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Rare Earth Minerals For Green Tech Put U.S. In Foreign Hands

October 12, 2011 by  

Rare Earth Minerals For Green Tech Put U.S. In Foreign Hands

As the “green energy” movement continues, there is some indication that rare earth minerals necessary for the production of green technologies are going the route of controversy in the geopolitical sphere.

At a meeting of the U.S. Geological Society (USGS) attended by politicians and political policymakers of all sorts, Professor Roderick Eggert of the Colorado School of Mines sought to explain the extreme rarity of minerals needed for green technology. The consequence of pushing green technology is that the U.S. is subject to the exportation policies of countries such as China which have rich stores of rare earth metals.

The USGS uses the example of China’s exhibition of a stranglehold on neodymium, a substance used in wind generators, when it restricted export of the substance last year. The result was a much lower neodymium price in China that allowed the country to both export the rare earth mineral at a high price and produce more wind technology than other countries.

“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 in a press release. “Others are just plain scarce, like rhenium and tellurium, which only exist in very small amounts in the Earth’s crust.”

The USGS contends that the U.S. must either find ways to use less of these rare earth minerals or seek them in countries with fair trading policies.

Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • Barney

    There is a real disctintion between heavy rare earth and rare earth. Heavy rare earth is the most expensive and desirable by far.

    China controls currently over 97% of the world’s supply of rare earth and heavy rare earth.

    Without rare earth you do not make high teck anything, green cars and a whole host of other products and China has restricted the export of Rare earth twice in the last two years.

    Currently you in the Us have to import over 90+ of the rare earth yoiu use in your dwindling high teck industries and have to rely on China and beg them for it. They can cut you off at any time they wish.

    Do you have rare earth? Yup but apart from one company in California nobody is producing any.

    Could you produce some? Yup but will you? not likely as bringing a mine into production is very expensive and your system in your country take many years of permitting by the time they go through all the hoops, BLMA, EPA then all the State stuff it is approx 7 years Your bureaucracy is unbelievable.

    There are only about three companies in the world outside of China who will be bringing any new supply into production in the next several years and a couple of those are Canadian.

    Backed yourselves into a corner again. You do not play chess very well. The Chinese do

    • Husker

      As hard as it maybe to swallow, for some, Barney is correct.

      USGS mineral surveys conducted in 1947 – 1949 identified what today is considered to be the world’s largest concentration of Neodymium in the world, south of Omaha, NE near Elk Creek, NE.

      Over the better part of the last decade, a Canadian company has been engaged in the preliminary engineering / surveying and permitting process to develop that deposit….they’re still stuck in the permitting red-tape.

      If full permission is granted to begin extraction then there will be a delay while the environmental assessments begin, followed by the rezoning study, followed by the construction engineering studies on infrastructure improvements, etc., etc., etc.

      If they were able to get full permission to begin construction, it would still be upto five additional years just to construct the supporting infrastructure of improved roads and the construction of railroad spurs to connect to the U.P. and BNSF mainlines….

      In light of the world’s current economic and social condition, this doesn’t make any sense to me unless I consider it within the frame work of a planned “transformation of America”.

      • s c

        Husker, I hope your state is prepared to go tooth-and-nail with Obummer [go Nebraska! in football and politics]. When it comes to heavy rare earths, Obummer seems to be working for foreign countries that hate us. We need all the help we can get to use what we have. Otherwise, we’ll be in China’s back pocket forever.
        By the way, I have access to some Nebraska news stations, and so I try to keep posted with what’s going on there. Are Nebraskans going to get rid of Senator Nelson and get someone better?

      • DanB

        Remember, our government has long been against mining or developing here in America. When I first learned a while back that we were headed into a dependency on our global enemies for the future of technology, I was wondering why this was so. So when I learned that we regulated ourselves out of the rare earth industry I wasn’t surprised. The irony of the green movement just continues to astound.

        Did you know that the dependence on rare earth isn’t limited to the green energy movement? Your computers, cell phones, and much of the technology developments in the past few years have increasingly become connected to rare earth…. We’ve nearly doomed ourselves to dependence whether or not the green movement collapses. Because it would take years to establish any sort of rare earth mining and processing here in America, we would lose years in the technology industry where vast improvements can be measured in months and years instead of decades. The running joke is that your computer is outdated the day you buy it. Imagine if we were cut off as a nation from rare earths for six or seven years until we could get it out of own lands, how far behind would be then?

  • J.Moore

    Sad, but true. The state of affairs in the U.S. are a beaurocratic mess…

    But, on the other hand. America has the unique ability to do 180′s quickly. Just as it occured in the last few years and does so every few years…

    The pertinent fact to take from this, is that America does not “Need” so much as “Push” for solar and wind technology. There are much more efficient technologies out there that require NONE of those mentioned minerals. That’s why so few actually use them, like the current administration is levying us to do. We know that mot of it is “Bunk” and simply “aren’t buying it” like the rest of the simple world, that simply does not know the political machine behind it all…

    So I take exception to “Barney”‘s assertation of Grandure over America. Did our “Isolationism in WWII” not prove wise? It’s comical at times to watch how blind the rest of the world can be, when they think America is weak (only to learn otherwise at their own peril). We can change our paradygm in 1 day. Watch the force that sweeps across the planet following each and every Presidential Election we have ever had and see for yourself.

    Enjoy 2012 U.S. Elections Results…

  • 45caliber

    And just recently the US government allowed the sale of the largest rare mineral site in the US to CHINA.

    • Matt

      …Sale? Really? Maybe for $0.10 on the $1.00! To pay off a portion of what we owe them or just part of the planned “Fundemental Transformation of America”?

      • 45caliber

        I suspect it is the same deal that gives them most of our oil – we give them the stuff and they don’t foreclose on the loans we have with them while at the same time they loan us more money. It actually doesn’t gain us anything as far as money is concerned.

        • Matt

          I absolutely agree with you.

    • s c

      45caliber, if this is true, then once again America is being victimized by this treasonous administration. It’s not possible for American scientists NOT to know what is needed or where certain elements are. Hence, only back-stabbing Washington politicians (and a certain W H duo) can be guilty of this crime.
      Does anyone need further PROOF that the current &#*@%^#+ “prez” has turned his back on his oath of office and the idea that a PRESIDENT must SWEAR to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution? Obummer’s robotic, two-legged lemming followers are just as guilty as the anything-but-dynamic W H “leadership.” Obummer can say he was programmed, but his followers can’t make that claim. It must be a contagious disease. Where’s the CDC when you need them?

      • 45caliber

        It’s in AZ somewhere, if I remember correctly. At the moment China controls about 90% of all rare earths.

      • eddie47d

        Good old SC anti-Obama 24/7 without saying much at all but you never do. Slick corporations within the mining industry(and oil and gas) brought onerous regulations down on themselves. Will they behave themselves if we let them out of regulation jail. I highly doubt it but would be open for discussion.

  • http://marcum1@wildblue.net coal miner

    Science News Critical Minerals Ignite Geopolitical Storm
    ScienceDaily (Oct. 11, 2011) — 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, Oct. 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 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.

  • http://marcum1@wildblue.net coal miner

    Attention:

    What is wrong with thorium?We got plenty of it.
    Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element, found in abundance throughout the world. Thorium atoms (symbol Th) have an atomic number of 90 and could be the fuel source of the future.

    http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Thorium

    • wsa

      Yeah we have Thorium but it is not in any way interchangeable with rare earths.

  • http://alexboatwrightloghomes.com ALEX BOATWRIGHT

    I seem to remember, fairly lately, reading a report of large deposits of these minerals being found in Afghanistan. Why can’t these be exploited to the advantage of the people of Afghanistan and us (U.S.) as well? We’ve spent vast sums to remove the Taliban from there, and more to build all sorts of infrastructure. Let’s dig up some rare earth, making us the consumer of these minerals, and letting the receipts from these ores pay for Afghanistans modernization. Am I dreaming?

    • s c

      Alex, a certain yahoo [named Obummer] is responsible for the Chinese getting first dibs on the resources in Afghanistan. It almost makes me want to stand up and salute – if treason rates a salute, that is. And then I’d have to puke until I coughed up blood.
      If we don’t have a curse residing in the W H, it is one hell of a first-rate imitation.

      • eddie47d

        The Chinese put in a bid for the mineral rights and so did the USA and other countries. The Kabul government accepted the Chinese bid. That is called Free Enterprise SC and not treason. If the Afghan government gave a damn about their protectors they would have chosen the US. That makes for a darn good reason to get out of there. We pay in blood and the Chinese get the rewards.

        • s c

          Misguided, thin-skinned one, give Obummer a chance [HA!]. He blew it in Afghanistan (in more ways than one). A recent discovery in Alaska (one of our “57″ states) has some interesting potential, and may almost make up for Opraisme’s classy incompetence with heavy rare earths in Afghanistan.
          On one hand, the minerals are there, but that location [Alaska] has a ‘military presence,’ so to speak, and Obummer may not know the difference between regular, unfriendly insurgents and American citizens (though they’re in the American military).
          Obummer’s main talent is in screwing up everything he touches.
          I wouldn’t trust him to take out the trash. When it comes to making proper use of heavy rare earths, I wouldn’t put it past him to sell the mineral rights to China, and we’d be back to square one.
          Remember, chum, when someone is working for Muslims and the Chinese, there is NO reason to do the right thing. We’ll see. I won’t hold my breath. Will you?

  • http://marcum1@wildblue.net coal miner

    What you need to know about REMs including uranium, molybdenum, thorium and technology metals, and how to play them.

    http://www.resourceinvestor.com/Pages/Resource-Investor-Rare-Earth-Metals.aspx
    Molycorp began extracting light rare earth metals from the open-pit Mountain Pass Mine in the 1950s. A costly cleanup, combined with low-cost competition from …

    http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/38816
    The competition among non-Chinese junior mining companies to successfully mine rare earth elements (REEs) began as a footrace and evolved into a full-on stampede …

    http://www.businessinsider.com/chris-berry-the-great-rare-earth-metals-reset-2011-10

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