Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Rare Earths:

The New York Times has a great article on the next world elemental scarcity: Rare Earths. Apparently, China mines the giant share of Rare Earth minerals. It is squeezing the world supply and persuading companies that they can get enough Rare Earths by building their factories in China. There's a lot of good background in this story, and a great chart on its second page (click where it says 'Multimedia').

1 comment:

Ender said...

As I understand it, this has been a concern for a very long time; it's nothing new. IIRC there were position pieces on the strategic ramifications quite a while ago about this before the press decided to think it was 'news'. To a large extent, the high percentage being produced by China is because the major US operation shut down a few years ago to deal with some pollution issues (and will shortly be back up), and other deposits are generally not worth getting. If China tries to restrict exports, then those other opportunities will suddenly become very much worth it, and they'll lose their commanding position in the market.

For example, this NRC report last year:
Or this 'Industrial College of the Armed Forces' over a year ago:

People whose job it is to care about this kind of thing have known about the situation for years; there has just been a sudden surge of articles about it. I can't quite trace it; it was picked up by Reuters, but I suspect that might have been triggered by a previous story in the Telegraph, and perhaps even further ones in the past. Certainly the Economist has been covering mining issues (both from the perspective of tensions with China and the emergence of some new HUGE conglomerates) for quite some time. *Shrugs* It's all hyperbole.