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Major Find By Japanese Scientists May Threaten Chinese Rare Earth Hegemony

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the spread-the-wealth dept.

Japan 189

cold fjord writes "It looks like deep sea exploration may pay off big time as Japanese scientists have located rich deposits of rare earth elements on the sea floor in Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone waters, following up on their find two years ago of huge deposits of rare earths in mid-Pacific waters. The cumulative effect of these finds could significantly weaken Chinese control of 90% of the world supply of rare earth metals, which the Chinese have been using to flex their muscles. The concentration of rare earth metals in the Japanese find is astonishing: up to 6,500 ppm, versus 500-1,000 ppm for Chinese mines. The newly identified deposits are just 2-4 meters below sea floor which could make for relatively easy mining compared to the 10+ meters they were expecting... if they can get there. The fact that the deposits are 5,700 meters deep means there is just one or two little problems to resolve : 'A seabed oil field has been developed overseas at a depth of 3,000 meters. . . But the development of seabed resources at depths of more than 5,000 meters has no precedent, either at home or abroad. There remains a mountain of technological challenges, including how to withstand water pressure and ocean currents and how to process the mining products in the ocean, sources said.'"

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Oh good, undersea mining (-1, Flamebait)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#43270017)

What could possibly go wrong? Japan's record of treating the ocean well is exemplary, right?

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (5, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43270081)

That's basically space technology - building autonomous vehicles operating in extreme conditions doing useful work. Almost like space mining, although in a different environment. For the Japanese, this could be their equivalent of the Apollo project. I find it an interesting technical challenge. But you're right that if rare earth elements are the only thing to be extracted from these seabeds, they'll end up with huge piles of tailings. Well, I guess that would be one of the the tough tech problem to crack...

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270175)

Can you point to a place in space that has the concentration of minerals you want, and is as easily and cheaply accessible as the ocean? Yeah, didn't think so. Put your Star Trek fantasies to rest, they will never happen. Just like the fantasies of manned communication satellites in the 1940s don't make sense because we have computers that fit in a grain of dust now.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270295)

So... You are saying we will create technologies to give us more space resources and planets here on Earth, to support our exponential growth, making space travel irrelevant, like the unforeseen expansion of computer tech made putting people on those satellites irrelevant?

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (2, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#43270361)

So, you didn't read his comment at all did you? Just decided to go on an anti space-mining tirade because he mentioned it in a passing simile?

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (5, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43270407)

Can you point to a place in space that has the concentration of minerals you want, and is as easily and cheaply accessible as the ocean?

Comparatively? Yes. We know that a significant portion of the asteroid belt bodies are M-type asteroids with very high concentration of iron and nickel. (Just try to imagine a 200 km-sized mountain of virtually pure iron [wikipedia.org] .) If you're in space and need large volumes of structural materials for space use, an M-type asteroid is the place to go. After a certain point, it's going to be cheaper that lifting steel from Earth's gravity well.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270471)

Wow, so there's literally entire DOLLARS worth of stuff out there? Wow. Yeah, wake me up when you have more than space posters from the '70s and artist's impressions.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271051)

I know you're trolling, but actually considering the cost to lift a pound of iron (Around $10,000), there's a lot more than just mere dollars worth of stuff out there.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271109)

Who's trolling? It's obvious that "space mining" is just a fairy tale for adults raised on uncritical daydreams and sci-fi. There's nothing out there that's so vitally important, yet incredibly rare on Earth, that makes it worth it. Plus, we don't have anything even remotely close to the technology you think we have. So sorry.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271283)

Keep buying into the bullshit you get force fed by your politicians and payed for scientists.

THEY, yes I used the THEY word. Do not want lay men to have access to lots of free energy and raw material.

Because then we would do something about our slavery condition here on earth.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270545)

The fusion in every sun produces iron at the end, there will be plenty in the universe.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270775)

Not only at the end, but continuously during it's life time. It accumulates and if too much iron has been produced : *boom*...there she goes.
But it accelerates towards the end that's right.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271071)

At the end of the process, not the end of the star.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270735)

What a douche comment. You can't possibly know what might be found in all those asteroids. There is every reason to suspect that there are rare earths in some of them. There might even be a huge asteroid with such concentrations that it will satisfy our needs for the next thousand years. Exploration is what locates such things.

Obviously, you are opposed to space exploration. Is there a reason for that? Are you afraid of the unknown?

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271247)

" You can't possibly know what might be found in all those asteroids. "

Yet the Space Nutters do? Let me ask you, do you think the Periodic Table of Elements is local to the Earth, or universal?

"Obviously, you are opposed to space exploration."

Who's talking about space exploration? We're talking about the pipe dream of mining asteroids. We are exploring space just fine from right here on Earth. What is it you don't understand about that? Sending pictures back from Mars isn't quite the same as a mining operation, eh?

Please try to stay focused. I know you were promised all kinds of space stuff as a kid, but that's no reason to flush reality down the toilet, OK? Are you afraid of the limits of our technology? Because that's what it boils down to. We simply don't have the vast energy and technology you think we have. And if we did, why would we need space?

Are you afraid of the very real fact that no one will retire on Mars, no one will vacation on the Moon, and we are all right here on this planet to stay, and we'll have to all figure out how to get along right here, like adults? And not like children who still believe in magic and Santa Claus?

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271365)

Are you afraid of the very real fact that no one will retire on Mars, no one will vacation on the Moon,

I thought we were talking about mining asteroids. Please try to stay focused. Tourism is limited only by what rich people can be convinced they want, and is rather different case than a business that needs to produce an economically feasible material.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (1)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | about a year ago | (#43270179)

And while it's not optimal by any means, at least the tailings will already be at the bottom of the ocean, so they won't have to dump them somewhere else.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (3, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43270449)

I guess the problem lies in the ecological effect of possible dispersion of the materials over large areas of the ocean. It's not like finely-grained materials don't create a freely-floating suspension in water. Although I guess that one could say that you have to solve the problem anyway, otherwise the machines won't be able to see where they are working, due to all the turbidity around them.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (2)

brazucaNY (2875489) | about a year ago | (#43271203)

Bollocks. Just call the guys from "Bering Sea Gold". They will just get down there and suck up all the Rare Earths....all with the drama that we all love... Show name: "Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone Waters Rare Earths" , or JEEZWRE (working title)

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270111)

As apposed to the Chinese's serious care for environment or its minions on land.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271177)

learn to spel

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (1)

ButchDeLoria (2772751) | about a year ago | (#43270323)

As long as they don't use nuclear power, I think we'll be alright.

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43270365)

A big use for rare-earth metals is making magnets for generators (eg. wind turbines).

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (2)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year ago | (#43270611)

Not just generators, but a lot of electronics, especially HDDs.

Re: Oh good, undersea mining (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270387)

Don't let them do it, they'll let out Godzilla!!!

Re:Oh good, undersea mining (5, Funny)

dlmarti (7677) | about a year ago | (#43270697)

They could wake up Godzilla

godzilla gets out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270865)

godzilla 2013

Herm... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270031)

...the Chinese don't have a monopoly exactly. They just undercut the prices any time anyone else tries to operate. I don't know why that wouldn't work against the Japanese as well. But the Chinese can't do it forever, and we all benefit from their cheap REM in the meantime.

Re:Herm... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270257)

The Chinese have the best military in the world...

It can be said that when their soil runs out of resources, Taiwan, Japan or Korea, can become a substitute with just a bit of persuasion from PLA troops.

Re:Herm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270303)

By having the most boots, perhaps they are the best. Otherwise, no they don't.

Re:Herm... (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#43270371)

Please define "best military" in this context.

Re:Herm... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270675)

False, North Korea (best Korea) has best military!

Re:Herm... (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43270409)

The Chinese have a lot of soldiers, but no where near the best military.

All three of those are under the protection of the actual best military in the world. China will not risk a shift ass kicking by the USA and her allies.

Re:Herm... (3)

Princeofcups (150855) | about a year ago | (#43270569)

The Chinese have a lot of soldiers, but no where near the best military.

All three of those are under the protection of the actual best military in the world. China will not risk a shift ass kicking by the USA and her allies.

Just like the Korean War. Oh wait.

Re:Herm... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270601)

The Chinese have a lot of soldiers, but no where near the best military.

All three of those are under the protection of the actual best military in the world. China will not risk a shift ass kicking by the USA and her allies.

When the enemy has a near inexhaustible supply of men, a large and relatively easily dispersed armaments industry, a vast expanse of territory in which to bog your troops down in asymmetric warfare (which into the bargain is a Chinese national sport) and a complete disregard for casualties I think you''l find quantity trumps quality. Try to imagine Iraq, except an couple of orders of magnitude bigger against an enemy that can manufacture his own small arms, guided munitions, tanks, aircraft and even nuclear weapons. Their kit may not be as good as yours but they have a lot more of it and their factories can shovel it out many times more quickly than you.

Re:Herm... (4, Funny)

Githaron (2462596) | about a year ago | (#43270793)

Sounds like the Protoss versus the Zerg.

Re:Herm... (4, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | about a year ago | (#43271035)

Only if you're invading China in a ground war. They are not able to move their troops effectively via sea and could not effectively invade Japan; hell, they couldn't invade Taiwan.

Re:Herm... (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43270937)

Maybe YOU should define "best military". Time and again, our military is sent overseas to - do what, exactly? Make the world a safer place? To police? To win hearts and minds? To build nations? And, when was our last victory?

Even when we actually win a military encounter, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, our politicians leave the military machine in place, in pursuit of impossible peripheral missions. In a war of attrition, being best is pointless. The numbers will win, eventually.

Re:Herm... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271117)

The military deploys overseas to kill people and blow shit up. How the politicians use the results of the military action is totally out of the hands of the military. The US has a deadly military but unfortunately the politicians handing out the missions are just a collection of morons who are experts at pulling defeat out the jaws of victory. The US militaries main strength is power projection to any place in the world. You can have 10 billion soldiers but if you can't deploy them against an enemy it doesn't really matter. China can not even invade Taiwan unless they want to use the "million man swim" maneuver.

Re:Herm... (1)

dsvick (987919) | about a year ago | (#43270741)

Having lots of people means nothing if you can't get them there. The Chinese navy is pretty much none existent, at least as far as what they would need to mount any sort of invasion of Taiwan or Japan. Even a very small US Naval force would be sufficient to prevent them from having any sort of success.

Korea would be the only one they could have a chance of doing anything with. And even then I'm sure North Korea would have a thing or two to say about it.

Re:Herm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271073)

...a thing or two...

You mean, like "Oh... Shit..." when they overrun?

Re:Herm... (5, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#43271227)

Not just prices. Mining and refining rare earths is exceptionally toxic and polluting process. Like most such processes, it has been largely outsourced to poorer countries, in this case China.

If we REALLY needed rare earths, there's a lot of them across the world. We just don't want the toxicity and pollution that goes with mining these in our back yards.

We need a socialist world planned economy (0)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year ago | (#43270049)

Capitalism means misery and endless war for the masses.

Also, Slashdort is a stinking pile of capitalist-imperialist pig propaganda!

Slashdort readers, join me and Laura in the Campaign for a Free Internet because the future begins with tomorrow!

Re:We need a socialist world planned economy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270151)

ARE YOU ROOT?

DICK SHOVEL.

Re:We need a socialist world planned economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270987)

No, he's not root - but he's been rooted by a fat hairy camel fucking jihadist. And, he likes it!

Re:We need a socialist world planned economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270269)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Gppi-O3a8

You do realize that's a straw man? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271119)

What? There were no pencils in USSR?

Also, while uncle Milton said "magic" there, the original Reed story went even further, equating "invisible hand" with God Himself.
Which just goes to show how people gullible enough to buy into one fairytale will readily supplement it with another.
After all, magical thinking is magical thinking.

Rare earth elements are not rare at all... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270051)

They're simply called that. The reason why the Chinese has a huge monopoly is their cheap labor and lack of safety regulations. The US had plenty of mines for this stuff but they were shut down due to the cheap abundant supply.

Re:Rare earth elements are not rare at all... (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a year ago | (#43270541)

yeah, yeah. And Monster Island is really a peninsula. And Camelot is only a model. Tell us something we don't already know.

rare earths are not "rare" (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270079)

We have plenty of rare earths in the USA. Only the absurd policies regarding treating thorium (which has a 14 billion year half life) as a dangerous nuclear waste, requiring prohibitively expensive disposal, keeps us from taking advantage of those resources. note: Coal fired power plants get to treat the radioactive nuclear material in their fly ash as a natural byproduct and so are completely unregulated.

Re:rare earths are not "rare" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270191)

Wow, I'm out of mod points someone please mod parent up! Our regulations in this country need some overhauling.

Re:rare earths are not "rare" (2)

JavaBear (9872) | about a year ago | (#43270319)

Wow, I'm out of mod points someone please mod parent up! Our regulations in this country need some overhauling.

I agree, Parent definitely need the 5 score.

The EU are in the same boat, and right now they are fighting about allowing Greenland to mine their deposits. IIRC some idiot even suggested that since the Chinese are so good at mining the stuff, they should sell the mining rights to them...

Re:rare earths are not "rare" (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#43270335)

Our regulations in this country need some overhauling.

I think most people worldwide throughout most of history would agree that this statement was true for their country.

Special interest misrepresenting reality? (3, Informative)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about a year ago | (#43270833)

Google "rare earth thorium regulation". Usually, anti-regulation whining like this gets plenty a mention in right-wing think tank-funded articles and political editorials.

This one gets YouTube propaganda from the thorium reactor proponents and some of their websites. Why is it that, at least in terms of web presence, the only people concerned about this care more about thorium than rare earth minerals?

Re:Special interest misrepresenting reality? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271029)

Which indicate that it's an actual concern instead of astroturfing. See, there's not much investment in the US in rare earth production because fo the environmental regulation. Therefore, there's nobody ddumping money into the argument, so it's invisible.

Re:rare earths are not "rare" (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#43271191)

From Wikipedia:

Powdered thorium metal is pyrophoric and will often ignite spontaneously in air. Natural thorium decays very slowly compared to many other radioactive materials, and the alpha radiation emitted cannot penetrate human skin meaning owning and handling small amounts of thorium, such as a gas mantle, is considered safe. Exposure to an aerosol of thorium, however, can lead to increased risk of cancers of the lung, pancreas, and blood,[citation needed] as lungs and other internal organs can be penetrated by alpha radiation. Exposure to thorium internally leads to increased risk of liver diseases. Thorium is radioactive and produces a radioactive gas, radon-220, as one of its decay products. Secondary decay products of thorium include radium and actinium. Because of this, there are concerns about the safety of thorium mantles. Some nuclear safety agencies make recommendations about their use.[85] Production of gas mantles has led to some safety concerns during manufacture.

Maybe not so absurd...

Old News... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270083)

See, for example, this article [tikalon.com] .

Re:Old News... (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43271025)

So - Coneheads are really Japanese?

Dejavu (5, Informative)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | about a year ago | (#43270107)

Seems like this just tells us the concentration, otherwise we already knew this in 2011.

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/07/04/2058218/japanese-team-finds-new-source-of-rare-earth-elements [slashdot.org]

Re:Dejavu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270219)

This time it tells us that Japan can go ahead and legally mine it. It is not in international waters this time around, but in Japanese waters.

T-minus 10 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270125)

T-minus 10 until China lays claim to this part of the ocean.

Re:T-minus 10 (2)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | about a year ago | (#43270217)

How are they going to do that? It's in the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone, did you read the article or just jumped to posting a reply for the sake of trying to appear clever? They can't clam it but they could just setup shop and start mining, and the Japanese and US and anyone else can park right up next side them.

http://www.ehow.com/about_5423099_ocean-mineral-rights.html [ehow.com]

Re:T-minus 10 (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about a year ago | (#43270431)

If the Chinese set up a mining operation in the Japanese exclusive economic zone, the Japanese and Americans would park a bunch of warships in the area. Exclusive economic zones are claimed by nations for their exclusive use. Outside countries can't just set up mining/fishing or any other operations there.

Re:T-minus 10 (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43270375)

there are some tomahawks and JDAMS that say otherwise

REE aren't that rare after all (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270129)

No surprise here. Its mostly scarcity promotions everywhere I look.

Re:REE aren't that rare after all (3, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43270481)

The so-called "rare earths" aren't all that rare, the problem lies in the fact that geology-wise, they don't tend to form highly concentrated ore deposits, and basically have to be mined as less-concentrated admixtures in ores of other elements.

Yep... (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about a year ago | (#43270133)

how to process the mining products in the ocean

Oh, that? By polluting a lot. :p

Re:Yep... (1)

Reverand Dave (1959652) | about a year ago | (#43270837)

Maybe China will have to take this one after all...

Plenty of deposits, just have to mine them (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270193)

I'm fairly sure that the reason China controls 90% of the market is because they're actually mining their deposits, not because they are the only ones who have deposits. I think there are plans in the U.S. to restart some mines, and surely this is the case elsewhere too. There was a time when it was very uneconomical to run these, so they were mothballed.

Senkaku islands (5, Interesting)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year ago | (#43270199)

Cue China's claim these areas "have always belonged to China", like Senkaku Islands, in 3.. 2... 1...

Re:Senkaku islands (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270399)

read history books about Americans and Brits making shit up and giving away things they have no right to give away in the first place.

Re:Senkaku islands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270925)

Why?

Re:Senkaku islands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270957)

Well hell if we want to play that card than we might as well eliminate Pakistan, Afghanistan, and any other Middle Eastern and African countries that the world powers carved up for political reasons. Tell you what, why don't you give us your version of what the world map should look like? Obviously you wouldn't have made any of those silly mistake the colonial powers did.

Re:Senkaku islands (5, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#43271065)

Great, but that's not really the issue here.

On 14 January 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan incorporated the islands under the administration of Okinawa, stating that it had conducted surveys since 1884 and that the islands were terra nullius, with there being no evidence to suggest that they had been under the Qing empire's control.[13] After China lost the war, both countries signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April 1895 that stipulated, among other things, that China would cede to Japan "the island of Formosa together with all islands appertaining or belonging to said island of Formosa."

Wiki [wikipedia.org] goes on to list some of the complications, but western powers had nothing to do with Japan taking control of it. Also noteworthy: China only asserted it's claim to the islands after oil was found there.

After it was discovered in 1968 that oil reserves might be found under the sea near the islands,[4][5][6][7][8] Japan's sovereignty over them has been disputed by the People's Republic of China

wiki [wikipedia.org]

So, yeah, the US and the brits, and other western countries were assholes about claiming and trading land that wasn't theirs when it's in their strategic interests, much like all nations attempt to do, and much like China is doing here. "We included these uninhabited islands in our maps in the 14th century, so clearly the oil is ours!"

Re:Senkaku islands (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271205)

Having it in your map in the 14th century is a better claim than, "I have bigger guns than you, it's mine now."

Re:Senkaku islands (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271211)

Go away chink

Check the map... (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year ago | (#43270221)

>> rich deposits of rare earth elements on the sea floor in Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone water

Good thing no one's ever disputed ownership of an island two-thousand miles away from the mainland, right?

Rare earth refining (5, Interesting)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#43270243)

Anyway, I thought the problem wasn't finding the deposits (they're everywhere, and rare earths aren't that "rare").

The problem here is competing with China's willingness to pollute the absolute living fuck out of their own back yard, to refine the ores cheaper than everyone else.

If Japan and the West wanted to do something REALLY useful -- find refining methods that are less polluting and resource intensive -- or find substitute substances and processes to avoid the need for rare earth metals completely.

Re:Rare earth refining (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270743)

If Japan and the West wanted to do something REALLY useful -- find refining methods that are less polluting and resource intensive -- or find substitute substances and processes to avoid the need for rare earth metals completely.

Not that simple. The West and Japan demand tech goods that use these minerals. Don't blame China for extracting them as cheaply as possible, blame yourself and those around you for your addiction to tech gadgets and the companies that use China to manufacture them to increase their profits.

Re:Rare earth refining (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about a year ago | (#43271039)

problem here is competing with China's willingness to pollute the absolute living fuck out of their own back yard

or they could just set standards, for the minerals they Import, except they can't because they're signed up to wto which bars them from using trade barriers even when they are justified

Re:Rare earth refining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271293)

The "rare"ness of them is with relation to density.

It doesn't matter if they are everywhere, that is a terrible thing in fact.
Until we develop some sort of nanotech to find it, those extremely low densities are useless.

And to be perfectly honest, we'd likely have captured entire asteroids for mining before that happens.

Issue was Never Access but Cost (5, Informative)

Koreantoast (527520) | about a year ago | (#43270249)

The issue with rare earth metals has never been access to them, contrary to the article, but cost. If it were simply a matter of access, the United States, Australia and other nations have massive supplies. However, producers in those nations were driven out of business because the cost of extracting them in a clean, (relatively) environmentally friendly manner was simply not competitive with the Chinese, who can afford to undercut foreign producers due to their notoriously lax environmental regulations. Now this new methodology may be helpful in that it drives down the cost of production to become competitive again, but I am concerned that it may create tremendous environmental damage.

Rare Earths are NOT Rare (5, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43270417)

The problem with rare earths is that they are usually found in conjunction with radioactive ores, particularly containing thorium.

This makes recovery and refining a nasty and if you insist on environmental safety a quite expensive job.

China has been willing to do it on the cheap for the rest of the world. More recently they have realized that other nations have been exporting their environmental issue to China by buying cheap Chinese rare earths. This is coming to an end as China sensibly restricts exports of these materials.

Re:Rare Earths are NOT Rare (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271123)

Well then I guess the US should find something to do with Thorium.
Then fund that properly; solving the rare earth problem. Gee I wounder what
can be done with Thorium? Hmmm...

Re:Rare Earths are NOT Rare (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271197)

Are you sure they restrict export of these materials to curtail polution. I
have read that they restrict export to force the creation of industries that
use these elements within the borders of the PDR China.

Re:Rare Earths are NOT Rare (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271271)

this is about the only sensible thing i've read on this goddamn forum about what China's motivations actually are in this space.

less need now (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270553)

Recent advances in power electronics mean that Switched Reluctance motors are better for EVs and windmills, and cheaper.
http://powerelectronics.com/content/case-switched-reluctance-motors
http://www.radicalrc.com/blog/?p=2513

5700m deep? Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270657)

"The fact that the deposits are 5,700 meters deep ..."

Uh, not likely this will work out. There's no way that concentrations only about ~10x higher make up for the extreme expense of any mining operation at that kind of depth versus on land unless the deposits happen to be a mineralogy that is much, much easier to subsequently refine.

Re:5700m deep? Yeah, right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270959)

It the only payout is the ore itself, then you are probably right. You are forgetting though that the technology invented for the task can be sold and I am sure such technology is very valuable.

Calling all goldbugs (0)

jackjumper (307961) | about a year ago | (#43270737)

This is exactly why not to base your currency on gold. If someone finds a huge new deposit, your currency goes in the toilet.

Re:Calling all goldbugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43270873)

How about paper then? Oh wait we do that already...

Re:Calling all goldbugs (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43271095)

I seriously doubt enough gold could be located on the planet to change the value of gold significantly.

Part of gold's value is perception anyway... kind of like diamonds, or the US dollar.

Glomar Explorer (3, Interesting)

A10Mechanic (1056868) | about a year ago | (#43270811)

Finally another use for the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a ship built in the 70's under the guise of underwater mining but actully used by the CIA to raise a sunken sub. My daily dose of Irony is now complete.

Re:Glomar Explorer (1)

dave1791 (315728) | about a year ago | (#43271297)

When I saw this headline, my snarky alter ego asked if the Chinese had lost a sub in that area. The Glomar Explorer was my first thought.

Meanwhile, China continues "We own Japan" plan (3)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43271077)

Probably not news many people here are aware of, but China, and in some cases Russia, have been claiming islands owned and even occupied by Japan are theirs. Most significantly, China claims Okinawa and asserts that Okinawans are genetically Chinese.... therefore... well you get the idea.

Robot mining (1)

Rastl (955935) | about a year ago | (#43271319)

Japan is producing a heck of a lot of robots. Given the treasure they've just found I find it difficult to believe that they aren't already designing robots and robotic processes to do the mining for them and send up the refined material. There's plenty of experience out there in developing machinery for extreme environments so coupling that with their history of making robots I see them getting a mine going in very short time.

Rare earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43271417)

China in 50 years:

"Draaiiiinage!"

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