean in a liquid fuel design based on the 1960s molten salt reactor experiment (MSRE).

The private industry, China, and France seem to be the only ones that like LFTR (liquid fluoride thorium reactor, the modern update to the MSRE, though France's is liquid lithium, a less toxic salt, so it should be LLTR, but they call it something else), so even if the US eventually goes that direction, we will be last to develop a reactor and buy that tech from other countries. The US is no longer an innovator in this area, we are a consumer, and the NRC and congress is at fault for most of it.

Re:Rare Earths (2)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about a year ago | (#42604837)

There is a major difference between talk and prototyping. We built small scale prototypes of liquid thorium salt reactors forty or fifty years ago, but politics shut down the development when money was requested to go the next step and build a prototype to scale. We could pick up where we left off in less than a year if money were committed not to paper research that delays the project indefinitely but to prototyping and practical engineering, actually building one or more of the damn things and tinkering as we go to solve engineering problems in situ, not in theoretical analysis.

We could revive the last working thorium design in at most a year or two -- it didn't take that long to build the first time. We could be working on scaling it up in parallel, so that we had a working scale model in four or five years tops. We could be building working full scale LFTR power plants by 2020, and could solve both the "carbon problem" and the world's energy poverty problem by 2030 to 2040 and coast to world peace and abundance by 2050. The cost through the working scale model is on the order of a few billion dollars, tops. We used to spend that much in Iraq every week.

Or we could continue to dick around investing billions into wind power that requires the rare earth magnets that come from processing Thorium rich salts somewhere and that don't generate power when the wind doesn't blow, which is most of the time. We could continue to drop billions down the rat-hole of defending "free" access to major oil deposits under the guise of defending national security or promoting personal and religious freedoms for people living half a world away. We can make bankers and corporate interests rich with complex 'carbon trading' schemes that so far have had zero effect on global CO_2 levels at enormous annualized costs, costs so great that they probably single handedly caused the European banking crisis (or could have ameliorated it in any event). We spend more money on long-shot always a decade away fusion energy than we do on LFTR, and burned more federal money on solar cells in one failed company than it would cost to get started on LFTR.

There is a singular lack of urgency in thorium based energy research and investment. Too many people make too much money within the status quo.

rgb

Re:Rare Earths (1)

haruchai (17472) | about a year ago | (#42600285)

China isn't "ignoring" the problem, they're refining and stockpiling the thorium. If their molten-salt reactor research pays off, they'll have decades of supply on hand.

If not, they can use it in CANDU-style reactors.

Re:Rare Earths (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42602021)

Tom disk... LOL

Failed operation (4, Informative)

SysKoll (48967) | about a year ago | (#42599937)

The Chinese government had grabbed the rare earth market by cutting down prices (yes, labor camps and lax pollution rules help). Then they restricted supply, attempting to force Western manufacturers to bring to China all productions of materials using rare earths. Within months, out-of-China RE production that was shut down because of cost resumed, and prices actually went down. It's all in this amusing article [theregister.co.uk] written by a guy who used to trade this stuff.

Time to (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42599949)

FREE THE SHIT OUT OF THEM!

Bauxite scandal in India (2, Interesting)

Frankie70 (803801) | about a year ago | (#42599969)

http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/how-big-business-gets-its-way [openthemagazine.com]

Locals jailed for all kinds of silly reasons if they opposed the mining.

Re:Bauxite scandal in India (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#42600017)

Isn't it... funny... how the adorable little theories about 'contracts' and 'consenting parties' dissolve when they hit the ground?

Oh no! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42600019)

One less reason for the "we're running out of metals!" schizophrenics to trot out their tired Space Age "asteroid mining" propaganda....

I hope it pans out for them (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#42600183)

Jamaica could stand some good luck for a change.

Re:I hope it pans out for them (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42601181)

I wonder how long it takes for the US to "liberate" them... for the people! and justice! and freedom! ... oh wait, my bad, this is not oil we're talking about. Move along?

Next step... (2, Insightful)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about a year ago | (#42600211)

So, China created an artificial monopoly by selling below cost and driving all other producers out of business...

Then raised prices and restricted supply to drive costs up....

And the free market responded with new suppliers entering the market...

So China will let them spend billions of dollars developing their new sources, and we'll all go back to step 1 before they make a dimes worth of profit.

Re:Next step... (1)

Dahamma (304068) | about a year ago | (#42600317)

Unless other countries finally say fuck this and put tariffs on Chinese rare earths. I'm not a big fan of tariffs for protectionism, but punitive tariffs can be pretty useful.

China's doing fine (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year ago | (#42600445)

Instead of selling "rare" earths for 1M times the extraction cost, they will tell 10x as much at only 500K extraction costs. Net win.

Go Japan Go! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42600461)

I don't know if anyone recalls, but weren't the Japanese also responsible for finding rich deep sea deposits (the richest on Earth so far I believe) recently? Man, they must be looking for it really hard LOL Anything to beat the Chinese stranglehold is a good thing.

Not Rare (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42601303)

Rare Earth Elements aren't, by any stretch, Rare. Processing them has just been cost prohibitive, (from the sense that doing ANYTHING outside of China is cost-prohibitive). No one *cough* realised *cough* that a super power having an industrial growth-spurt might be a bad place to rely on for necessary ingredients in nearly all electronics being produced.

Hell, it was a few years ago that China said screw you guys, I'm going home, and keeping the Rare-Earth elements for our own factories, and we still haven't really started any development, (remember, planning != development). It's basically fiscal brinksmanship.

Large Companies, (who control 99% of the world's wealth), didn't start acting like idiotics in 2008.

olde news.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42601609)

This has already been noted, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Resort_%28U.S._TV_series%29 for details.
Apparently, it's turning out to be quite the drama.

CAPTCHA = salutes!

Last Resort (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42602461)

So Last Resort had some truth to it?

Like Diamonds (1)

nebular (76369) | about a year ago | (#42602833)

Reminds me of Diamonds. DeBeers got away with, in many cases, literal murder while having a near monopoly on the african diamond mines. As far as people knew then, that was the only place to get diamonds. Now they're showing up all over the place.

Been pretty good for the Northern Canadian economy, hopefully rare earth elements will do the same for Jamaica.

Just dirt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42603567)

To some, it is just dirt. To others, it is the dragon's hoard! If you want treasure, usually you don't have to go any further than your own back yard... :-)

I thought he said Jamaican Bud... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42604993)

there are some rare elements in that for sure!

"Chinese dominance of REE deposits" = misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42608463)

There's plenty of rare earths (including heavies) in North America.

THORIUM PROBLEM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyqYP6f66Mw

I don't doubt many folks on Slashdot have seen this already, but I'd hope we'd see REE posts focus on not so much WHERE REEs can be found, as WHY are they not being developed and separated into supply chain assets.

News at 11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42610591)

Islamist terrorists seeking to control worlds rare earth metal market via Jamaica. US launches pre-emptive war to bring democracy to Jamaica.

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