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Rare-Earth Mineral Supply Getting Boost From California, Australia 84

An anonymous reader writes "In recent times, the world's supply of rare-earth minerals has suffered from both increased demand, due to their use in modern technological devices, and uncertain supply, as China restricts the flow of exports. Now, Molycorp's mine in California has re-opened, and another in Australia is set to open later this year, easing — but not erasing — worries about skyrocketing costs. '[The mine had closed] in 2002 following radioactive wastewater spills and price competition. The largest spills, from a pipeline to Nevada, occurred in the late 1990s, in protected lands in the Mojave Desert. The company has since changed its ownership structure. ... It's being rebuilt to produce up to 40,000 metric tons of rare-earth elements by 2013, which would be a 700 percent increase from its production target for the end of this year."
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Rare-Earth Mineral Supply Getting Boost From California, Australia

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  • And they are sponsoring this little rebuild how? Want me to tell you what they will be oopsing about in 5 years?
    • *shrug*

      This is the future []

    • Hopefully they are not being given a pass on any Environmental impact or mitigation in the rush to access this resource.

      (see Drill, Baby Drill, ANWAR, XL pipeline, etc)

      although, in the long term, Rare Earths may end up being more important and irreplaceable to new tech than oil or natgas.....

      -I'm just sayin'
      • and we pretend we have a 'green economy' with our space-ship apple headquarters that run off of sunshine and unicorn farts.

        fucking US hypocrisy is astounding.

        • all you can do in this life is to try to set a good example

          we would not set a good example by deciding to let our workers and citizens die due by ignoring safety and health just so we can join the 'race to the bottom'

          I'm not saying that US corporations are not complicit in offshoring pollution and slave labor, but the US people have a greater sense of justice and morality than our corporations I think....I hope -and maybe someday that will make a difference

          -I'm just sayin'
          • But allowing China's citizens to die for us is okay in your world?

            • But allowing China's citizens to die for us is okay in your world?

              Allow? It's as if you pretend we have the power of life and death over them, their government and society.

              • Didn't you get the memo? The US is responsible for every decision made in the world regardless of the country.
        • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @07:25PM (#37914098) Homepage Journal

          How does Apple's HQ pretend that we have a green economy? Who's saying it runs off unicorn farts? Though "run off sunshine" is exactly what we're trying to do, and Californians have been doing more than most for generations.

          If what you're complaining about is that the US has better environmental protection than China does, that's not hypocrisy. There's nothing stopping China from cleaning up the way the US did, except its greed for the dollar at the expense of its workers. And when China does, if its growing population of people with enough money to protect themselves from being poisoned does protect themselves, their rising costs will help the US compete with them economically.

          None of that is hypocrisy. It's economics and the politics that follows it.

        • Yes, and all other countries are honest, upfront, forthright, put the concerns of others above their own, and use their power responsibly and fairly. Gimmie a break.
        • and we pretend we have a 'green economy' with our space-ship apple headquarters that run off of sunshine and unicorn farts.

          fucking US hypocrisy is astounding.

          But your hypocrisy is just A-OK because you're edgy, right? Sitting there posting on the electrically-powered Internet with your computer made from petroleum by-products and rare earth minerals, powered by coal, natural gas, petroleum or nuclear. What's astounding is your stupidity regarding your own situation. Nobody's pretending we have anything other than what we have, which is not an optimal or efficient system. If you don't like what's going on, get an education and invent something better. Give it awa

      • Drilling in Alaska - two of your three examples - has never had a large environmental disaster. Exxon Valdez was up here, but that wasn't a drilling accident or a pipeline problem, that was a drunk captaining a ship.

        ANWAR, unfortunately, isn't being developed.

        • Drilling in Alaska - two of your three examples - has never had a large environmental disaster.

          You've missed one small, but rather important word : "yet".

          Note - I'm speaking as a geologist in the oil business, currently on an exploration well off the east coast of Africa. You could claim that I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, but the companies who pay my invoices would probably disagree with you.

    • by Adriax ( 746043 )

      Probably by selling futures or some other stock market derived scheme. Lock in your buyers before you even start producing so when china pricedumps again you've got a buffer.

    • Molycorp, if you pay attention to the news at all, is a publically traded company as of last summer. It's being funded by the shareholders and obviously corporate interests that intend to make use of the products that Molycorp produces as well as people that have been buying their products for years. They get no breaks on environmental regulations, especially since they fall under California environmental laws along with federal law.
    • Duh!

      Don't know how they got the U S of A mixed up with Europe.

    • It makes more sense when you realise that Australia is the 51+Nst state of the US, so the headline is actually just listing the states of the US, not implying cartographical closeness.
      • It makes more sense when you realise that Australia is the 51+Nst state of the US, so the headline is actually just listing the states of the US, not implying cartographical closeness.

        Pfft, like we'd ever accept them into our Union, what with all their monarchism.

  • Radioactive spills? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @06:53PM (#37913784) Homepage Journal

    Ok, management was replaced. Fine. Probably needed. But that doesn't tell me if the pipes were fixed or how the new management proposes to not have that kind of issue in the future. Nor does it tell me if the new management is proposing any kind of additional cleanup that may be needed in those protected lands (doesn't matter that it was a while back - Bhopal still suffers from uncleaned pollution and Florida has a gigantic oil sludge that will haunt it for a long time no matter how much it's officially declared gone).

    In short, yeah, new sources of Rare Earths are great but the Earth is also fairly high on the Rare list and I'd rather not need a new source.

    • The radioactivity from the waste water deposits is so low it's just above normal background radiation but still fall under the EPA's guidelines for radioactive containment. You wouldn't want to go bathing in it but it wouldn't take decades to clean up, that's for sure. The accidents were no where near on the scale you're comparing it to.
      • Just above normal background radiation levels, but you wouldn't want to go bathing in it? Normal background radiation levels are perfectly safe for bathing.

        • I don't particularly like bathing in dirty water to get clean. Do you?
    • see also: Kerr-Mcgee and Tronox

    • Former management was rendered into an environmentally friendly pipe reinforcement (glue) and applied to the defective areas of the pipes... new management is greatly motivated to avoid future accidents.

  • The Chinese (Score:5, Insightful)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @07:04PM (#37913884)

    ... probably thought they were awfully clever for a while.

    Nice to see the good guys get up once in a while. Here's hoping that government policy makes it easy for these guys to get started and start producing economically and profitably. The less that hostile and aggressive foreign powers have over us, the better.

  • the reason it got shut down is because you can't outcompete a country where environmental activists are put into labor camps.

    pretty simple, and yet, almost every media story on this thing hides the truth in vague generalizations like "cost competition".
    its not cost competition, its fucking slavery.

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @07:11PM (#37913974) Homepage Journal
    I wouldn't be surprised if the Japanese are pumping huge amounts of money into this venture right now. With the Japanese economy being heavily invested in industries that use these minerals Japan definitely wants to wean itself off of reliance on China, and the insanely strong yen makes investing in the US incredibly cheap right now. Japanese companies would be incredibly remiss if they weren't taking advantage of this opportunity(and they may even get support for the government who wants to weaken the yen)
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @07:21PM (#37914068)

    Remember how in the 70s people complained we'll be out of gas by 2000? Then again in the 90s, we should be out of it by today. Now we have just enough gas to last us 'til the 2030s.

    Do we keep finding so many sources? Well, not that many. But what we find is more sources that get profitable with rising prices. Oil sands in Alaska, you think anyone would have even thought of exploiting that while the barrel was at 20 bucks? Of course not. It's not profitable. At 140, we're talking.

    It's almost the same with REMs. First of all, the name is misleading. They're not rare by definition. Well, aside of the radioactive Promethium. Cerium is amongst the most abundant elements on our Earth's crust. The problem with them is that they're fairly evenly distributed. There are few places where they can be extracted economically. With rising price, maybe sieving them from desert sand might be commercially interesting.

    A "shortage" of REMs means about the same as a "shortage" of well educated personnel: There's only a shortage if you are unwilling to pay the price required to get what you want.

    • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @07:44PM (#37914284) Homepage Journal

      Nobody in the 1970s or 1990s said we'd be out of gas by now. Except the usual few nut jobs, who today say we'll never run out.

      What we learned in the 1970s is that global oil production would peak around 2010. Which it probably has, despite the kinds of big lies oil corps and oil producing nations tell. Those lies produced major "corrections" to Iraq's, Nigeria's and several other countries' "proven reserves" during the past decade, when they couldn't keep lying anymore about the truly dwindling size of what they have left.

      We also learned in the 1970s that after the global peak, the global output would drop off at about the same rate it increased to the peak. Because in the early 1970s we saw Hubbert's predictions [] made in 1956 about the US come true, validating his theories which next predicted global peak in the late 1990s.

      Meanwhile global oil demand just increases. With falling supply past the peak, the shortages grow rapidly.

      Oil sands and tar sands are profitable only to the extractors and sellers until it's pollution. But then the costs keep coming, all externalized onto the general public (and worst onto the poorest in the public). $140 is still too little to pay for all the costs including the damage. But indeed the oil corps are talking about anything they can put into a barrel at $140 per. Regardless of who really has to pay the rest.

      • That the price of a barrel is way more than 140 if you include the cost to clean up afterwards is a given. But as long as oil corps needn't pay that price, it's profitable to them.

        If they have to pay, it's just not yet profitable.

        • But they don't have to pay, so it's profitable. Vastly profitable, as their record profits (during a record depression) prove beyond any doubt. And it didn't take $140 barrels to get those profits; most of the time the price was $90-120. And it didn't take those record profits to make producing the oil worthwhile; even at half the profits they were the most profitable corps on Earth, producing all around the globe.

          You're arguing that oil is too expensive to drill in many countries until it sells for $140 or

          • Maybe 60 would be enough to make exploiting the oil deposits we know of today profitable. The 20 bucks of the 70s just don't, and that's pretty much what I said. Back then, we had resources 'til the 90s because even the other deposits known were simply not profitable at 20 bucks. 60 bucks a barrel, though, is probably enough to make exploiting the current drilling fields profitable. But why sell for 60 if you can sell for 120? Supply and demand...

      • by bkaul01 ( 619795 )
        Aren't you kind of begging the question there by assuming that anyone producing evidence against those peak oil predictions is necessarily lying? I'm not saying there will never be a production peak/pretending that the supply is infinite, but I'm also not going to assume that a few vociferous alarmists are preaching the gospel truth and anyone who shows evidence to the contrary is a dirty liar ...
      • Earth to be destroyed in giant fireball. The poor to be hardest hit.
  • We hear the refrain that jobs lost overseas are 'never coming back.' Yet the first time an impediment to supply appears mines get reopened, and in CA no less. Despite the fact that those workers will be paid living wages and probably have union representation you'll still be able to afford your iPhone. No, California's precious 'environment' won't be destroyed. The next time some wag claims this or that job is lost forever you'll know better.

    There is an undercurrent building in the US. The effect of

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Why would you set up shop in the US? You have to "pay" the dems and reps, locals and feds.
      Then on going taxes, federal green issues, workers and toxic locals with very good legal teams.
      In many parts of the world you pay one good entry bribe and solve the rest with a death squad.
      No ngo, tribal leader, green group, press, political or labor leaders to worry about.
      In Australia you "invest" and if your workforce is dying you pay out an always low soft capped amount in court with very very little press.
    • Cheap foreign labor, if the foreigners are not prohibited from saving their earnings, is a self-solving "problem." They get our money in exchange for their goods. Over time they accumulate money, and the more they have, the less they are willing to work cheaply. Eventually they come close to parity, like Japan. "Problem" solved.
  • We need a more robust semiconductor industry. More locally-available REs would hopefully (idealistcally) cause a price drop from local suppliers, making their equipment more affordable. For the local LED industry, this could be a MAJOR boost.

  • was recently discovered in Nebraska [].

    "Quantum Rate Earth Developments (TSX-V: QRE; OTC: QREDF) acquired the rights to what the U.S. Geological Survey called one of the largest deposits of niobium globally. The rare earth property, a 14-square-mile track of farmland in S.E. Nebraska, could employ hundreds once the mine is developed. ..."

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis