Rare Earth Minerals For Green Tech Put U.S. In Foreign Hands
October 12, 2011 by Sam Rolley
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.