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Searching For Alternatives To China's Rare Earth Monopoly 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-200-kg-of-ytterbium dept.
KantIsDead writes "MIT's Technology Review adds to the ongoing discussion of China's monopoly on rare earth metals, an issue that was temporarily catapulted to national attention during China's rare earth embargo of Japan. The current article focuses on the search for alternatives to rare earth metals that would undercut China's monopoly and allow nations to develop their industry without fearing the hand of a Chinese embargo. From the article: 'In the US, the Chinese dominance of rare-earth mineral production has prompted a surge of funding focused on developing permanent magnets that use less, if any, rare-earth materials, such as nearly $7 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). In one of these projects, University of Nebraska researchers are working to enhance permanent magnets made with an alloy iron and cobalt, or FeCo. This class of materials is sold today, but delivers half or less of the power of the best rare-earth-based magnets. The Nebraska researchers will focus on ways to dope the structural matrix of these alloys with traces of other elements, thereby rearranging their molecular geometry to create stronger, more durable permanent magnetic materials.'"
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Searching For Alternatives To China's Rare Earth Monopoly

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  • I suspect there will be folks who open up new markets for rare earths. I believe there are a number of resources that are yet undeveloped on the African continent. Likely the replacement for Conflict Diamonds...Conflict Earths. (Sounds sorta like a scifi novel title, huh?)

    • by lul_wat (1623489) on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:24PM (#33913124)
      Considering all the investment China is putting into Africa at the moment they are probably one step ahead in that department...
      • by lionchild (581331) on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:45PM (#33913308) Journal

        Unlike Conflict Diamonds, it's really hard to trace where the Conflict Rare Earths come from. So, if they get funneled through China, it's very difficult to say where it orginally came from. :-(

      • by treeves (963993)
        Yeah, I was surprised to hear that Chinese companies are doing all the road-building projects in Ethiopia now. When I was there just a couple years ago, it was Europeans.
        • It's not because the the Europeans don't have interest, it's because China has strategic and political interests in making the entire continent of Africa politically-aligned with and dependent upon China. It wants to displace the US as the world hegemony, and Africa is currently a place where a foreign aid/investing cold war, of sorts, is occurring between the US and China. China is frequently beating out Western developers, however by offering huge sums of state-backed money in exchange for exclusive miner

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:15PM (#33913628) Journal

      Not to mention that there is a lot of potential ability to recycle Rare Earth metals from electronics yet for whatever reason we keep shipping them off to China to be disassembled.

      If you don't want China to have all the Rare Earth Metals... STOP GIVING IT BACK TO THEM.

      • by skids (119237)

        Hey I pull the magnets out of every drive I scrap. Not that I recycle them, I just keep them as toys
        (my personal record for levitating a pencil lead is now up to 35 days), but don't blame me :-)

      • by toddestan (632714)

        Well, the reason why we do it is simple: The cost of disposing of them properly outweighs the value of any raw materials recovered from them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SEWilco (27983)
      Is an asteroid "elsewhere" enough for you? Most metallic asteroids probably have more metals than we have access to in the Earth's crust. We have ways of cutting up large metal objects, but I don't know if there are industrial processes for separating random mixtures of metallic elements. An asteroid which had melted and partially separated the metals would be an interesting challenge.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RsG (809189)

        Sure, but getting to and from is a bitch. And moving them into Earth orbit is the sort of thing you only screw up once. I'm all for mining the belt, but we need substantially better tech for both ground to orbit and in-system flight. Mind you, in the long run setting up such infrastructure is worthwhile for non-commercial reasons, so we really ought to be investing more in it on general principles.

        • by ae1294 (1547521)

          Can never ever happen, I can't even get on a plane to fly to the next state over without an anal probe do you really think they are going to let terrorist fly to an asteroid? What if Al-Qaeda(tm) smashes it into east Texas? { discuss }

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by the phantom (107624)

            What if Al-Qaeda(tm) smashes it into east Texas?

            Wait... that's a possibility? Well, then... I think we need to get moving on this "mine the belt" idea right away!

        • by h4rm0ny (722443)
          Some of the projected estimates of how much could be mined from one suitable asteroid are staggering though. Yes, it would be a monstrous project to accomplish, perhaps it would take us twenty years to pull off. But put it in context - a small, metallic asteroid was estimated to yield around $20 trillion dollars worth of iron and precious metals and that's at 1997 prices. Some of the larger asteroids could effectively supply our metal needs on this planet (iron, rare earths, whatever) for any forseeable tim
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:24PM (#33913122)

    There are lots of rare earths in other countries. China is just the cheapest place to extract it. If the price goes up then other deposits will be able to be brought online economically.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TheEyes (1686556)

      The problem is that there aren't any other rare earth mines around, and they take a while to dig and bring online--ten years, from what I've read.

      Consider having to go without new hard drives for ten years, and you know why people are suddenly becoming nervous about China suddenly deciding to embargo Japan.

      • by Ironsides (739422)
        Consider it is still possible to recycle/reuse the rare earths from the existing equipment when it wears out. Recycling exists you know.
        • by sumdumass (711423)

          Really? There are rare earth metals/materials recycling plants online right now today? Ones that don't exist only in china because of pollution controls and regulations make it generally otherwise unprofitable?

          It's pretty much the same concept. If China embargoes the world for whatever reason, recycling isn't going to save us. Especially when exponential growth in demand means that we can't meet the needs of the new with the crap that is old and recycled. I mean seriously, how many people had an Ipod or the

          • by Ironsides (739422)
            Don't think "right now today", think five years from now. If you only think today, you'll always be in crisis management.

            The number of ipods 10 years ago? What does that matter? If you want to look at ipods, look at how many people have owned in the past 10 years. Most people are on their 3rd ipod at this point, with two previous ones in the trash. Think about the amount of electronics we've thrown away in the past 30 years.

            By the way, what makes recycling successful is not that demand outweighs s
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zill (1690130)

        The problem is that there aren't any other rare earth mines around

        United states had a monopoly in rare earth metals back in the 80's. I'm pretty sure those mines can be re-activated on a short notice.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by L3370 (1421413)
          They can.

          If we did, china would let it go on for a year or two, then wait till all the investors dump huge loads of cash into the business to expand and streamline. After fortunes are invested, China will stop any existing embargos and then triple their rare earth mining output just to slam all the competitors into the ground. If they do it right, they'd probably traumatize their competitors so terribly that no one would think of mining rare earth minerals for another 30 years.

          China corners the market b
          • Gold miners know the price of gold fluctuates and open/close thier mines accordingly, oil companies open/close their wells in response to OPEC, why would rare earth miners be "traumatised" doing the same thing? Sure there is a time lag between price movements and mine output but that lag also applies to China's mines.
      • by compro01 (777531) on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:02PM (#33913480)

        Bullshit. There's a pair of big rare earth mines in California that will be up and running by the middle of next year. One of them (Mountain Pass) used to provide the vast majority of the world's rare earths before China came on the scene and priced them out of the market.

        There is no possibility of a long term shortage.

      • Re-starting mining is only 1-2 years of work. Starting a new mine may be 3-4 years depending on how big of an operation. CA is Re-opening Mountain Pass Mine, which was the largest mine at one time (and remains high in ore). In addition, it appears that mines in the west are going to be started. In particular, over in North West Colorado, by Rifle, Colorado.

        The item that takes time AND MONEY, is the PROCESSING of the ores. That is what the feds should have backed Congressman's bill to spend upwards of 1 bi
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Nasty for your business if it happens all of a sudden, though, and it takes a couple years before the alternative supplies are actually ready.

      This is risk mitigation.

    • Actually, no (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      There are 2 very distinct issues.
      1. China DOES have the largest amount of currently cheaply available REE. BUT, they are not the only ones. However, they have ran around for the last 15 years trying to buy up mines, or put them out of business by ignoring the environmental issues, subsidizing the prices, and then dumping on the market. Right now, they have the vast majority of working mines.
      2. China has the ONLY processing of REE. America had it with Magnaquench, but a bunch of neo-cons served as a front for C
  • I only wonder what lays yet undiscovered in the Antarctic, there is no telling what sort of things can be found there. Though I think treaty prevents any sort of commercial ventures.Though that's just so the Military can establish their secret base there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      Apart from the fact that treaties pretty much bar any wide-scale development or extraction, simply put, it's damned cold down there, and even the limited amount of activity down there costs an exorbitant amount of money. Rare earth minerals would have to get really damned expensive before anyone would seriously consider it.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      I think it's a safe bet that if Antarctica had it in sufficient quantity such that it would be economically feasible to obtain it, many countries would not really give a rats ass about the treaty and it would only be fear of repercussions that would stop them from carrying out any operations there that would violate it. The problem is that some nations are powerful enough that such fear would probably not be of concern to them... so I'm really rather leaning towards hoping that Antarctica doesn't have very
    • by corbettw (214229)

      Treaties are only valuable as long as the cost of violating them is greater than the cost of abiding by them. In other words, if large deposits of rich mineral deposits were discovered in Antarctica, it would be far more profitable to forget about the treaties and one could then expect a land rush as nations colonize it and began cutting up the landscape.

    • by ae1294 (1547521)

      I only wonder what lays yet undiscovered in the Antarctic, there is no telling what sort of things can be found there.

      Geologist William Dyer, a professor from Miskatonic University writes to disclose hitherto unknown and closely kept secrets in the hope that he can deter a planned and much publicized scientific expedition to Antarctica. On a previous expedition there, a party of scholars from Miskatonic University, led by Dyer, discovered fantastic and horrific ruins and a dangerous secret beyond a range of mountains taller than the Himalayas. They found the remains of fourteen ancient life forms, completely unknown to sci

      • by h4rm0ny (722443)
        Well they tried mining in Australia but got attacked by Flying Polyps [wikipedia.org] and the contractors from China just keep mumbling something about the Plateau of Leng. So really, it's a no-win situation.
        (And yeah, AtMoM was the first thing I thought of at that line as well. Here's hoping now that he's free of the Hobbit Del Torro returns to making the first ever big-budget Lovecraft adaptation)
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      It's a small continent. Why would you think there's more there than in, say, Australia? Australia also has the distinct advantage that most of it isn't covered by a kilometre of ice.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:33PM (#33913194)

    Chorus Motors is working with Boeing to put their electric wheel motors in Boeing's new aircraft. They are powered by the plane's APU instead of using the engines.

    http://choruscars.com/

    Their technology results in a smaller motor with higher torque that does not require an assist from an ICE at higher speeds in an electric vehicle. It also does not use any rare earths.

    Molycorp is restarting the rare earths mine in the U.S. but the industry to process the ore will take 15 years to redevelop.

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-07-28/molycorp-s-ipo-aims-at-chinese-grip-on-smart-bombs.html

    "While U.S. deposits also exist in several states such as Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, they are still being explored and could take as many as 15 years before becoming fully operational, according the GAO report."

    • by Wansu (846) on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:43PM (#33913294)

        Molycorp is restarting the rare earths mine in the U.S. but the industry to process the ore will take 15 years to redevelop.

      http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-07-28/molycorp-s-ipo-aims-at-chinese-grip-on-smart-bombs.html [businessweek.com]

      "While U.S. deposits also exist in several states such as Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, they are still being explored and could take as many as 15 years before becoming fully operational, according the GAO report."

      It's alot easier to get out of industries than it is to get in. I suspect this won't be the last industry we'll want to redevelop. It was foolish to get out of it in the first place. The same can be said for other industries.

      • It's alot easier to get out of industries than it is to get in. I suspect this won't be the last industry we'll want to redevelop. It was foolish to get out of it in the first place. The same can be said for other industries.

        On the bright side, its bringing jobs - not just McJobs either - back home. The rise of China - especially if they ever let the yuan float - may turn out to be the best thing to happen to the US in decades.

    • by skids (119237)

      Part of the problem is that rare earth's have been so cheap they are being used some places where they are totally not needed.

      There are plenty of applications where a switched variable reluctance motor is just as effective and efficient, and those do not require any permanent magnets.

      (I've often wondered what nanotech might bring to bear on ferromagnetic materials for transformers and motors, to reduce hysteresis loss and increase saturation points. Doesn't seem to be an area that gets as much glory as dev

  • That'S easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by aepervius (535155) on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:37PM (#33913236)
    You have two way of breaking the chinese monopoly :

    1)Impose a polution tax on dirty industry. That allow the local rare earth metal mining company to start again with the incured cost of respecting polution law, while still staying competitive
    2) repel polution law and allow local company to polute as much as the chinese. Human resource might still make them more expensive than the chinese though.
    3) make up a miracle new technology. Good luck on that one.
    • by lul_wat (1623489)

      You have two way of breaking the chinese monopoly :
      You have two way of breaking the monopoly :
      You have two way of breaking
      You have two way
      have two way
      two way
      two

    • Re:That'S easy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by loshwomp (468955) on Friday October 15, 2010 @06:56PM (#33913916)

      3) make up a miracle new technology. Good luck on that one.

      Your miracle new technology is ready. (You're welcome, and thanks for the luck.)

      It's called the AC induction motor, and it uses no permanent magnets--only copper and/or iron and/or aluminum. A fine example was in GM's EV-1 in the 1990s, and its descendants live on at AC Propulsion, and, consequently, Tesla Motors. Permanent magnet motors are likely to retain slightly higher efficiency, but the difference in cost of the construction materials will allow the market to take care of the rare earth "problem".

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:39PM (#33913252) Homepage Journal

    A much simpler method would be to just drop China from the WTO and have nations around the world reinstate their trade barriers against their unfairly priced goods on the open market.

    But that would be easy.

    And direct.

    • Then they will stop importing wheat, pork, chicken feet, semiconductors, airplanes, and nuclear reactors from the US and Japan and really roll up their sleeves to do researches rather than dumping R&D money in the property market as they are doing now?

      If China only exports and doesn't import, they would not have got their way so far. Most people don't seem to realize that almost everything they export have the "Made" in China labels outside whereas a lot of our exports do not even have labels, such as

    • by thegarbz (1787294)
      I like many other people in this country happen to like the cheaply priced crap that comes from China. I can buy things that I otherwise would be unable to afford. The quality is crap but it fits it's purpose quite nicely.

      And this coming from here in Australia a place where our economy and unemployment rate is much better than that of America. If you would seriously consider dropping China, now is not the correct time to do it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Good luck. China has pumped tons of money into "anti-protectionist" candidates in the US, and they preach their free trade message through the #1 news network in the US, Fox News.

      (In fact, Rupert Murdoch's nth wife is a former spy for the Chinese government and since she's about 40 years from his level of senility, she gets to call a lot of the shots...).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by WillAffleckUW (858324)

        There is no such thing as a former spy for the Chinese government.

        You meant she's supposedly on reserve status.

        Thanks.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        We must make sure they never take Alaska. Now is the time to invent PowerArmor.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by shikaisi (1816846)
      Good luck to you when the prices of your HDTV, your notebook PC, your iPad and your mobile phone all double, not to mention a hundred other hi-tech gadgets that you depend upon. The days when China only made cheap plastic crap are long past. Check all the high-tech goods that you own for Made in China labels. A huge proportion of all semiconductor manufacturing is in China, along with all the supply chain industries that enable it. And you are not going to just shift that to Africa or even India overnight,
    • by Trogre (513942)

      But that would do away with two things:

      1. We'll never find labour in our own countries as cheap as in China. Slavery (which Chinese labour conditions are very, very close to) is illegal here. We have all those pesky human rights obligations.
      2. Being able to outsource our pollution is a major convenience.

      Face it, we (the western world) are just one big NIMBY.

  • We're seeing the consequences of some old decisions by the Chinese government. So I have a request. Are there any modern Kremlinologists (the name for people who tried to divine the intent and inner workings of the former USSR) who have insight into the current resource strategy of the Chinese government and its origins? Making the deliberate decision to corner the rare earths market is a strategic one that would have required a great deal of effort and discipline, both of advocacy before the ultimate decis
    • by mbkennel (97636)

      "Are there any modern Kremlinologists (the name for people who tried to divine the intent and inner workings of the former USSR) who have insight into the current resource strategy of the Chinese government and its origins?"

      I'm no CIA expert but the strategy seems to be this

      1) CCP win.
      2) You lose.
      3) Profit.

      Hokey religions and ancient political ideologies are no match for a mercantalist blaster at your side, kid.

    • China didn't make a concious effort to corner the rare earth market.

      Rare earths really should be called cheap ass low value earths. There isn't a lot of profit in it. The US, australia, and few other places mined them because they are needed but they are hardly masively profitable. China got into the biz because it is a cheap biz to get into and doesn't require a lot of skill (like say building jet planes or microprocessors).

      As a result of china dirt cheap labor, utter lack of safety or enviromental stan

      • by khallow (566160)

        China didn't make a concious effort to corner the rare earth market.

        No offense, but yes, they did. They apparently have been buying rare earth production in other countries.

        Your belief that is some "master plan" is misplaced. If we were willing to use slave labor, discard miners when the job killed them without benefits, contimnate ground water with industrial toxins which will be around for couple centuries causing birth defects, and manipulate the dollar downward to destroy any standard of living for our citizens we too could be king of the shit pile. All that for a market which grosses less revenue globally than video games do.

        You're operating on the naive principle that the rare earths market will stay its current size. They're also working to grab a big share of the oil market. I hear that's a bit larger than the video game market.

  • Dig Deeper (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:43PM (#33913292)

    China's on the other side of the planet. If we dig deep enough, we can mine their rare earth.

    • Everyone knows it's just indestructible bedrock and the void beyond, if you go far enough.

      No, the real solution is to sneak in, destroy all their torches, and knock a couple holes in their walls somewhere they won't notice, so they get overrun with creepers. Bonus if we can find a way to cut off their supply of flint so they don't have enough arrows to defend themselves.

  • by HighOrbit (631451) on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:46PM (#33913316)
    From the article

    Although well over 90 percent of the minerals are produced in China, they are found in many places around the world, and, in spite of their name, are actually abundant in the earth's crust (the name is a hold-over from a 19th-century convention). In recent years, low-cost Chinese production and environmental concerns have caused suppliers outside of China to shut down operations.

    In other words, we (the West) have artifically created this situation by shutting down our own mines with labor and evironmental regulations, while allowing China (with no real enforcement of labor or environmental regulations, even if they are on the books) to dominate the market. I saw a TV spot about this a while back and apparently there was an operating mine in California as recently as 10 years ago, which simply wasn't able to compete with Chinese prices because the California mine had the expense of actually complying with the US environmental regulations. That gives the Chinese an artificial price advantage.

    The market for these goods are mostly export markets in Japan, North America, and Europe, so this is in our power to control. To stimulate production in the west, we could do one of two things : 1) eliminate our own self-imposed regulations (perhaps unacceptabe from an environmental point of view) or 2) eliminate the artifical price advantage that the chinese have from not having regulations. I would choose # 2. We need only tax chinese imports and goods with chinese components. For example, say a motor from Japan uses magnets and is being exported to the USA, then the manufacturer would need to demonstrate that the magnet was made from non-chinese metals to be exempt from an import tariff. Once the artifical price advantage of the chinese component is nullfied, the manufacturer would be willing to pay higher prices from other non-chinese mines. Then other mines outside China would arise in the market. As an added side-effect, the Chinese might even begin regulating their own industry to get out from under the tariff.

    • Here is the part of the article I was quoting:

      Although well over 90 percent of the minerals are produced in China, they are found in many places around the world, and, in spite of their name, are actually abundant in the earth's crust (the name is a hold-over from a 19th-century convention). In recent years, low-cost Chinese production and environmental concerns have caused suppliers outside of China to shut down operations.
    • by mea37 (1201159)

      In a world without trade treaties or the possibility of retalliation from China, that would be a possible solution.

      Not a popular one, though. Tho dollars that pay those tarrifs end up coming out of consumers' pockets.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Unless they're used to allow for reducing other taxes (I know, fat chance).

    • Yes, yes, yes - and which congressmember do you think would step forward to introduce such legislation? Keeping in mind that they're only sent there on the financial graces of their corporate lobbyists (which are just as well invested in China's terrible practices)?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      In other words, we (the West) have artifically created this situation by shutting down our own mines with labor and evironmental regulations, while allowing China (with no real enforcement of labor or environmental regulations, even if they are on the books) to dominate the market.

      Uh, you're close, but you left out the part where we didn't ALLOW China to dominate the market, we CAUSED China to dominate the market by BUYING THEIR GOODS. We know they are slavers and polluters but we keep buying. A responsible government would cut off all trade with a government which permitted such wanton use of the Earth's resources.

  • History repeats? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ironsides (739422)
    In 1920 the operators at AT&T striked. This led AT&T to pick up the pace and change it's entire network over to switches and the rotary phone. AT&T had resisted this prior to it realizing how vulnerable it was to a strike.

    It would be just history repeating itself if this action by China led us to a way to replace Rare Earths entirely rendering them obsolete. But that still depends on us being able to duplicate the effects.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:55PM (#33913418)

    Rare earth metals aren't really that rare despite their name. China is good at mining them cheaply, which caused most everyone else shut down production. Some countries (U.S.A) are looking at reopening mines. By playing these games China may be shooting themselves in the foot. Time will tell.

  • by mathfeel (937008) on Friday October 15, 2010 @05:56PM (#33913420)
    There were many mines in North America. They were shut down because to comply with US/Canadian environmental regulation and pay the wages here would put them in a huge competitive disadvantage versus the Chinese mines. You just can't compete with places where they put environment and worker protection at such low places in their priorities.
    • You just can't compete with places where they put environment and worker protection at such low places in their priorities.

      And we essentially circumvent our own priorities by accepting theirs; we ourselves are placing those priorities at the same low that they do by investing in their goods. If we really did stand behind placing such a high priority on these protections, then we'd enforce it by actually investing in and supporting it ourselves, rather than relying on those that don't to do it for us.

      The principle doesn't change based on who's committing the action - if we can accept that others are showing such disregard for en

  • as others have noted, there are enough rare earths, they aren't that rare. it's just that china, wihtout any work force laws or legal protections for its workers it is allowed to treat like slaves of the state, is able to parlay that into cheaper prices. so mining elsewhere withers and atrophies

    if push came to shove, we can start new mines rather quickly

    what worries me is manufacturing know how and infrastructure. it takes a generation to have a good manufacturing base, at least. and i'm not talking machines, i'm talking people. the manufacturing base is dying in the west, as everything moves to china

    this is where china can really squeeze us, and we won't be able to react fast enough, because in a decade or two, we won't know how to make anything, it will all be made in china

    we need to keep our manufacturing base, the whole spectrum of technologies and know how and expertise, humming along here

    a rare earth is a rare earth, whether dug up in california or inner mongolia

    but that 70 year old guy who knows how all about phase transitions in the manufacture of specialty glasses, or that 80 year old guy who knows all about resistance settings on collodial separation equipment, or whatever: when they go, its gone, the only other brain with that info is in shanghai

    it's like us in the west watching iran trying to build a nuclear bomb and stumbling in its lack of knowhow. in 20-30 years, in a conflict, china could be in the same position, just watching us try to manufacture all sorts of high specialized industrial applications and us over here going "how do you do this?" "i dunno, the guy who knew that died 20 years ago" "well where's his knowledge backup?" "well, the bank of china bought that portfolio 10 years ago and moved it all to guangzhou, no one at the time thought it was a big deal"

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dattaway (3088) *

      The attempted solution to that is documenting an ISO process for everything in manufacturing. From what I have seen, this only looks good on paper. Trying to start a new production line by the book without experience may take longer than learning from scratch.

  • This is purely speculation, so take it with a grain of salt: No raw materials and manufacturing work from China due to embargoes and general asshattery --> Huge demand for mats and mfg --> No workforce willing/able/allowed to do the work --> the perpetually "almost there" robotics industry lurches forward to fill the void. The warehousing [kivasystems.com] industry [rmtrobotics.com] has already been transformed by robots, and theres plenty of talk [google.com] about robotic mining already. I can't help but think that all this is quite a good thin
  • Lets say that a foreing country have abundance of elsewhere's scarce resource. US government can claim that "the enemy" is there and invade. Worked pretty well with lithium and oil.
  • Which means ... there is no shortage at all, they just want it cheap.

    It is no secret that rare earth is NOT rare at all, and China just have about 30-40% of the world's rare earth.

    The only "monopoly" China has is selling them cheaply. The purported reason by Chinese officials is because the rare earth industry is heavily fragmented, and econ 101, with many identical sellers, big buyers from US and Japan can set the price so low that only razor thin margin remains. You are free to make up you own conspirac

    • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @02:36AM (#33915712)

      Now, after getting a pittance for all the rare earth sold for the past few decades, China finally wakes up and realize that having a rare earth reserve is actually IMPORTANT in the long term. And surprise(!), they don't to continue to sell on the cheap. So they are now trying to consolidate the rare earth mining industry (which takes time), and in the meanwhile, use administrative means to limit the export (i.e. limit their losses).

      I'm sure that your use of the world "finally" is unintentional. China, on the other hand, rarely does anything unintentionally:

      Entering the 21st century, the pace of industrial and economic globalization is speeding up. As China enters the WTO, the Chinese government has begun the implementation of its policy to develop its western regions. Located in western China, Baotou is famous for its rich rare earth resources, thus being named "The Mother Lode of Rare Earth". In 1992, Chinese President Deng Xiaoping pointed out, "There is oil in the Middle East; there is rare earth in China...."

      Given the fact that the OPEC model of monopolistic control of resources was firmly established by 1992, I do not believe that Xiaoping - and China - had any intention other than gaining a monopoly, or they would have compared rare earths to dà biàn rather than oil.

  • by khchung (462899) on Friday October 15, 2010 @09:59PM (#33914908) Journal

    Sorry to reply twice, but the article title is just too silly.

    There is plenty of rare earth all around the world. So if you don't want to buy from China (or China won't sell to you), just mine it yourself.

    Instead of printing money to give to bankers, why don't the US government just setup and run mines to extract rare earth from US itself? It create real jobs and solve this problem in one go.

    But actually doing something to solve a problem? Nah... it is easier just to find someone to blame while still giving out pork to corporate supporters. It keeps the problem alive so more people can be blamed, and keep the pork money flowing too!

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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