Picture right: A man works at the site of a rare earth metals mine in Nancheng county, Jiangxi province, China, on Oct. 20.
China is stopping shipments of rare earth metals to the US.
In 2002 the United States’ most important rare earth mine, operated by Molycorp in Mountain Pass, California was shut down. This was due, at least in part, to Chinese predatory pricing. Rare earths from China’s Bayanobo region were shipped to California and sold for less than the cost of producing the same rare earths at Mountain Pass, even with a 5% duty assessed against the imports. It was unknown then, as it is now, whether Chinese mining companies were “dumping” their product, i.e., selling it for less than the cost of production.
Mountain Pass was, as early as 1984, the largest rare earth mine in the world; it produced then fully one-third of all of the global supply of rare earths and 100% of the US demand for them. Mountain Pass has proven reserves of more than 30,000,000 tons of ore when measured using a lower cut-off grade of 7.6%. Much of the ore is at 9.5%, which means that at today’s American demand of 20,000 metric tons a year, Mountain Pass could provide “light” rare earths, lanthanum through samarium, in sufficient quantities to supply current demand for 150 years. If this mine were operating and its output were merged with other known US deposits containing “heavy rare earths,” such as dysprosium, terbium, and europium, in commercial quantities, then America would be self-sufficient in rare earths.
By way of example, according to a December New York Times article two elements, “dysprosium and terbium, are in especially short supply, mainly because they have emerged as the miracle ingredients of green energy products. Tiny quantities of dysprosium can make magnets in electric motors lighter by 90 percent, while terbium can help cut the electricity usage of lights by 80 percent. Dysprosium prices have climbed nearly sevenfold since 2003, to $53 a pound. Terbium prices quadrupled from 2003 to 2008, peaking at $407 a pound, before slumping in the global economic crisis to $205 a pound.”
China currently mines 97 percent of the world’s rare earth elements.
The move underscores a deepening U.S. vulnerability because of its dependence upon China for tech-crucial rare earth minerals (also known as rare earth elements). Small but significant amounts of the minerals go into creating everything from PCs and cellphones to wind turbines and hybrid cars, as well as U.S. military technologies such as missile guidance systems.
The Chinese are flexing their muscles to control and monopolize “Green Energy” production
and control the world market for a host of products.
The trade wars have begun in earnest,
What is “Rare Earth Metals”, and who gives a hoot?
They’re all mined in China with prices to boot.
They got no dumping fines
When we closed our mines.
We need them for green jobs: No freedom to toot.