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Where Next-Generation Rare Earth Metals May Come From 179

Posted by timothy
from the when-two-minerals-love-each-other-very-much dept.
retroworks writes "Great piece in The Atlantic by Kyle Wiens of IFIXIT.org, who visited and photographed the Molycorp Mountain Pass rare earth facility in California's Mojave Desert. The mine is the only source of rare earths in North America, one of the only alternatives to the mineral cartels in China, and one of the only sources for the key metals such as tantalum needed in cell phones. There is of course actually one other source of rare earth metals in the USA — recycled cell phones. Is the best 'state of the art' mining as good as the worst state of the art recycling? If the U.S. Department of Energy subsidizes the mine, will China open the floodgates and put it out of business? Or will electronics be manufactured with alternative materials before the mine ever becomes fully scaleable?"
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Where Next-Generation Rare Earth Metals May Come From

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  • by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:29PM (#39138109)
    ...rare Earth metals may come from the Moon. We didn't do that yet, because no one knows how to call them.
    • by forkfail (228161) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:51PM (#39138433)

      Long before that, they'll come from Afghanistan, in all likelihood:

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=afghanistan-holds-enormous-bounty-of-rare-earths [scientificamerican.com]

      (which may explain a few things...)

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Well by 2014 we're supposed to have pretty much all American troops out of Afghanistan. Even if mining companies were to get set up in the area, what are they going to do to protect themselves against insurgents and/or banditry? Hire a private army?

        • by forkfail (228161)

          If we really are out by then, Blackwater^W Xe will need something to do.

        • Do what you do anywhere that's unstable: find out who's running the areas you need, and how much money they want to protect you against everyone else. Then run the numbers to see if the mine still pays.
          • by cdrudge (68377)

            Until those who are protecting you find out that if you'll pay $X, then you might be willing to pay $X+$Y where Y > 0. Rinse. Repeat.

        • by Surt (22457)

          Hiring a private army is the traditional solution, yes.

        • by slew (2918)

          Well by 2014 we're supposed to have pretty much all American troops out of Afghanistan. Even if mining companies were to get set up in the area, what are they going to do to protect themselves against insurgents and/or banditry? Hire a private army?

          Just about diamond mine today has their own private army. Why would this mining operation be any different?

          http://www.iss.co.za/pubs/books/peaceprofitplunder/chap9.pdf [iss.co.za]

        • I've heard that one before. It is campaign jostling. Also, there is a supposed troop draw down ("coming home") but then you find out that 10000 troops are being pulled from European bases with no mention of them going home. Where are they headed? Recycling.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phrostie (121428)

      I suspect mining landfills is going to be a major industry in the century to come.
      I wonder how you would go about looking to see who, if anyone, has been buying up mineral rights on landfills?

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        I suspect mining landfills is going to be a major industry in the century to come.
        I wonder how you would go about looking to see who, if anyone, has been buying up mineral rights on landfills?

        Seems to be an improbably old and frail gentleman, who goes by the name of Monty Burns.

    • by gmuslera (3436) *
      Considering how late we found the latest pretty nearby ones, rare earths could come from the asteroid belt without need that anyone call them.
  • Not the only place (Score:5, Informative)

    by husker_man (473297) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:32PM (#39138155)
    There are rare-earth deposits in other places - like Elk City, Nebraska having resources of the rare metals [washingtontimes.com]. However, it wouldn't be much fun to be running a mine in the middle of the desert.
    • Hmm. Does anyone know just how well the various resources of the United States have been mapped?

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:00PM (#39138563) Homepage

        Hmm. Does anyone know just how well the various resources of the United States have been mapped?

        Google comes up with fantastically interesting [usgs.gov] stuff sometimes. And it's even safe for work!

      • by MollyB (162595)

        Detailed maps of valuable deposits would be proprietary, I should think. The US Geological Survey does provide maps [usgs.gov] of mineral resources.

        • Indeed, that was what I was thinking.

          More and more I've found that it's for lack of prospecting that we believe our resources to be so limited, not because we've already searched everywhere and come up empty.

          • by yurtinus (1590157)
            Oh it's not for lack of prospecting. Just about every scrap of this country has been combed over. The real kicker is the cost to mine the stuff relative to the price it can be sold at. Sure there's always new stuff to find, but most often the case is "We know it's there, we just can't get it until it sells for $x or we can get our cost to mine it down to $y"
          • by PopeRatzo (965947)

            More and more I've found that it's for lack of prospecting that we believe our resources to be so limited

            Where did you "find" this? Why don't you share with the rest of the class?

            I'm really interested in this topic and would like to see some evidence that the reason we're not pulling lithium out of the ground is because we just don't know what's under our feet.

            Thanks.

    • by trainman (6872) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:43PM (#39138301) Homepage

      There are also mines starting up for rare earths in the Canadian arctic. Actually, quite large deposits up there from what I've read.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:52PM (#39138453) Homepage Journal

      I thought Australia was proving to be rich in rare Earch metals.

      Linky [australianrareearths.com]

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        rare Earch metals.

        Clearly wherever you live is rich in high-proof alcohol and has a liberal policy towards drinking at work. d=

    • by gnick (1211984)

      ...it wouldn't be much fun to be running a mine in the middle of the desert.

      There are many, many mines that are unpleasant to run or work in. But if the resource you're mining is valuable enough you can attract the people you need (for the right price). If it's profitable, they will come.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:58PM (#39138523) Homepage

      However, it wouldn't be much fun to be running a mine in the middle of the desert.

      Actually, high volume / low yield mining is probably best done in a desert (if it can be done in an environmentally sane fashion anywhere). Remember, these are not high grade ores. It's not like you pick axe out a block of Yttiribilium (or however you spell these silly names). You get a pile of rocks with a bit more Yttiribilium than the surrounding rocks and then you process it into a slurry with more Yttiribilium and then it goes off and gets smelted.

      There was an interesting article somewhere suggesting that the best way to do this in terms of minimizing mining and water waste was to crush the ore, separate the rare earths using magnets and getting the concentration up to around 50%. It would then be economically feasible to haul that much smaller volume of rock to the a large, perhaps one off facility, that purified the material and dealt with the large amount of tainted water, dust and heavy metals that the refinery process entailed.

    • by eth1 (94901)

      Eh? We have geologists guarded by Marines working to survey Afghanistan because of all the rare-earth stuff there, and get mines up and running to kickstart their economy.

      I'm sure we can handle Nebraska.

    • by mikael (484) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:05PM (#39138621)

      It would be even worse running a mine in downtown LA or New York. Imagine trying to get all those Caterpillar 797's and Liebherr T282B's through rush-hour traffic ....

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ccool (628215)
      There is also some deposit in Canada.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoidas_Lake [wikipedia.org]

      I have been to a conference in 2009 where the speaker was talking about a mine which would open in a few years.
    • by cusco (717999)
      I think most deserts are more interesting than Nebraska.

      The best place for a rare earth mine would be somewhere like the Atacama Desert (which also has some good deposits). No issues with messing up the ecosystem, because there **IS** no ecosystem there. It's not a desert like the Sahara or Chihuahua were there are cacti and bugs, because when it rains only once every couple of centuries nothing can survive. There are areas of the Atacama where there aren't even detectable levels of bacteria. They fe
    • by es330td (964170)

      However, it wouldn't be much fun to be running a mine in the middle of the desert.

      I can think of plenty of places that are much worse. I've worked the oilfield in Alaska when it was well below zero. Even bumping into things hurts when it is that cold. I've spent time in Louisiana swamps with bugs and beasts that exist to suck your blood (mosquitos) or eat/kill you (alligators & snakes.) "The desert" might not be Napa Valley but I would take that over those other environments in a heartbeat.

  • And wrong at that. There are rare earths in many more products then cell phones. There are other sources, just not other mines etc.

  • Lame article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:33PM (#39138163) Homepage

    Superficial article about Mountain Pass. The big problem they have is finding a place to dump the tailings. A rare earth mine needs big settling ponds. The Mountain Pass solution is that they've built a pipeline to Ivanpah Dry Lake on the Nevada border.

    The mine tailings are slightly radioactive, because the dirt in the area being mined has some uranium and thorium in it. This isn't a big deal once the water has evaporated and it's solid material again, but the water in the tailings ponds has to be kept from leaching into a water supply.

    • Re:Lame article (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:53PM (#39138475)

      All the same, as someone who has recently invented a new form of energy storage that relies upon several ceramics comprised in part of rare Earth elements - and having to deal with foreign vendors for the ceramics - I can definitely say its a challenge. Virtually all rare-earth suppliers are in the Asia/Pacific area - all of them get their rare Earths from China, and China is increasingly locking down the supply (they will of course build whatever you want made out of Rare Earths at an incredibly competitive price, but if you want to buy the raw materials instead of the finished component there is a very tightly controlled channel to go through with strict limits on how much can be exported - IMO this is to get the designs of what is being built so they can control the manufacturing side). In short: all of our latest technology requires rare Earths, all foreseeable technology will require it - rare Earths are practically the new Oil, we should have our mine running ALONG WITH a strong rare Earth recycling program, possibly go further and provoke the Icelandic mines to open up as well as encourage (even buy stock from) companies in Japan readying to mine the massive supply of rare Earths on the Pacific Ocean seabed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by L3370 (1421413)
        I've heard other discussions about rare earth mining here on /. and one factor that seemed to pop up all the time was China.

        Specifically, China being so willing to mine without much regard to pollution or contanimation. They are the biggest suppliers of it now so they can set the price. If someone were to stand up a mining operation in say...california, all China would have to do is drop their asking price or ramp up production and watch the California mine collapse in bankruptcy.

        It is my understanding
    • Gee, if only we had something that could use uranium and thorium. We could kill two birds with one stone.

  • So if we make the mine operational and then China starts providing us with cheap metal, I don't see the problem. Keep the mine maintained, and ready for use, and let China load us up with cheap minerals. Oh, of course making this situation of allowing many hundreds of businesses and hundreds of millions of consumers to thrive in an atmosphere of reduced costs would depend on the government buying out or subsidizing one...

    Naturally, this will have conservatives crawling out of the woodwork to declare that
    • So if we make the mine operational and then China starts providing us with cheap metal, I don't see the problem.

      It isn't a problem for us as consumers, but Molycorp is going to need to think long and hard about it.

    • Opening the mine and, if necessary, subsidizing it may be the best answer in a situation like this. However the important thing is to maintain the availability of the resource, not necessarily to keep the price low.

      I'm sure the far right would consider this sacrilege to the God of Free Markets, but sometimes when you're dealing with entities like China you need to be willing to stray slightly from your ideology sometimes, for everyone's sake.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      China won't let you have raw materials. They'll require you to move all your manufacturing to China, so that they control that, leaving you like a third-world country with no technology or know-how.

    • It's not really a problem that needs to be worried about. The primary reason that China is reducing the amount of rare earth metals it is exporting is because its own demand is starting to consume most of its supply. This means that they are unlikely to be in a position to dump enough rare earth metals onto the market to drive prices down.
      That being said, I would expect the objection your plan to come from liberals decrying "corporate welfare".
      • by cusco (717999)
        In that case to hell with the subsidy. Just let the gov't own and operate the mine. There really isn't a need to enrich some multinational corporation with tax dollars just to keep the site in maintenance mode.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:38PM (#39138243) Journal

    Just to be clear: rare earth minerals are mined in numerous countries.
    Our problem is that China had a national strategy of buying up as many mines and refineries as it could.
    By creating a vertical *monopoly, China has made it very hard for anyone else to enter the market.

    Assuming China doesn't implode from its demographic and financial problems, there's a serious risk that China's state capitalism is going to outcompete America's free/mixed market capitalism.

    *sometimes monopolies lower prices. When this happens to a market with high start up costs, it deters anyone else from entering.

    • by alexander_686 (957440) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:11PM (#39138711)

      To clarify, it’s not a monopoly per say. It’s the market structure that makes it hard for anybody to enter.

      To start a rare earth mine requires long lead times, large up-front capital spending, and high running costs (As have been mentioned, these mines produce a lot of trailings that need special environmental handling).

      Any competitor entering the market would face a opponent that has already spent huge amounts on it’s fixed capital (i.e. sunk costs). What normally happens in these situations is a long, brutal price war as the established company lowers it price because it does not have to recoup it’s sunk costs. So anybody who enters the market could not count on today’s high prices.

      If the established company want’s it’s monopoly, it can even “dump” product onto the market for years, starving it’s completion.

        Factor in that you are going against a state sponsored Chinese company that has access to cheap capital (effectively reducing the cost of it’s fixed capital) and lower requirements to it’s environmental laws.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        To clarify, it's not a monopoly per say. It's the market structure that makes it hard for anybody to enter.

        It's a monopoly. Full stop.
        China didn't dig all the mines or build all the factories.
        Instead, with the cheap capital you talked about, Chinese companies went on a global buying spree.
        Now, China is closing/merging companies and concentrating ownership into the hands of state run/owned companies.

        There's a new Australian built refinery going up in a Malaysian swamp, but it's shaping up to be a disaster [nytimes.com]
        after the contractor who's going to supply the lining for the concrete tanks pulled out because of not-safety-

        • by alexander_686 (957440) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @05:22PM (#39141335)

          But the structure of the market dictates the best way to handle this. In industries like this you tend to get monopolies, cartels, collusion, etc.

          One choice is to break the company up. Not an option here.

          Another choice is to compete head on. In industries like this it will mean years of pouring subsidizes down the new competitor. This “monopoly” (well, “leading oligopoly” would be more correct) can hang on for years until it breaks even without a state subside. It may well be worth it, but don’t kid yourself that it’s going to be a quick battle.

          Another choice is to doge the issue. Figure out better ways to recycle. Toyota is figuring out how to make electric motors that don’t require rare earths.etc.

          As a counter point, look back to the 80’s when Japanese companies were dumping DRAM onto the market Intel had a choice. They could keep producing their bread and butter, seek US Government subsides, and engage in a very long and expensive fight over a commodity product. Or, they could abandon their main business – which they did – for CPUs. And we know how the battle ended – Intel prospered, Japan stagnated, and South Koreans won.

          Now, I do think it’s good to have a supply other than China. It’s not the high prices but forcing companies to relocate to China if they want a supply. But it’s good to know the nature of the fight and to think of other options.

  • Market Economics don't quite apply in this case. It was market economics that put the mine out of business in the first place. The Chinese undercut them until they could not continue.

    The recent Chinese trade embargo on rare earth elements did expose the world's strategic vulnerability to the single source in China. Both the US government and the EU woke up in a hot hurry and determined to do what's necessary to revive alternate sources.

    The mine and its counterparts elsewhere will, in this case, have the

    • by yurtinus (1590157)
      How don't they still apply? Chinese restricting the supply of rare earths raises the price, making it cost effective to do here now.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:52PM (#39138461) Homepage

    will China open the floodgates and put it out of business

    Whenever I've had conversations with libertarians about how free trade would actually work in the real world where governments frequently aggressively protect corporate interests, they always stammer "buh buh the free market will prevail." Really? You mean American companies going up against Chinese state-owned companies or companies with tacit backing from the Chinese central government aren't going to face crushing problems competing against that level of cohesion between state and corporate power? Anyone remember what happen to the Australian mining executives who were imprisoned a while back for having the audacity to negotiate hardball style with their Chinese counterparts under the mistaken premise that it was a meeting of equals?

    When this country was at its most economically free, we had high tariffs. That's an indisputable fact that no free trader can deny unless they want to argue that slavery was so heinous that it overshadows all of the economic freedom in all areas of employment, property ownership, business creation, etc. that was enjoyed in the late 18th century and most of the 19th century.

    • by Pope (17780) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:00PM (#39138561)

      The simplistic answer is that fee companies competing with state-sponsored ones is by very definition not a free market.

      • by dkf (304284)

        The simplistic answer is that fee companies competing with state-sponsored ones is by very definition not a free market.

        So... Libertarianism only works if China is Libertarian as well? Oooh... kaay... but I do think this is a good time to deploy "Good Luck With That" and some hollow laughter. Seriously, a politico-economic model that only works when everyone plays by the same set of rules is definitely unworkable in reality. It's like the right-wing reverse-image version of Communism. Sure, the nature of the mistakes it makes are different at the level of the detail, but the big picture is that you simply must not assume tha

    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:03PM (#39138609) Homepage

      Whenever I've had conversations with libertarians about how free trade would actually work in the real world

      See, there's your problem.

      Sadly, the Libertarian model more or less assumes that nothing about current reality applies, and that we can hit a big reset button and start from scratch in a bubble where all of their little assumptions would hold true by sheer force of will.

      It's like bed-time stories for economists.

      There will always be inequalilties that keep that perfectly free market from happening, and countries will always try to bolster their own industry over others. The US does this in many areas (agriculture, steel, lumber) and seems to expect they can protect their own companies while trying to skew the playing field against foreign competition who have a different cost structure.

      To me, there's simply nothing to actually support the notion that the Libertarian free market could ever exist. And, if it did, it sure isn't going to bring about all of the positive things it claims ... mostly the world would devolve into the rich having all of the privileges, and the rest of us being left to duke it out for scraps. But apparently, that's a good thing somehow.

    • by eth1 (94901) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:06PM (#39138639)

      My first thought when I read that was that if China starts selling the stuff at insanely low prices (at a subsidized loss) to beat out domestic competition, why don't we just start buying it up and stockpiling it.

      That would give us a buffer if they decide to cut us off, and we wouldn't need to buy from them for a while if they raise the prices, which might cause them to keep underselling themselves.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:09PM (#39138687)
      You don't understand what free trade is. That's your problem. We do NOT have free trade in the united states... not by a long shot. We subsidize one industry, tax another, we bribe other countries to sell us cheap goods with economic and military aid. If China is willing to sell goods for cheaper than it costs to produce, then that's good for us. The rare earth metals will remain in our country while we bleed China dry. You can only try to manipulate the market for so long before you run out of money. That time is fast approaching for China. The price of goods will suddenly skyrocket and manufacturing in the US will suddenly seem a lot more reasonable (it's actually already starting to happen) The only thing standing in our way is our government and its silly programs designed to aid industry and other countries. Let oil rise to its real value (likely $8-$10/gallon) and see what happens to the automotive industry. Stop subsidizing farmers and giving the food away to countries that can't afford to produce it themselves. When the cost of a bad of grain goes from "free" to $20, see how quick local business's figure out the free market.
      • His problem is he is talking to imaginary 'libertarian' strawmen.

        It is best just to walk on when you run into someone who talks to trees (or strawmen). If he could understand your post he would, at least, construct better strawmen to have discussions with.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by cusco (717999)
        Local businesses have already figured out the "free market". It's called 'WalMart crushes everyone smaller', which is why anyone who appreciates the value of small and local businesses is opposed to the Libertardian policies.
      • by yurtinus (1590157)

        Stop subsidizing farmers and giving the food away to countries that can't afford to produce it themselves

        Worse than that even. The countries can afford to produce food themselves. What they can't do is compete with free food from the US. We give them food, all of their local sources of food go under because who exactly will buy bread when you get it from free from the USAID box?

    • by mikael (484)

      Australian executive charged in China with embezzlement [bbc.co.uk]

      And who just happen to be ethnic Chinese citizens of other countries...

    • Indeed. However, the general thought is that although the [Insert Foreign Power] can tacitly back one of their chosen industries, to do so they must pull resources from somewhere else, which creates an opening.

      Think of the marketplace as a battlefield. To put 5 more tanks on the lines protecting [Insert Politically-Favored Company], they must draw 5 tanks away from [Insert Some Other Company Not Held In As High Regard]. They strengthen one, at the cost of another; by focusing on their front lines, they've l

    • by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:37PM (#39139061) Journal

      Whenever I've had conversations with libertarians about how free trade would actually work in the real world where governments frequently aggressively protect corporate interests, they always stammer "buh buh the free market will prevail."

      Here, let me try.

      When China subsidises it's own mines to drive prices down and force the competition out of business, our local mines will shutter and we all enjoy the benefits of rare earth minerals paid for, in part, by the Chinese taxpayer. We all win with the exception of the miners who were working at the mines. The mine owners may be forced to sell then mine to someone with enought foresight to know that the prices won't stay low forever. And they would be correct.

      Once the Chinese government thinks they have a lock on the market and raises prices, the domestic mines open back up and begin to reap the large profits from the elevated prices of these rare earth minerals. Eventually, the price will lower and stabilize once supply reaches and equalibrium with demand.

      So, yeah! The free markets will prevail. The main losers here would be the Chinese government and taxpayer who subsidized the materials that we used to build stuff and sell back to them at a profit. (Actually, they'd be the ones building it... but for Apple, who is American based)

      • The mine owners may be forced to sell then mine to someone with enought foresight to know that the prices won't stay low forever.

        And that will be the Chinese, as they're the only one able to concentrate enough money (through state-owned companies) to buy up the mines.

        Just [mining.com] a few [dailymaverick.co.za] examples. [businessweek.com]

        Libertarian, busted you are.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      Yawn. Yea, lunatic fringe is lunatic fringe. There are also those who think the government can simply take control of all production and set prices as it sees fit.
  • by mspohr (589790) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:09PM (#39138681)

    It seems that the second link in the summary is being ignored (by both /. and industry). The concentration of rare earth elements in used electronics (cell phones, displays, computers, etc.) is many thousand times higher than their concentrations in rare earth ores. Rather than tearing up and polluting large areas of the earth with new mining, it would seem to be much more cost efficient and easier on the environment to "mine" used electronics.

    • by Amouth (879122)

      that is making an assumption that we will never need more than what has already been mined.. what makes better sense is to do both at the same time.

    • by wwbbs (60205)
      HREE's are used in such small quantities that extraction is often impractical to extract them is no economical or environmentally sound. Often they are used as catalysts and are consumed in the manufacturing process etc, or the risk of mixing the compounds and creating a volatile substance is also a risk. Safety Concerns “The fire is not the only safety problem,” says John Michlovic, manager of technical services and marketing for H.H. Robertson Floor Systems. The plastics used in the insulatio
  • While it would not surprise me that discarded cell phones form a significant waste stream, saying ...

    There is of course actually one other source of rare earth metals in the USA — recycled cell phones.

    suggests that there isn't any other source. More-or-less all electronics consumer goods have rare-earth materials in them, from TVs to computers, to stereos, to MP3 players, to microwave ovens, and so forth. Essentially anything that's going to have a circuit board in it is going to have rare-earth materials that might be re-processed. And we have all of those lovely landfills just waiting to be mined, to

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:12PM (#39138729)
    I have long held the idea that a future industry will be the comprehensive mining of trash dumps.
  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:13PM (#39138749)
    NGC here has a good article [nationalgeographic.com]. One of the issues though again is cheaper labor and lax restrictions in China. Processing rare earths is labor intensive and can generate toxic and radioactive by-products which are fare more expensive to deal with in our regulatory system from an environmental and worker safety perspective.
  • Sea water is full of everything and follows no boundaries.

  • The only problem is extracting it. Right now, it makes more sense to mine dirt then it does to shread and melt down all the cellphones and computers and heat distill the molten metals.

    Mainly because the mines have single pure metals, as opposed to a mix of all the valuable stuff. heat distilling molten metals is too expensive - today.

    A good engineer could very well change that.

    Cripes, the main reason we do such a good job of recyclying steel is that it is magnetic.

  • there aren't many mines in the rest of the world because its cheaper to exhaust China's deposits first? Doesn't mean you can't get it else where if you need to. I'm pretty sure rare earth mines were shutdown many years ago when China got into the export game, probably wouldn't take much to reopen them
  • " The mine is the only source of rare earths in North America, one of the only alternatives to the mineral cartels in China, and one of the only sources for the key metals such as tantalum needed in cell phones"

    Only, only, only! Oh noes!

    As if anyone doesn't already know or understand. The term 'rare' in rare earth doesn't mean rare as in "hard to locate any". It means "rare" in the sense that you'll never find VEINS of it, or nuggets lying around. It exists in many many places, but requires the refining

  • by beckett (27524) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:47PM (#39139189) Homepage Journal

    There's more than one rare earth mine in North America: Hoidas Lake [www.gwmg.ca] in northern Saskachewan, and Strange Lake [www.ctv.ca] in northern Quebec, and Bernic Lake [mbendi.com] in Manitoba.

    I guess the US is just lazy or something; lots of rare earths being pulled out of North America already.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Also in Canada:

      Misery Lake (Labrador), Ramusio Lake (Quebec), Alterra-Strange Lake (near Strange Lake in Quebec), Eden Lake in the Leaf Rapids district of Manitoba, Red Wine HREE Project in southern Labrador.

      Elsewhere:

      Aktyuz Ore Field among others in Kyrgyz Republic (being mined by NA companies in collaboration with Kyrgyz companies), not to mention Sweden, Norway, and Finland among many others.

      China however controls 97% of the market. The can drive others out of business simply by lowering prices a

    • by Jeng (926980)

      It's not that the US is just lazy, but have you actually been to Saskatchewan? It's like Wyoming, but with less people.

  • Surely there are some we've just missed -- we just need to dig down to levels 2-16 near the lava and bedrock. And if there's none within walking distance, build nether portals to get far away and find new areas to look. Wow, I've been playing that game too much. I do wonder, though, do they have good ways of locating these in the whole country, or could looking harder really yield some new sites? Is there some super-metal-detector that can find rare earths at any depth anywhere in the country?

  • Sea Floor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rwise2112 (648849) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @02:18PM (#39139503)
    On the ocean floor, are large deposits of the stuff Wall Street Journal [wsj.com]
    A company called Nautilus Minerals Inc. is planning to begin operations.
  • The flood gates (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This is where capitalism fails, when the intervention of a government dictates everything. You can only fight such abuse with your own abuse (high traffics to ensure alternatives along with international agreements with other countries). It would otherwise be too easy for China to fully control usage of rare earth around the world. These rare earth mining operations take a long time to both setup and become profitable, China needs only to open up it's export policies every few years to basically destroy any

    • by macraig (621737)

      It's not a failure of capitalism, it's just scaled way-up. It's collectivized capitalism.

      *ducks*

  • Looks like somebody bought stock in Molycorp and now wants to guarantee the success of his investment with a little buzz on the grapevine, eh?

  • Giant Smurfs are living where another huge source of rare earth is found, but I am pretty sure they won't put up much of a fight...

  • There's an old Iron mine in Missouri called Pea Ridge, where they have found REEs. The owner wants to re-open the mine to mine Iron and REEs.

There are never any bugs you haven't found yet.

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