Rare earths rock green tech and geopolitics

From the Geological Society of America: Critical Minerals Ignite Geopolitical Storm

For Immediate Release 10 October 2011 GSA Release No. 11-66

The clean energy economy of the future hinges on a lot of things, chief among them the availability of the scores of rare earth minerals and other elements used to make everything from photovoltaic panels and cellphone displays to the permanent magnets in cutting edge new wind generators. And right out of the gate trouble is brewing over projected growth in demand for these minerals and the security of their supplies.

Last year, for instance, China restricted the export of neodymium, which is used in wind generators. The move was ostensibly to direct the supplies to toward a massive wind generation project within China. The effect, however, is to create a two-tiered price for neodymium: one inside China and another, higher price, for the rest of the world, explained economics professor Roderick Eggert of the Colorado School of Mines. The result could be that China not only will control the neodymium supply, but the manufacture of neodymium technology as well.

The geopolitical implications of critical minerals have started bringing together scientists, economists and policy makers who are trying to cut a path through the growing thicket of challenges. In that spirit, on Monday, October 10, 2011, Eggert and other professors will be presenting their research alongside high-level representatives from the U.S. Congress and Senate, the Office of the President of the U.S., the U.S. Geological Survey, in a session at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis.

Among the basics that need to be grasped to understand the current state of affairs is how rare these minerals and elements really are. Some are plentiful, but only found in rare places or are difficult to extract. Indium, for instance, is a byproduct of zinc mining and extraction. It is not economically viable to extract unless zinc is being sought in the same ore, Eggert explained, Others are just plain scarce, like rhenium and tellurium, which only exist in very small amounts in the Earth’s crust.

There are basically two responses to this sort of situation: use less of these minerals or improve the extraction of them from other ores in other parts of the world. The latter would seem to be where most people are heading.

“China’s efforts to restrict exports of mineral commodities garnered the attention of Congress and highlighted the need for the United States to assess the state of the Nation’s mineral policies and examine opportunities to produce rare earths and other strategic and critical minerals domestically,” reads the session abstract of Kathleen Benedetto of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Committee on Natural Resources, U.S. House of Representatives. “Nine bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to address supply disruptions of rare earths and other important mineral commodities.”

Benedetto will be explaining the meaning and status of those bills, and what it will take to get them signed into law.

“Deposits of rare earth elements and other critical minerals occur throughout the Nation,” reads the abstract for another prominent session presenter: Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey. She will be putting the current events in the larger historical perspective of mineral resource management, which has been the USGS’s job for more than 130 years. “The definition of ‘a critical mineral or material’ is extremely time dependent, as advances in materials science yield new products and the adoption of new technologies result in shifts in both supply and demand.”

The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has answered the call as well. Cyrus Wadia will be presenting a five-point strategy to begin addressing the matter. The first point is to mitigating long term risks associated with the use of critical materials. The second, diversify supplies of raw materials. Third, to promote a domestic supply chain for areas of strategic importance like clean energy. Fourth, inform decision makers; and fifth, prepare the workforce of the next generation.

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103 thoughts on “Rare earths rock green tech and geopolitics

  1. Some of these minerals are no doubt there and available in many places, but not easy to find in commercial quantities. Many universities need to re-introduce mineral exploration geoscience, which has been so poorly funded since the green movement swamped western earth science universities since about the early 1990s.

  2. The Nordic ski shop in Crested Butte, CO, eagerly displays posters opposing a proposed molybdenum mine nearby, but will happily sell you molybdenum-based waxes for your skis.

  3. God bless em. The Chinese might save us from the Gore parasites, by inflicting them on their own people.
    Talk about taking one for the team. Thank you China.

  4. Friends:

    The article says;
    “Last year, for instance, China restricted the export of neodymium, which is used in wind generators. The move was ostensibly to direct the supplies to toward a massive wind generation project within China. The effect, however, is to create a two-tiered price for neodymium: one inside China and another, higher price, for the rest of the world, explained economics professor Roderick Eggert of the Colorado School of Mines.”

    Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?

    Every supplier of any commodity has a right to get the highest price for the commodity and can choose to use it personally at whatever cost seems appropriate.
    Higher cost to purchasers of a commodity encourages search for alternatives (i.e. alternative sources of the commodity or alternative materials or methods to the commodity) which enhances technology.

    Richard

  5. Fourth, inform decision makers Of what? ; and fifth, prepare the workforce of the next generation. for what?

    Might I offer a sixth? Recycle older components. One of the richest sources of some rare earths’ is the scrap pile from obsolete equipment.

    I’m all in favor of attention brought to the supply of raw and primary materials. Indium doesn’t grow on trees. But at the same time, let’s not commit a “Club of Rome” mistake of assuming a resource base far too limited and underestimate technological ability to substitute other materials. The supply of rare-earths is limited to a great extent by the fact that few people look for them. Raise the demand and the price and that is very likely to change, as will the resource base.

    There is an old rule of thumb in Mineral Economics. The is usually only a 10-20 year lifetime of “proved reserves” of almost any mineral asset. On a time-value of money basis, it just doesn’t pay to prove up reserves 20-50 years out. In discussions, always be mindfull of the difference between “reserves” and “resources.”

  6. Richard Courtney.

    I seem to remember there was a recent press report of a rare earth find in your neck of the woods. Is that so? Sounds as if some shares in that mine would be worthwhile.
    tonyb

  7. Richard S Courtney says:
    October 10, 2011 at 1:15 am
    Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?
    The problem is, that politicians in the West, have made much noise about all these “green” jobs, that the production of wind subsidy farm equipment will create.
    Our crafty oriental suppliers, are making sure that these jobs will be created in China.

  8. Molon Labe says:
    October 10, 2011 at 1:00 am
    The Nordic ski shop in Crested Butte, CO, eagerly displays posters opposing a proposed molybdenum mine nearby, but will happily sell you molybdenum-based waxes for your skis.

    NIMBY will reign supreme. It so happens that rare earths are commonly associated with ancient metamorphic core complexes and continental shield rocks, in other words, scenic, flagship, world-heritage-type stuff. You can bet that the Homestake Neodymium Mine will be smack dab in the middle of hallowed landscapes. I mean, how did “Telluride” get its name? Not from a population of people who ogle bikers, to be sure. A compound, AuTe2 was the mainstay of that lofty Colorado green boutique, early in its history.

  9. The Democratic Republic of Congo is a big supplier of niobium used in the magnets of wind generators and electric vehicles. Profits go to the DRC government to pay for the civil war in that country. The DRC is neither democratic or a true republic.

  10. The socialist agenda of the CAGW has succeeded in driving carbon intensive industries of Europe and the USA out to China … Australian manufacturing was destroyed by our fabulous Labor governments and their union sycophants in decades past so we don’t have much left to go.

    China has been stockpiling mineral resources for ages and will soon have the markets cornered … so Western countries can look forward to their strategic manipulation by China in the years top come.

  11. No mention, as yet, here of the massive Chinese penetration of central and eastern African countries where Chinese economic aid is being exchanged for mining rights to various valuable mineral resources. British TV has shown several documentaries this year where this policy is proving productive. In South America, also, China is taking great interest in mines in Brazil and Chile. Presumably, western governments are aware of these developments.

  12. Of course, installing a two-tiered price for any product is a form of government subsidy, in this case subsidy for permanent magnets in (modern) direct-drive wind generators.

    China’s government subsidizes any new technology that they feel is important for the long term economic growth of the nation, and alternative energy is at the top of their list.

    In the US, we heavily subsidize technology which has a very short-term impact (like agriculture and fossil fuel extraction), but subsidy of new technology and innovation leading to long-term advantages is scrutinized and harshly treated as a ‘waste’ of tax payer money.

    In the end, we’ll see which strategy works better…

  13. Me writes “The problem is capitalism is bad,until capitalism works in their favour.”

    This is the inevitable result of China’s slow creep towards capitalism…Conversely it could be stated that Capitalism is good until capitalism works against you and this is the rest of the world’s sour grapes. The dragon awakes.

  14. TimTheToolMan Who are the ones first up at the plate to denounce capitalism?
    But when there is money to be raked in by the green machine then capitalism is ok all of a sudden.

  15. The US has some of the biggest rare earth deposits in the world, but currently has no operational mines or processing technology.

    If a tiny fraction of the money wasted on ‘climate change’ projects was allocated towards the construction of rare earths mining and refining capacity, the US (and the rest of the world) would not being held to ransom by China.

    The link below helps illustrate the seriousness of this problem.

    http://geology.com/articles/rare-earth-elements/

  16. Easy solution. Western governments stop subsidising the installation of solar panels and wind turbines, demand for these minerals falls through the floor and the Chinese are left holding a load of worthless rock.

  17. Me wonders “Who are the ones first up at the plate to denounce capitalism?”

    A “country” doesn’t denounce capitalism, its people do.
    And people can and do change.

  18. Richard S Courtney says:
    October 10, 2011 at 1:15 am

    “…China restricted the export of neodymium, which is used in wind generators…”
    Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?
    Higher cost to purchasers of a commodity encourages search for alternatives…

    The inherent problem is that the alternative is fossil fuel, which is unacceptable to the same folks that find increased mining of these minerals unacceptable. And those folks happen to be in power right now.

  19. The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has answered the call as well.

    I’m glad the President’s on the case. He will not rest until he has a solution.

  20. LET’S HOPE THAT ANDREA ROSSI IS ABOUT TO END ALL THIS NONSENSE.(LOOKS MORE LIKELY EVERY DAY)
    WE MIGHT EVEN BE ABLE TO USE TRANSMUTATION TO SUPPLY VALUABLE ELEMENTS.
    P.S. 3D PRINTERS ARE NOW PRODUCING 3D PRINTERS. ARE THEY BREEDING?

  21. The entire article is rubbish. Rare earth minerals are not rare, most are fairly plentiful. What is rare is any money to be made in mining them, and in the USA, large piles of regulations making sure they are not mined.

    It’s just a puff piece for this

    on Monday, October 10, 2011, Eggert and other professors will be presenting their research alongside high-level representatives from the U.S. Congress and Senate, the Office of the President of the U.S., the U.S. Geological Survey, in a session at the meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis.

  22. Sorry, & completely OT – but had no idea where to post this revelation with limitations!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15199065

    It seems it’s the Sun all along but it isn’t, all at the same time – only Eurpoe & Uk, no mention of South American cold winters, not those in SA or Australis/New Zealand, etc. They are runnning out of excuses, running scared, & out of time! They knew they had to get control within certain time limits or the game would be up, as it now is well & truly!

    AtB :-)

  23. One long-term fix is to not let rare earth based products be shipped back to China as scrap after they reached their end of life and mandate recycling in the country/economic sphere where they were sold. Another obviously is looking for the stuff on your own turf and research to replace them with cheaper alternatives or a different technological approach (i.e. no use of permanent magnets in electric motors/generators but use of active stator/rotor coils).

  24. Peter Miller says:
    October 10, 2011 at 2:19 am
    The US has some of the biggest rare earth deposits in the world, but currently has no operational mines or processing technology.

    If a tiny fraction of the money wasted on ‘climate change’ projects was allocated towards the construction of rare earths mining and refining capacity, the US (and the rest of the world) would not being held to ransom by China.

    The link below helps illustrate the seriousness of this problem.

    http://geology.com/articles/rare-earth-elements/

    The US also has the EPA which generated the regulations forcing the mining companies (and many other industries) to move their operations to other countries and which will also ensure by regulation that the Chinese monopoly in rare-earths is maintained.

  25. Richard S Courtney says:

    Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?
    _____________________________________________________________

    The problem is the USA turned control of whether or not the USA can mine minerals over to the United Nations.

    In 1972, our government signed the United Nations’ World Heritage Treaty, a treaty that creates “World Heritage Sites” and Biosphere Reserves.” Since 1972, 68 percent of all U.S. national parks, monuments and preserves have been designated as World Heritage Sites.

    The United Nations “protection extends not only to te “Heritages Sites” but also to any areas near by when the Sierra Club, WWF or other NIMBYs scream for help.

    “……For example, in the conflicts surrounding the New World Mine near Yellowstone National Park, the Jabiluka Mine near Kakadu National Park, and the Cheviot Mine near Jasper National Park mining interests have been pitted against World Heritage protection in the United States, Australia, and Canada. These disputes evidence the extent to which perceptions of democratic illegitimacy can threaten to undermine a regime created to hold states accountable for the protection of heritage of “outstanding universal value” within their borders….” http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1053&context=pelr

    In other words the United Nations now controls a LOT of mineral reserves, 168 countries signed the treaty, and is not about to let the nations touch them.

    A map of the USA with current and future UN controlled lands: http://sovereignty.net/p/land/mapmabwh.htm

    This illustrates the second problem. Even if the mine is located in the USA the minerals maybe OWNED by foreign investors:
    FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF U.S. GOLD MINES
    Foreign owned mining companies control:
    4 of the 5 largest gold mines
    7 of the 10 largest gold mines
    18 of the 30 largest gold mines, and
    65% of total U.S. gold mine production

    http://www.earthworksaction.org/pubs/FS_foreignownership.pdf

  26. Apparently in 1894 they mined the ‘streets’ of Kalgoorlie WA for tellurium. 20 years earlier waste rock from gold mining, rich in the element which was of course unkown at the time, had been used as infill/hardcore!

  27. “Third, to promote a domestic supply chain for areas of strategic importance like clean energy.”
    ———————–
    America is generally anti-mining but now wants to promote a domestic supply chain for clean energy. Hahaha promoting mining and clean energy in the same sentence.That’s like calling for investment in shale-oil to ensure energy is available for the manufacturing of solar panels. Make it easier for mines to open and I suspect that mines will open.
    BTW China is a lot more capitalist than the US. Has been for awhile. Don’t confuse capitalism with communism.

  28. China’s take over of Rare Earths
    To appreciate China’s stranglehold on the market, see Lynas Corp. What are their prices?
    2009 2Q 2011
    Cerium Oxide ex China $3.88 $138
    Cerium Oxide in China $ 25

    i.e., the Chinese have achieved a 3500% increase in prices by predatory pricing - not a bad increase in profit! Such are the consequences of allowing monopolies to form without regulation or coordinated counter action.

    This was achieved by China first driving out other rare earth processors by ultra low prices, beginning in 1985 – and by EPA imposing such stringent regulations that US companies gave up trying.

    See the presentation Rare Earth Overview 2010 – USGS especially the graph on slide 34/46.

    For data see USGS Rare Earths

    Compare US DOE Critical Materials Strategy
    From the massive recent price increases, that needs to be updated to concerted action.

    OPEC Oil Cartel
    The far more critical issue world wide is the control OPEC now has over world oil prices. OPEC began constraining supply in 2004/5 to maximize revenues. They tripled prices from ~$27 to $81/bbl, spiking to $147. This pushed the rest of the world into economic chaos. The current economic crises in both the EU and US are currently driven by OPEC control. OPEC is already reaping >>$1 trillion/year in enforced tribute.

    Declining Available Oil Exports
    More importantly, liquid fuel shortages will soon be driven by geology as light oil supplies decline.
    IEA now says conventional crude oil peaked in 2006.
    Jeff Brown shows available global oil exports (after China & India consumption) peaked in 2005 and have already declined 12%.
    See Brown’s Historical Global and Available Oil Exports graph.

    Without wartime emergency action now, we will see similar rises in prices for oil.

  29. Rob says:
    October 10, 2011 at 1:57 am

    “…..China’s government subsidizes any new technology that they feel is important for the long term economic growth of the nation, and alternative energy is at the top of their list.

    In the US, we heavily subsidize technology which has a very short-term impact (like agriculture and fossil fuel extraction), but subsidy of new technology and innovation leading to long-term advantages is scrutinized and harshly treated as a ‘waste’ of tax payer money…..”
    ___________________________________________________

    Yeah Right, and If I believe that you have a bridge you want to sell.

    Did you some how miss Anthony’s
    Your [wasted green] tax dollars at work: Solyndra Went on a Spending Spree After Getting Loan

    Electric airplane

    Or Willis’s
    Act Now! Make Money From Global Warming!: NIH announces climate change and health funding

    Or how about these “Stimulus” grants:
    Forest Service to Replace Windows in Visitor Center Closed in 2007 (Amboy, WA) – $554,763

    “Dance Draw” – Interactive Dance Software Development (Charlotte, NC) – $762,372

    Museum With 44 Annual Visitors Gets Funding for Bug Storage (Raleigh, NC) -$253,123

    Ants Talk. Taxpayers Listen (San Francisco, CA) – $1.9million
    …..photographs of the ants – over 3,000 species’ worth, according to the grant proposal – will be posted on AntWeb, a website devoted to organizing and displaying pictures and information on the world’s thousands of ant species……

    Scientist Attempts to Create Joke Machine (Evanston, IL) – $712,883

    http://www.darwinsmoney.com/dumb-stimulus-bill-spending/

    No wonder the “Taxed Enough Already” Party was formed to protest idiotic waste of our money.

  30. Molon Labe wrote: The Nordic ski shop in Crested Butte, CO, eagerly displays posters opposing a proposed molybdenum mine nearby, but will happily sell you molybdenum-based waxes for your skis.

    Some of the mine owners in CA and NV are trying to reopen the mines, but are tied up in the environmental review process.

  31. John Douglas: LET’S HOPE THAT ANDREA ROSSI IS ABOUT TO END ALL THIS NONSENSE.

    Yes, but … the guy does have a history of fraud.

  32. Rare earth prices to stay high as China extends crackdown

    This year’s export quota was set at 30,184 tonnes, down about 40 percent in just two years, with annual output also capped at 93,800 tonnes . . .
    Currently almost half of China’s total capacity now stands idle as inspection teams scour the country to enforce the quotas and industry consolidation targets, as well as new environmental regulations.

    An remarkable example of predatory monopolistic capitalism – enforced in the name of the environment!

  33. We must not allow a rare earth gap! But on the other hand, at least it’s not foreign oil, which props up unfriendly dictatorships!

    BTW: /sarc

  34. When we come to our senses and start to dismantle those dreadful wind turbines, we will have a great source of rare earth recovery.

  35. My attitude is that the minerals are not going to evaporate if we don’t mine them. Sooner or later attitudes and technology will change and they will still be there waiting for us to extract them. I was very much against the Canadian Government giving billions to fund the development of oil fields off the coast of Newfoundland, and the oil sands in Alberta. This was not to find the resources. We already knew the oil was there. Sooner or later private industry would pay us for the privlige of extracting it when it was profitable to do so.

  36. Rob says:
    “In the US, we heavily subsidize technology which has a very short-term impact (like agriculture and fossil fuel extraction), but subsidy of new technology and innovation leading to long-term advantages is scrutinized and harshly treated as a ‘waste’ of tax payer money.”

    Any subsidization is a waste of tax payer money. Let private investors spend THEIR money, not mine.

  37. California’s Mountain Pass rare earth mine, once the world’s largest source, and still chock-full of lanthanide goodness, should be back in full production by 2013. It was somewhat shortsighted of the US to allow the production of militarily-strategic materials to be dominated by a foreign power when there was no domestic shortage of the raw materials.
    True, China has made the most-favored-nation trade list many times but they are still communists, and have conducted industrial espionage and extensive infringement and theft of IP.

    And, instead of rolling back the hard-earned protections of workers and the environment, why did the West not insist that China raise itself up to our standards, for their products to be sold here? It would be unreasonable to have required a complete change for them at the outset but, 30 years on, have their practices changed significantly?

  38. Peter Dare says:
    October 10, 2011 at 1:55 am
    No mention, as yet, here of the massive Chinese penetration of central and eastern African countries where Chinese economic aid is being exchanged for mining rights to various valuable mineral resources. British TV has shown several documentaries this year where this policy is proving productive. In South America, also, China is taking great interest in mines in Brazil and Chile. Presumably, western governments are aware of these developments.

    The US and other governments are assuredly aware, at some level; at the highest level, maybe not—see here:

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/aimless_obama_walks_alone_OUgoMTkORRJioLl7B6ZYmN

    describing a President who speaks only to his political advisors.

    The question is whether our government has any intention of doing anything about it. Previous commentators have described how paralyzed the country is by extreme ‘enviro’ ideology, EPA and other over-regulation, and even international agreements taking much of the country off-limits for mining (Gail Combs, October 10, 2011 at 4:55 am). The answer at this point is: clearly “no.”

    It will take a massive shake-up in government at all levels to free us from the shackles of rampant environmentalism and its socialist handmaiden. November 2012 can’t come fast enough.

    /Mr Lynn

  39. The US all but outlawed mining in most parts of the country and the colleges stopped training new explorationists during the 1990s.

    The current state of need is a direct consequence of the above. You reap what you sow. Karma is a b1+ch.

  40. Don’t worry about it. Within 5 years most coal, oil, wind, solar – you name it – energy plants will be replaced by Rossi’s Ecat.

  41. @Bloke down the pub October 10, 2011 at 2:21 am
    That might work if the only use for REEs was in wind turbines and solar panels. However REEs have a wide variety of applications like colour video displays, cell phones, fiber optics, lasers, MRIs, petroleum refining, pollution control systems, lasers, high tech weapons technologies to name just a few.

    http://geology.com/articles/rare-earth-elements/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanthanide#Technological_applications

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erbium

    Sorry about all the Wikipedia references but for this sort of information I don’t think it really matters as it is just a starting point.

  42. @ climatereason October 10, 2011 at 1:21 am

    So Tony your interested in investing in REEs. Let me give you a tip. Make sure that the mine or company you plan to invest in has a good ratio of heavy rare earth elements (HREE) to light rare earth elements (LREE). The HREEs are less common and more valuable. Good luck with your investment.

  43. I don’t believe rare earths are used in any large windmill generators. Permanent magnets make no sense in generators over a ton.

    From Wikipedia: Larger, more costly turbines generally have geared power trains, alternating current output, flaps and are actively pointed into the wind. Direct drive generators and aeroelastic blades for large wind turbines are being researched.

  44. @ Chuckles October 10, 2011 at 3:52 am
    True enough REEs are not all that rare but economically viable deposits are.

  45. Richard S Courtney says:
    October 10, 2011 at 1:15 am
    Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?

    Richard, I feel the answer to your question is found in the last paragraph of this announcement in the five step plan outlined by Cyrus Wadia. It has to do with scalibility of current REEs and the problem with existing REEs being used is that they can never provide enough electricity for all 7 billion people on the planet as Cyrus Wadia explains in this video.

    Cyrus makes the case that to provide 7 billion people with enough energy to live in modern comfort, requires providing solar PV at an installed cost of $2.00/watt in the USA and $0.75/watt to China and to do this Cyrus outlines a new strategy using iron or copper sulfates and nanotechnology as the only possible way to acheive this. This would provide consumers with electricity at a coat of 5 cents/kWh worldwide. This would mean for example that the average USA homeowner could install solar PV at a cost of roughly $7,000.00 which would provide a investment payback of roughly five years and provide the customer with 25 more years of FREE electricity wheen compared to electricity rates of 9 cents/kWh we now pay on a national basis.

    The economic incentive of such a scenario would end all need for political intervention in the form of emissions treaties, which honest people realize will never come to fruition among developed nations (just watch Durban fail). So the announcement is a little misleading in that it is about more than just domestic supplies of material for renewable energy and there is a hidden agenda for a solution for reducung emissions not just for the USA but for the entire world that WON’T RELY on REEs IMO.

  46. I deal with China everyday of my working life, I find them industrious, courteous and very canny.
    IF I was Chinese and had a reserve of a mineral which was needed within the country I would restrict exports. Since when is it China’s reposnsibility to ensure that the Western businesses are able to function?> The “free world” (sarc) likes free markets, our politicians tells us so when they are protection oil supplies. Follow the green path is the mantra in the West, not for much longer I think. Roll on Nuclear power generation, power to the ATOM I say, Windmils are for the \Dutch, nice and cute but of no substance.

  47. Peter Miller says:
    October 10, 2011 at 2:19 am
    The US has some of the biggest rare earth deposits in the world, but currently has no operational mines or processing technology.

    You may want to check out Molycorp who own and operate a rare earth mine and production facility in Mountain Pass, California. Molycorp has one of the largest reserves of rare earths outside of China. The mine started production again in December 2011 and they are in the midst of a huge expansion project including technology upgrades.

    http://emi-magazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2052:-molycorp-minerals-llc-&catid=130:featured-content&Itemid=84

    http://www.molycorp.com/

  48. In the not-too-distant future ocean floor mining will supply all the minerals necesary. Don’t forget 80% of the planets surface is underwater where the crust is thin and the minerals abundant. There is no problem.

  49. @ Richard S Courtney October 10, 2011 at 1:15 am

    Your right there is no problem, but you might find this interesting.
    I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with a fellow who has been involved in the exploration for REEs for over 40 years. He told me, with the usual caveats, that if China continues to develop at its current pace it may become a net importer of REEs by 2015.
    It takes time to develop alternatives. Do you think that might cause a problem?

  50. The planned 15MW GE super turbine design doesn’t use permanent magnets, so no neodynium.

    Nanosolar’s thin film panels use very little rare earths.

    When Japan was completely cut off from rare earth supplies because of political issues with China, they found cheap ways to recycle the stuff.

    At the end of the day, rare earth’s are a non-issue. We buy them from China them because they are cheap. If they get expensive, we’ll learn to recycle and/or use less of them.

    The only interesting thing about them is that the mining processes used to get at them in China are very very dirty and dangerous.

  51. First off, demand for rare minerals would be much less if we had free market and not government driving demand. If these energy sources we so great, the free market would be moving into them; and it isn’t. That’s very telling—the free market is very smart and knows a good (or bad) deal when it sees one.

    Second, wind and solar suck when used for central energy production. The Sun goes down, the wind dies. You cannot build a reliable energy supply from unreliable energy sources.

    Around the world, they are finding wind and solar the least clean or green of all energy sources. The materials, installation, infrastructure, distribution, land footprint, maintenance, and longevity all point to a losing situation. Furthermore, the minute to minute fluctuations in energy production wreak havoc with the grid, threatening to burn it out constantly; it is an inherently unstable system which needs monitoring every second.

    However, on a smaller scale, wind and solar are useful. At the end user level, solar or wind can decrease the electricity a house uses and does not cause fluctuations in the grid. The homeowner uses less energy from the grid and pays less per month, although the initial investment is high. It is here that such energy sources can take the load off the grid, leaving more for industry and cities.

    End user systems are also much smaller, demand less rare materials, footprint, and maintenance, and have lower wear stresses, and thus longer longevity, than the huge wind turbines.

    We actually have plenty of US rare minerals, but they are mostly on reserved lands and mining of these have been specifically discouraged by the government, once again, just like the campaign against drilling for oil, making us dependent on foreign countries, which are usually ones that do not necessarily like the US.

  52. Article mentions windmill generators using neodymium magnets but so do the wheel motors in electric cars. All the alternatives have substantially reduced power to weight ratio. Neodymium isn’t particularly rare. It occurs with the same abundance as copper and nickel ore. The reason the Chinese are able to have a corner on the market is that they’ve been selling it cheaper than anyone else for so long no one else is in the business. There are substantial deposits in the United States but it would take time and money to develop them so in the short term China has an advantage in this product but it’s doubtful they’ll push it too far because they are vulnerable in other areas to trade retaliation.

  53. Well it might be a Chinese mans world but it doesn’t mean nothing without a woman or a girl.
    100,000,000 single men in China with no prospect of a relationship with a woman.
    I can see how the EU can sort the balance of trade figures.
    Turn Europe into a giant knocking shop.Damn we’re half way there already.

  54. Gail Combs says:
    October 10, 2011 at 4:55 am
    “The problem is the USA turned control of whether or not the USA can mine minerals over to the United Nations. ”

    No it did not.

    “In 1972, our government signed the United Nations’ World Heritage Treaty, a treaty that creates “World Heritage Sites” and Biosphere Reserves.” Since 1972, 68 percent of all U.S. national parks, monuments and preserves have been designated as World Heritage Sites.”

    These are self-nominated sites and to be accepted and retained on the list they must meet stringent requirements regarding their operation and protection against being despoiled. This World Heritage Treaty was created by the United States not foisted upon it and the goal was to increase the number and preservation standards of other places in the world up to what was already in place for U.S. national parks and monuments.

    The important point to note is that no nation gives up any sovereign rights to areas designated as World Heritage sites. Participation is voluntary from soup to nuts and may be discontinued at any time.

  55. Richard S Courtney, October 10, 2011 at 1:15 am, says,
    Can anybody please tell me what is the problem?

    This is a no brainer. The Sun sets and storing energy for the rest of the day (18 hours during the winter) is not possible; it’s much too expensive and batteries have short lives. Suppose you have several days of cloudy weather, a storm, a hurricane? PVs also do not work well above a certain latitude and are temperature sensitive. They also largely need to be kept meticulously clean.

    Until we have a cheap and efficient method for storing energy for the rest of the day, solar is still only an ancillary energy source, good mostly for reducing a house’s energy demand when it happens to be working.

    Sure, if you live in the boonies of Africa, you would love to have electricity for even part of the day, but it’s back to primitive life when the Sun goes down. There is no way that a country can develop its way out of poverty with such an unreliable and pathetic, fair-weather energy source.

  56. [LET’S HOPE THAT ANDREA ROSSI IS ABOUT TO END ALL THIS NONSENSE.(LOOKS MORE LIKELY EVERY DAY)]

    Within 5 years, almost every coal, oil, solar – you name it – power plant will be out of business and replaced with some version of Rossi’s Ecat.

  57. @Dave Brittania

    “Well it might be a Chinese mans world but it doesn’t mean nothing without a woman or a girl.
    100,000,000 single men in China with no prospect of a relationship with a woman.”

    They import females as necessary from other parts of the world. When I was in Taiwan 12 years ago I saw barracks filled with female laborers (laptop computer assembly workers in this case) imported from poverty stricken Pacific islands.

  58. This will again be a great opportunity to see the genius of capitalism. The need for the hard-to-get rare earth mineral will eventually be engineered away. From what I understand, the process has already started.

  59. Afaik, the problem with REEs is not availability. These are fairly abundant minerals, with multiple good mining opportunities.
    The problem is that the refining process is very messy, an issue complicated by the presence in much of the minerals of radioactive thorium. Waste disposal was the reason for the shutdown of the major US REE mine that is now to be reopened by Molycorp in 2013 with improved environmental safeguards. China has paid a big price for its current REE preeminence, in terms of permanently ruined land because of lax or non existent waste treatment. That is now more widely understood. For instance, there is an ongoing case in Australia/Malaysia involving construction of a plant in Malaysia to process ore imported from Australia. That plant has attracted vehement local opposition because of the waste issue. ( http://news.malaysia.msn.com/regional/article.aspx?cp-documentid=5379270 )
    So the mine issue is a red herring. A better refining process however would be worth billions.

  60. If there is in fact a limited supply of REE’s right now and demand is driving up prices, then the first thing we need to do is ask ourselves what — if anything — we can do to alleviate that demand. In other words, what technology or technologies are using REE’s that we can do without — at least for now.

    The immediate answer that comes to mind with me is green energy technologies — wind and solar. The issues with wind and solar have already been documented, and they include low-density (a weak energy source), limited availability and intermittency, diffuse nature, etc. The limited availability and rising prices of REEs adds to the issues that wind and solar already have, and this should make them a target for dramatically reduced or suspended development.

    It all boils down to a matter of priorities.

  61. There are other “rare earths” used in high power magnets, apart from neodymium. They have varying magnetic properties with relation to “curie point” and remnance & etc. Neodymium alloys are a favourite for wind turbines, because of their very high remnance and high curie point.

    Other “rare earths” that can be used in high power magnet alloys are Praseodymium, Samarium, Gadolinium, Dysprosium. Some of these are not so rare just widely dispersed, or found in conjuction with more common elemets, such as in certain zinc mines, for instance. If the zinc isn’t now exploited from those mines then the impurities, such as samarium become uneconomic to extract, and thus “rare” on the market, but not in the Earth’s crust.

    Still there is a cost, in terms of industrial pollution, caused by extraction processes, in countries where the envonmrntal; regulations are not so strict as in the USA, Canada or Australia, for instance, and sadly large scale, brakeneck speed, mining operations in China have caused large scale industrial toxic lakes of effluent, and noxious gas emissions.

  62. I will comment here within the scope of my own expertise on several fronts: First, I am a mining geologist and I can say that the attention being focussed on this issue is certainly welcome. What remains to be seen is whether the emphasis from the top down can improve the exploration and development perimitting process. It currently takes nearly as long to open a new mine as it does to bring a new drug to market (I exaggerate, but not by much)

    Second, I am the President of Pennsylvania’s licensing board for engineers, land surveyors and geologists. We have been pushing for years for Pennsylvania universities to return to fundamentals of the sciences of geology and geological engineering. So far, the universities have not been very interested. They are stuck in the enrollment game. For the past three decades, geology, mining and geotechnical engineering programs have suffered enrollment malaise – some universities have completely dropped geology curricula and no longer offer a major. Some hjave scaled back, and most have scaled down and broadened the dicipline (read as watered down) in order to attract and keep students.

    Third, I am a part-time geology professor these past 25 years at several universities and in numerous courses. I also teach continuing education courses to professional geologists. What I find in these venues is that about 97% of prospective and practising geologist have focussed on environmental cleanup to such a degree that the current generation of would-be mentors to the next generation of exploration geologists no longer possess the knowledge and skills needed to train the next generation – AND the students graduating from our universities for the past decade (at least) have not received the education in the core curriculum needed to join the ranks of exploration and operations geologists to answer this presidential call to arms. I know this because I read the resumes of applicants from about ten states who want to be licensed to practice in Pennsylvania.

    Finally, and lest you think my view might be parachial, I serve as a subject matter expert on teh Council of Examinaers for the National ASsociation of State Boards of Geology – we make develop, administer, grade and revise the uniform national exams (2X per year) for professional geologis licensure. Therefore I see all the statistics for every test taker this past decade and I have to say that there are few people with the expertise to tackle the critical minerals challenges – my use of the 97% was not an off-the cuff wise crack.

    The current population of geologists is wonderfully adept at cleaning up hazardous waste sites but has virtually no experience or expertise in mineral exploration or extraction. At all of my levels of involvement we have recognized this for a long time and have been working to correct it, but you can’t make people study something they perceive as a dead industry, which is how mining was viewed since about 1981.

    So, wouldn’t it be nice if some of the economic stimulus money went into scholarship funds for young people to study what they now view as a dead-end. We need new engineers, geologists, water resource experts – if you have children or grandchildren with a technical bent, I would encourage you to shove them toward a career in earth sciences/engineering. I would not have made that recommendation five years ago – the economy of the country would not support them. That, and the environmental protection and cleanup lobby was so powerful that exploration of any kind was successfully branded as wanton and agressive rape and exploration (in the U.S) was essentially at a stand-still. Fopr a little humor on this matter, here is alink to my blog which I keep mostly for my studernts.

    http://suspectterrane.blogspot.com/2009/08/my-precious.html

    and you might also enjoy

    http://suspectterrane.blogspot.com/2009/11/caution-mountebank-at-work.html

    and

    http://suspectterrane.blogspot.com/2009/08/resourceful.html

    Tom

  63. vboring says: October 10, 2011 at 7:47 am
    All good points. To which I want to add another.

    When you have a government subsidy to build X, does it work to your long term advantage to find ways to build X cheaper? What if “quality” is measured by some DOE bureaucrat checking off out-dated regulations to verify the money is spent as promised? What if only high-tech, highly efficient devices using REE get the subsidy, but less efficient, but more cost effective, devices do not?

    “Follow the money.”

  64. Rob says:
    In the US, we heavily subsidize technology which has a very short-term impact (like agriculture and fossil fuel extraction), but subsidy of new technology and innovation leading to long-term advantages is scrutinized and harshly treated as a ‘waste’ of tax payer money.

    Are you referring to oil subsidies, actually deductions, and farm subsidies and referring to Solyndra as the alternative?
    If so I agree on the first two but not the latter. I would support funding of R&D for wind and solar, but not company subsidies which attempt to pick winners and losers in a field not ready for prime time.

  65. Tom–Thanks for the great post. I ended up in oil and gas, but I had economic minerals courses all through undergrad and grad school. Now I look at thesis proposals for a grant I run, and they are heavy in water resources, enviro stuff. To bad, those classes were fun. We got to look at real rocks.

  66. Madman2001 says:
    October 10, 2011 at 6:41 am
    Rob says:
    “In the US, we heavily subsidize technology which has a very short-term impact (like agriculture and fossil fuel extraction), but subsidy of new technology and innovation leading to long-term advantages is scrutinized and harshly treated as a ‘waste’ of tax payer money.”

    Any subsidization is a waste of tax payer money. Let private investors spend THEIR money, not mine.

    Lets see, if the government allows a company to use its own money for exploration or development, instead of taking that money in taxes, liberals scream we are giving them subsidies as if it was taken from lazy non-working undeserving welfare receiving citizens own pockets. How is it a bad thing to let these companies put their own money into developing resources that leads to jobs and more people working? Does anybody think the same money taken from the mining/oil companies are going to create more jobs and more affordable energy and raw materials to produce goods? Mineral extraction and processing jobs are good paying jobs that form a real foundation for this countries economy. Everything we have was mined or grown and we use minerals we have mined to grow things better and faster. I guess it come down to this: If a thief only steals half of what I have earned, by definition is he subsidizing my life?

  67. TomG(ologist) ,
    A few years ago , I encouraged one of my stepsons to look into mining engineering when he was applying to college . My reasoning was that someone needed to do it and that he would find a decent job upon graduation . Sooner or later the people of this country will awaken from their green pipe dream and realize that we REALLY need this stuff , whether it be REEs , coal or whatever , and that we can’t afford to import it . Unfortunately , he didn’t listen .

  68. The USA was the worlds leading extractor of these minerals until about the year 2000, when environmentalist forced the closing of the California mines, not for any particular reason other than it was mining and California has a natural aversion to industry.

  69. PWalker: I know the feeling – none of my three daughters went into my field. However, I have the very positive feeling that I will be able to work until I am 70 if I want to without worry of layoffs because there are so few younger people who are waiting in the wings for old guys like me (only 55 actually) to retire – or be forcibly retired. I don;t know if I want to work til I am 70, but after 30 years of doing this I still find going to work every day a joy and all of my projects are exciting, interesting and unique.

  70. Well! At Last! Now is it clear why we need a Space Shuttle and a Space Mining Program run be the Department of the Exterior? Finally! Finally, someone has thrown a bucket of cold ice water in our faces and we’re beginning to wake up. I never! Inever thought this day would come. Oh, Yes, nearly forgot, we need to get rid of the Nathional Anthroprogenicwarming Space Administration (NASA) too, waste of Chinese money. (SarcAlmostOff)

  71. Wrong, wrong, and wrong! Tellurium is a byproduct of copper mining that has even larger economies of scale than zinc mining as attributed to Dr. Eggert. Somebody dropped the ball when they stated that tellurium was just plain scarce in the succeeding statement… “Others are just plain scarce, like rhenium and tellurium, which only exist in very small amounts in the Earth’s crust.”

  72. This was a very interesting run here but I enjoyed TomG’s post and his website the most. Thanks for all of it.

    Bernie

  73. The US has some of the biggest rare earth deposits in the world, but currently has no operational mines or processing technology.

    Yup, because the EPA has shut them all down. An operation in the California desert is set to restart operations after having been closed over 10 years in order to comply with “environmental” regulations that kept changing. If I were China, I would be pouring huge amounts of money into US “environmental” activist groups (they probably ARE) to keep that lawfare going and prevent competition from US domestic sources. Then if I were China, I would begin to buy up the land on which these deposits are found.

  74. TomG, your points are well taken I have no doubt about your experiences. But I think is a little unfair to other readers to leave out the full range of reasons why there is a generation gap in mining and exploration geology. It is an obscure field and profession to most people after all. One reason it is obscure and the generation gap exists is that it is an extremely cyclical sector that makes construction workers and home builders look mainstream and stable. And this cyclical swing goes beyond environmental regulations in CA and the EPA. Also, the Mtn Pass REE mine in CA is back up and running at least in pre-production stage and with all permits renewed for full production.

  75. Rob Petrie says:
    October 10, 2011 at 6:55 am
    Don’t worry about it. Within 5 years most coal, oil, wind, solar – you name it – energy plants will be replaced by Rossi’s Ecat.

    and again at 8:09 am: there is a repeat

    Find a pencil. Find a napkin or envelope. Do some calculations. For example: What is going to be built? Materials? Land? Whose backyard will these be in? Funds will come from where? Many other considerations.

    For context, I still have and drive a 1980 Chevy pickup. The reasons are: 1. it still works; 2. it does the jobs I need a pickup for; 3. “saddlebag” gas tank litigation crashed the resale value; 4. a new replacement would cost more than our first house.

    “Most” and “replaced” in your comment have meanings you should consider in your calculations. I, and others, will watch for your response. Thanks.

  76. Pacific Ocean Seabed Rich in Rare Earth Minerals

    Spooked by the Chinese embargo of rare earth elements the rare earth mining industry is busily looking and investing in rare earth mineral extraction. Several prospects look practical. Meanwhile Japan’s Yasuhiro Kato, associate processor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering is leading a research group that’s found widely distributed high-quality rare earth-rich mud in the central and southeastern Pacific Ocean.

    MORE — http://oilprice.com/Metals/Commodities/Pacific-Ocean-Seabed-Rich-in-Rare-Earth-Minerals.html

  77. Dave Springer says:
    October 10, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Gail Combs says:
    October 10, 2011 at 4:55 am
    “The problem is the USA turned control of whether or not the USA can mine minerals over to the United Nations. ”

    No it did not….
    This is from the website for the treaty.

    What are the legal implications of the Convention?

    The UNESCO World Heritage Convention is a treaty that has become, over the past 30 years, the foremost international legal tool in support of the conservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage…

    Of course nothing is ever said to the public about turning control over to an international body but it is DONE.

    From a law that was just passed:
    SEC. 404. <> COMPLIANCE WITH INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS.

    “Nothing in this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) shall be construed in a manner inconsistent with the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization…” http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FSMA/ucm247548.htm

    This puts the World Trade Organization in charge of US food safety. The FDA has been very blunt about changing regulations to “Harmonize” (Their word) with the WTO’s wishes.

    “Strengthening the role the United Nations can play…

    “The concept of national sovereignty has been an immutable, indeed sacred, principle of international relations. It is a principle which will yield only slowly and reluctantly to the new imperatives of global environmental cooperation. What is needed is recognition of the reality that in so many fields, and this is particularly true of environmental issues, it is simply not feasible for sovereignty to be exercised unilaterally by individual nation-states, however powerful. The global community must be assured of environmental security.” – Maurice Strong essay Stockholm to Rio: A Journey Down a Generation

    This is in the category of if it quacks like a duck….

  78. “The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has answered the call as well. Cyrus Wadia will be presenting a five-point strategy to begin addressing the matter. The first point is to mitigating long term risks associated with the use of critical materials. The second, diversify supplies of raw materials. Third, to promote a domestic supply chain for areas of strategic importance like clean energy. Fourth, inform decision makers; and fifth, prepare the workforce of the next generation.”

    IOW, our government overseers will make damn sure that the USA will not be a part of the solution. Step one, alone, will make sure that billions of $ will be devoted to years of studies, which will show that no mining can be tolerated, for one reason or another, including but not limited to the following reasons: risk to endangered species/loss of critical habitat, health effects caused by exposures to one or more chemicals, global warming, or fear of “unknown risks.”

    Sorry to be so cynical, but it’s true. If the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy was at all serious, Step ONE should be to cut EPA’s budget in half!

  79. Although I would like, as a sceptic, to join in the levity of the tight spot this appears to put the green industry in – the good doctors at the Colorado School of Mines and other experts at the USGS are plainly wrong about motivation of the Chinese. A part of the resources of rare earths in China were being pillaged by illegal miners that were destroying resources and the metals were being sold at cut rate prices for years – this put other world operations out of business. Now they want to conserve resources – not just of rare earths; they have already put in quotas for a number of metals (antimony, bismuth, etc) and the flow of cheap resources is being stemmed. Prices will rise again (as they did for antimony a few years ago that will allow former producers – like the US to return to production). As a consultant in the rare metals fields I am very busy these days consulting on old and new rare metals resources in Canada, US and Africa. There will be no sustained shortage of these metals. The prices are higher now but once the alternate sources are back in production along with new operations there will be adequate supplies. Can we not be spared the big knee-jerk scares from at least some walks of life.

  80. To heck with science, go become a lobbyist with connections to the White House and the DOE. There is you get rich plan and quick retirement.

  81. Bloke down the pub says (October 10, 2011 at 2:21 am): “Easy solution. Western governments stop subsidising the installation of solar panels and wind turbines, demand for these minerals falls through the floor and the Chinese are left holding a load of worthless rock.”

    Heh. Great minds think alike. That was the first thing I thought of after reading the article.

    Of course it’s more likely that this “problem”, created by government regulation, will be addressed by more government regulation, which will only create more probems.

  82. Neodymium is actually more common in Earth’s crust than lead or tin and orders of magnitude more abundant than gold or silver. The problem is just that ‘rare earth’ elements are usually found together, in low concentrations and are difficult to separate from each other due to their similar physical/chemical properties.

  83. Dave Springer says:
    October 10, 2011 at 8:13 am

    They import females as necessary from other parts of the world. When I was in Taiwan 12 years ago I saw barracks filled with female laborers (laptop computer assembly workers in this case) imported from poverty stricken Pacific islands.

    But they rarely marry/create families with them. Orientals, in general, are extremely ethnocentric (== racist) in their immigration/citizenship/marriage customs and regulations. And the cultural roots for this are deep and powerful.

  84. I am not sure why the fixation with rare earths. They are relatively plentiful (though some of the individual elements in the group are not). Markets have acted effecticively in the past to send price signals to entrepeneurs, Why should this not be the case today?

    Lynas is processing rare earths ore through it’s Mount Weld plant in Western Australia as we speak (started in May this year), and will have the refinery in Malaysia completed in coming months (to extract the various elements as oxides). Greenland Minerals and Energy is another example. Around the world several other rare earths hopefuls are pushing their new projects.

    Prices of rare earths products are already slipping from their mid-year highs … I would say the bubble has already burst (I have been tracking the prices for several months now). Add to that the economic slowdown of the next few years, and most of the wannabe rare earths producers will not get close to producing.

  85. Friends:

    I write to thank everybody who provided answers to my question.

    I especially thank TomG(ologist) for his informative post at October 10, 2011 at 8:32 am. I would like to think his points are specific to the US but sadly I know they also apply to the UK.

    However, a direct answer to my question was supplied by Gary Pearse at October 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm and – according to his analysis – I was right in thinking the ”problem” is probably a temporary transition.

    Richard

  86. Dave Springer says:
    October 10, 2011 at 8:13 am

    @Dave Brittania

    “Well it might be a Chinese mans world but it doesn’t mean nothing without a woman or a girl.
    100,000,000 single men in China with no prospect of a relationship with a woman.”

    They import females as necessary from other parts of the world. When I was in Taiwan 12 years ago I saw barracks filled with female laborers (laptop computer assembly workers in this case) imported from poverty stricken Pacific islands.

    Taiwan isn’t China.

    http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/1932/bare_branches.html

  87. John F. Hultquist says:
    What is going to be built? Materials? Land? Whose backyard will these be in? Funds will come from where? Many other considerations.

    It is just a simple boiler – tabletop at the smallest – with a cylinder of nickel powder in the middle of it and a bit of hydrogen under moderate pressure. You heat the powder and the hydrogen, and the stuff starts putting out 5 or 10 times more heat than you put in to start it going. You pump water past it and the water heats up and turns to steam. The steam does whatever you can make steam do.

    Oil and gas burner replacements within 5 years; Stanley Steamers make a comeback; Space heaters in Walmart; Power plants using arrays of the gizmos instead of coal; Locomotives, trucks; Oil tankers converted into ocean liners powered by the gizmos. What more do you need to know?

  88. jae says:
    October 10, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    ….Sorry to be so cynical, but it’s true. If the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy was at all serious, Step ONE should be to cut EPA’s budget in half!
    ______________________________
    How about getting rid of the EPA completely and going back to criminal trespass and property rights.

    The polluting was done because the big companies convinced the US government that pollution was “The price of progress” so criminal trespass cases were not successful during that time period.

  89. Dave Springer;
    They import females as necessary from other parts of the world. When I was in Taiwan 12 years ago I saw barracks filled with female laborers (laptop computer assembly workers in this case) imported from poverty stricken Pacific islands.>>>

    What does something you saw 12 years ago in Taiwan have to do with the population imbalance in China?

  90. Doug – you are correct – this is a VERY cyclic industry which does not go through boom and busts so much as it goes into hibernation periodically. I had to work in site remediation for many years between cycles – now I am being recruited regularly. Go figure.

  91. TomG, I am a registered engineer in CA. long since retired. When I took (and passed) the EIT test in CA in 1963, 19% passed. When I took (and passed) the test for my professional engineering (civil) license in 1967, 26% passed.

    When the state of CA changed to national testing standards, in 1975, the percentage passing became 75%, for both of those tests.

    I have done a lot of prospecting and weekend mining in CA. Some pollution is inevitable, particularly when dust/soil erosion is concerned. The EPA is a monster and rogue organization, with activists knowing little of actual science.

    When an exceptionally bright grandson of mine took an interest in physics, I was delighted . . . except that the high school he attends had and has no teacher qualified to teach physics.

    The concept that every student has to have a passing grade has about ruined the teaching of physics, chemistry, and biology.

  92. Ref – Gail Combs says:
    October 10, 2011 at 11:54 am

    “National Sovereignty”, “International Law”, The United Nations Charter, The International This, That, Etc., it’s a bunch of global political polution (aka Global PP). And some people sitting on Wall Street wonder why we still have war. Hummmm… When we forget about Human Nature and think we can just burn our way to Utopia someone is going to get wet.

    PS: Never trust a politician! And, never elect one more than twice to the same office! It’s also very dangerous to give a brand new Research Scientist fresh out of school with a PhD in Primitive Basket Weaving a grant from the NSF for a $Trillion and telling him he’s got to use it all in one year if he expects to get any more. Will we ever learn? Seems not.

  93. October 3, 2011
    Molycorp Set to Announce a Rare Earth Rediscovery
    By KEITH BRADSHER

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/04/business/molycorp-to-announce-rare-earth-deposit-at-california-site.html

    “An all-but-forgotten rocky outcropping in Southern California contains ore that could help break the country’s dependence on China for certain types of rare earth metals, according to the only American producer of rare earths.”

    Brazil’s Vale Discovers Rare Earths in Amazon

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204612504576609413994133684.html

    By DIANA KINCH
    OCTOBER 3, 2011

    “RIO DE JANEIRO—Brazilian miner Vale SA has discovered deposits of rare-earth minerals at its giant Salobo copper-mine project at Carajas in Para state, similar to quality at some Australian deposits, a leading Brazilian minerals researcher said late last week.”

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