Oct

28

 Rare earth metals are in the news. Chinese are the main producers of them at present but substitution and/or mining of these metals in other countries may change the picture over time. The following article gives an overview of the situation:

Stepped-up mining operations and accelerated manufacturing schedules in Africa, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, the United States, Vietnam and elsewhere could provide supply-chain alternatives to China, which controls more than 95 percent of the world's rare earths. The U.S. House of Representatives, fearful the U.S. military might become dependent on Chinese-made electronics, approved H.R. 6160, the Rare Earths and Critical Materials Revitalization Act of 2010, late last month.
Japan, one of the countries hardest hit by the tightening of rare earth supplies, has fast-tracked efforts both to recycle rare earths from discarded electronics and to develop alternatives to the materials for use in electric motors and the nickel-metal-hydride batteries deployed in hybrid vehicles.

Recent testimony from Professor Eggert at Colorado School of Mines:

"First, world generally has been successful in replenishing mineral reserves in response to depletion of existing reserves and growing demand for mineral resources. Reserves are a subset of all mineral resources in the earth's crust. Reserves are known to exist and bothwe are not running out of mineral resources, at least any time soon. The volume XXVI, number 4, 2010, pp. 49-58. The paper discusses minerals for national defense as well as for emerging energy technologies.

In this testimony, I do not discuss military or defense issues. Reserves change over time. They decline as a result of mining. They increase as a result of successful mineral exploration and development and technological advancements in mineral exploration, mining, and mineral processing. Over time, reserve additions generally have at least offset depletion for essentially all mineral resources.Second, rather than focusing on running out of mineral resources, to consider the constraints imposed on emerging technologies by the costs, geographic locations, and time frames associated with mineral production. because over time production tends to move to lower-quality mineral deposits—those that are less rich in mineral, deeper below the surface, in more remote locations, or more difficult to process. The result is higher costs for users, unless technological improvements are sufficient to offset these cost increases. Thus the constraint that mineral availability sometimes imposes on users is one of higher costs rather than physical unavailability."

Prepublication version of paper Eggert refers to in his testimony.


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