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#1 Mar 13 2012 at 10:35 AM Rating: Excellent
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So new twist in a little bit of old news. A bunch of us are getting together to sue China to try and get (get back) greater access to their mineral wealth.

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China produces 97% of all rare earths, according to the EU. The materials are used in products such as flat-screen televisions, smart phones, hybrid car batteries, wind turbines, energy-efficient lighting, electronics, cars and petroleum.

"Together with the U.S. and Japan, the EU formally requested dispute settlement consultations with China in the World Trade Organization," a statement said.


So what's your take on it?
China's got us all by the happy parts:8 (33.3%)
Bomb them! Take their oil, erm... metals!:3 (12.5%)
I'm confident the lawsuit will help them see the error of their ways.:1 (4.2%)
Ni hao ma?:12 (50.0%)
Total:24


Do you think the lawsuit has a chance? Is this an ace in the hole for China? Do they have bigger problems to worry about and we shouldn't be concerned? Time to enroll the children in Mandarin classes?
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#2 Mar 13 2012 at 10:53 AM Rating: Good
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I have next to no knowledge of international trade laws, but from what I can tell it sounds like this is just pandering. China isn't going to start giving away their best commodities because America and Japan want their manufacturing jobs back. It's obvious that we need to begin welcoming our new Chinese overlords.
#3 Mar 13 2012 at 10:54 AM Rating: Excellent
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It says that they produce 97% of the rare eath minerals, but is that because the vast majority of said minerals exist in one spot on the planet or because they've just set up the mines? The answer to that weighs heavily on how dire the situation could be.

Anyway, the suit seems to be about breaching WTO rules & agreements so it seems reasonable enough. That's the whole point of these international organizations.
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#4 Mar 13 2012 at 11:03 AM Rating: Excellent
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It says that they produce 97% of the rare eath minerals, but is that because the vast majority of said minerals exist in one spot on the planet or because they've just set up the mines?


My incomplete understanding is that it is a combination of them simply having the only known large reserves of some metals, and other places having exhausted their supplies. I'm not sure how you go about finding more of these things though, or what makes them somehow unique to China.

<--- not a geologist.
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#5 Mar 13 2012 at 11:04 AM Rating: Excellent
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I looked very briefly and there seems to be distribution globally (obviously concentrated in areas) but I don't know how accessible they are due to geological or political considerations.

Also there's a crapton in the Pacific sea bed so... you know... just send someone down there with a shovel and bucket.
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#6 Mar 13 2012 at 11:07 AM Rating: Good
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It appears that the elements that form the deposits are not rare, but large concentrations that actual form the harvestable minerals are. It seems we need to develop technology to get more from less, I suppose.

wiki wrote:
Despite their name, rare earth elements (with the exception of the radioactive promethium) are relatively plentiful in the Earth's crust, with cerium being the 25th most abundant element at 68 parts per million (similar to copper). However, because of their geochemical properties, rare earth elements are typically dispersed and not often found in concentrated and economically exploitable forms. The few economically exploitable deposits are known as rare earth minerals.[3] It was the very scarcity of these minerals (previously called "earths") that led to the term "rare earth".
#7 Mar 13 2012 at 11:18 AM Rating: Excellent
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Bomb them, if only because it'll make me feel like I earned my monthly paycheck.
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#8 Mar 13 2012 at 12:25 PM Rating: Good
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China controls the bulk of the easily accessible rare earths and almost exclusively controls the output. What makes that an issue is that they have said that they plan on drastically reducing their output in order to better control the industry and inflate prices.

Considering that these things are used in almost every modern piece of technology, China attempting to exploit the market isn't going to go over well.
#9 Mar 13 2012 at 12:42 PM Rating: Decent
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Raolan wrote:
China attempting to exploit the market isn't going to go over well.


It's not that they're exploiting the market; they're cutting back so they don't run out.

There are plenty of companies out there actively working to develop mines, but until recently they've been stalled because China has always met the demand. Other countries with these deposits need to accelerate the development of these mines to make up the difference.
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#10 Mar 13 2012 at 1:15 PM Rating: Good
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Jophiel wrote:
I looked very briefly and there seems to be distribution globally (obviously concentrated in areas) but I don't know how accessible they are due to geological or political considerations.

Also there's a crapton in the Pacific sea bed so... you know... just send someone down there with a shovel and bucket.


Seems like it's a combination of mineral concentration and China's laissez faire regulations:

a link in the original article wrote:
They are not actually "rare," and can be found in other countries -- including the U.S. -- but they are difficult to mine safely. About a third of the world's rare earth deposits are in China but the country controls around 97% of production, in part due to its lower labor costs and less stringent environmental regulations.
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#11 Mar 13 2012 at 1:25 PM Rating: Excellent
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Orrrrrr maybe we need to be focusing our technology development away from some of those minerals.

Like the company that just came up with the flat, printed ink organic battery. And research into graphene. And stuff.
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#12 Mar 13 2012 at 1:58 PM Rating: Excellent
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Orrrrrr maybe we need to be focusing our technology development away from some of those minerals.

Like the company that just came up with the flat, printed ink organic battery. And research into graphene. And stuff.


Psh. What we should really be researching is hemp, man. It would solve all the world's problems at once. Hemp powered phones, hemp-fueled cars, hemp power plants. The government knows about it, man, but they don't want you to know. They wanna keep it a secret, 'cause they can't control it, man.

Or something.
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#13 Mar 13 2012 at 2:39 PM Rating: Good
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#14 Mar 13 2012 at 2:51 PM Rating: Good
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There's this guy who made an engine that runs a hundred miles on a single gallon of gas but a guy from GM ExxonMobil bought it so they can hide it. True story.

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#15 Mar 13 2012 at 3:04 PM Rating: Decent
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Iamadam wrote:
Raolan wrote:
China attempting to exploit the market isn't going to go over well.


It's not that they're exploiting the market; they're cutting back so they don't run out.

There are plenty of companies out there actively working to develop mines, but until recently they've been stalled because China has always met the demand. Other countries with these deposits need to accelerate the development of these mines to make up the difference.


China snatching up every mine they can, cutting exports, and reaping the benefits of skyrocketing prices is purely coincidental, it's really an attempt to save the environment. Damn that environmentally conscious Chinese government.
#16 Mar 13 2012 at 3:05 PM Rating: Good
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catwho wrote:
Orrrrrr maybe we need to be focusing our technology deve
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Quoted Text
lopment away from some of those minerals.

Like the company that just came up with the flat, printed ink organic battery. And research into graphene. And stuff.

This was my reaction. It's like the oil situation - we need to find new ways to do this.
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#17 Mar 13 2012 at 4:39 PM Rating: Decent
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#18 Mar 13 2012 at 9:14 PM Rating: Excellent
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Bomb them, if only because it'll make me feel like I earned my monthly paycheck.


We'd need rare earth metals to make the guidance systems for the bombs, first.
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#19 Mar 14 2012 at 3:40 AM Rating: Excellent
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China took the long lead time to create rare-earth mines, and now we're complaining because we didn't take the lead time to secure our own production right now. I say we eat our lesson, and if the private sector won't develop mines because it's not cost competitive, but our government decides rare-earth is vital for the nation, then we can

a) attractively subsidise private rare-earth mines, just like Australia subsidies aluminium production, and the US and Europe subsidises farm products like corn and other foodstuffs, and Australia and the US subsidise gas and car production.
b) publicly develop rare-earth mines and privatise them later by selling them off or
c) publicly develop and run rare-earth mines, selling the ore to the private sector at a profit.

I see this as Sour Grapes whining on the part of Western Nations who didn't want to put any long term thought and planning into guaranteeing their own supply of resources needed for exponentially growing uses. Focusing on three-five year election cycles, and letting the "Free Market" deal with many long term needs of the market. While I'm all for having a thriving private business sector, and I think publicly listed companies are particularly tasty (although inclined to misbehave badly with current regulations in Australia) I really don't think it's smart to leave long term planning and infrastructure solely to the private sector.

Why should China be forced to export something it doesn't want to export? I wouldn't want Australia forced to export something we don't want to. For example, I think we shouldn't export Uranium at all, but should export Thorium, which can make electricity just as effectively, without being able to make nuclear weapons material like Uranium can.

Edited, Mar 14th 2012 5:43am by Aripyanfar
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#20 Mar 14 2012 at 4:44 AM Rating: Good
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While China shouldn't really be forced to do something they don't want to, like that, you gotta think about what this move would actually be doing.

The US and Japan have gotten together and approached the WTO. It's not like they are going to threaten to throw China in jail or wage an actual war on them if they don't sell them stuff at reasonable prices/quantities. While I'm not an expert on international trade, I'd imagine that the result of anything like this would be fines, penatlies, fees, taxes, etc. on Chinese Imports/Exports, agreements from member nations to cut trading with China, etc. It'll basically be a "You don't wanna give us what we want, we won't give you what you want". It's part of trading. China's actions will affect their trade relations, and this is the way it's affecting them.

Edited, Mar 14th 2012 6:52am by TirithRR
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#21 Mar 14 2012 at 5:02 AM Rating: Excellent
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Britain, (Australia's Step-mother) Europe, and America have all done exactly this sort of thing to each other, China, Japan and other nations around the world during times in the past, even the recent past, historically speaking. The US would not sell crude-oil (gas/petroleum) to Japan all the time up to pre WW2. It could have sold them gas. It chose not to. Japan had no oil fields of it's own.

The Industrial Revolution took off in Europe first because Europe had the best stocks of coal in a pre-mineral-oil world. Britain was especially blessed with a huge range of ores, from sheer geological accident. We've benefited in the past from lucky resource monopolies. We have no grounds to cry just because China decided to monopolise strategic resources. We have rare-earth. We chose not to prepare for the future by developing rare-earth mines. We have no-body else to blame but ourselves for our current situation. It's not like China can't utilise all its own rare-earth in Chinese industry.

Sure, moves like this by China usually lead to trade wars. The more usual, reasonable and polite way of equalising the playing field is to slap import Tariffs on certain, or all, Chines goods. Given our historical behaviour, I don't think we have a morally legal leg to stand on, to force China to export a quota of a resource. Resource/business monopolisation laws within a nation are a very different kettle of fish.

Edited, Mar 14th 2012 7:09am by Aripyanfar
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#22 Mar 14 2012 at 5:08 AM Rating: Decent
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But China is involved in international trade. They are doing something that is making its customers (and suppliers) unhappy. Why should those customers be forced to just sit back and accept it.

If you and I were trading goods, and I decided that I no longer wanted to offer something I had that you needed, would you just sit back and continue trading with me exactly the same as before, just without my previous goods available? Or would you start taking things away from the table as well in hopes that I would change my mind and put my previous goods back up for sale?

It's trading, as much as China is able to refuse to trade, the other traders can get together and decide "if they don't want to trade with us, let's figure out what to do about it."
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#23 Mar 14 2012 at 5:21 AM Rating: Excellent
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Market prices are set by supply and demand. So China is benefiting from a supply squeeze. We all non-Chinese have benefited from similar supply squeezes in the past. Why is China not allowed a go? At the moment, (I think it's Malaysia) Malaysia is benefiting from a near monopoly on Dragon Fish, which sell for US$15,000 each. As fast as they can breed them, the dang things sell for $15,000 to the Chinese.

In the future the last Crude Oil stocks are probably going to be Middle Eastern and Middle Asian monopolies. (Ignoring the horrible ownership problems of Arctic and Antarctic oil). We KNOW this very high probability. In fact, Crude Oil is going to run out altogether as a fuel source. We are the dumb-fucks if we don't prepare and secure our own alternative energy supplies for when that happens.

We have to accept reality, but we don't have to approve of it. Don't approve of what the Chinese are doing with their own rare-earth if you want. But accept the position the world is in vis-a-vis rare-earth. We can retaliate, and equalise the playing field without trying to force a nation to sell something it doesn't want to sell. Australia can stop selling the Chinese rice, which China doesn't make enough of to supply itself, and which Australia overproduces for its own needs. And we can get on with being smarter about producing our own essential resources.

Edited, Mar 14th 2012 7:23am by Aripyanfar
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#24 Mar 14 2012 at 5:28 AM Rating: Decent
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Aripyanfar wrote:
We can retaliate, and equalise the playing field without trying to force a nation to sell something it doesn't want to sell. And we can get on with being smarter about producing our own essential resources.


And why can't we do both?

Why does China's freedom to do what it wants with it's supply of rare earth metals have to mean freedom from consequences as well? They are free to restrict production all they want, but the other nations involved in the trade should be free to levy trade penalties on them for doing so. And by doing so, it doesn't mean they can't also look into other sources at the same time.

Edited, Mar 14th 2012 7:29am by TirithRR
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#25 Mar 14 2012 at 5:39 AM Rating: Excellent
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If China doesn't wish to be hassled by the WTO, the obvious answer is to leave the WTO and then they don't have to play by WTO rules. Otherwise, I can't see it as "wrong" that other states would petition the WTO about this -- what's the point of having rules if the penalty for breaking them is to tell everyone else "too bad so sad"?

It's also entirely possible that the WTO will find this to be without merit but we won't know if no one brings it up.
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#26 Mar 14 2012 at 6:08 AM Rating: Good
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Given increasing resource scarcity--they call many of them "non-renewable" for excellent reasons--China has begun applying stricter controls of the export of these key materials. As a matter of historic precedent, the World Trade Organization has primarily been concerned with import restrictions, not export restrictions.

Quote:
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade prohibits all measures that restrict the quantity of exports of a product unless they are applied as export duties, taxes or other charges ["made quantifiable"]. Thus, WTO member states are free under the current rules to impose export taxes instead of bans, quotas or other quantitative export restrictions.

As a condition of membership in the WTO, China agreed to eliminate taxes and other charges on all exports except those on a list of 84 products included in its WTO accession agreement. Neither the nine raw materials in the current WTO case nor the 17 rare earth elements are among the products that China listed.

[However] The GATT permits measures that would otherwise violate WTO rules if they are "relating to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources if such measures are made effective in conjunction with restrictions on domestic production or consumption," and if they are not applied as a means of "arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination." This is likely to be China's defense in the raw materials case, and, should there be one, a rare earth elements case as well.


Rare-earths are non renewable. China imposes quotas on CHINESE companies buying rare-earths, as well as export quotas. Thus the Chinese have a valid case that it is fully abiding with WTO rules in its treatment of rae-earth quotas.

quotes are from a blog, I had a feeling reading the WTO regulations would be a lengthy and horrific exercise. Also, if I could read through the WTO regulations, I would have finished my Doctorate.
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#27 Mar 14 2012 at 6:38 AM Rating: Good
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some other blog wrote:
Recently, [China} has suspended issuing new licenses for rare earth material prospecting and mining [within China], imposed production caps [within China], and tightened up export quotas. Miao also said that unless these measures were kept in place, some materials would be exhausted within 20 years [within China] due to excessive mining and exportation.


However,
yet another blog wrote:
WTO Rules Against China’s Raw Materials Hoarding:
[THIS IS A PREVIOUS CASE ABOUT 9 LESS EXOTIC MINERALS: coke, bauxite, zinc, magnesium, manganese, silicon carbide, fluorspar, silicon metal and yellow phosphorus,]

The World Trade Organization ruled Tuesday that China was unfairly protecting its domestic manufacturers by limiting the export of nine raw materials that are used widely in the steel, aluminum and chemical industries.
Today, the WTO panel ruled for the United States, European Union and Mexico, all of whom had filed complaints against China using export duties and quotas to drive up the prices they pay for raw materials such as coke, bauxite and zinc.
The panel rejected China’s argument that its export limits were needed to “protect its environment,” and said those export restrictions should be removed.
The WTO panel concluded that “China’s export duties were inconsistent with the commitments that China had agreed to” when it joined the trade organization in 2001.
This is an important development for our industry which uses vast quantities of raw materials such as steel aluminum, and brass.

But it is also an important bellwether for the Chinese export restrictions of rare earth metals.

Round 2 coming up…


Edited, Mar 14th 2012 8:40am by Aripyanfar
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#28 Mar 14 2012 at 7:03 AM Rating: Excellent
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Giant bold blog quotes aside, it's really a question to be brought up and decided by the WTO members, right? I mean, that's their job. Diplomacy and bureaucracy -- isn't this exactly the sort of thing we say "why are they going to war instead of talking" about?

I just don't see the issue.
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#29 Mar 14 2012 at 7:12 AM Rating: Excellent
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Uh... don't we debate the merits of all sorts of real world issues that then get decided by legal organisations of one stripe or another? Don't we feel it's useful to debate the merits of issues even when we have no immediate, direct say in the outcome? I mean, I don't mind if the individual Jophiel cares not one way or the other about China's export practises regarding rare earth, but I do. I think they have the right to choose in this matter.

Could someone kindly find me a list of banned Western exports to China in the past 3 decades. You know, like banning exports of Supercomputers to China, that quickly turned into bans of ANY modern desktop or laptop computer to China, as improving technology gave them the same specs as an old supercomputer. Anyone remember the Unequal Treaties (that included trade terms) issue with China and other East Asian nations, from history? I just think that objecting to China's export quotas of rare-earth is total hypocrisy on our part, and is already a Tat for our Tit.

You won't sell us any computers? Fine, we'll make our own, and won't sell you the raw materials to make them.

Edited, Mar 14th 2012 9:28am by Aripyanfar
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#30 Mar 14 2012 at 7:50 AM Rating: Good
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The US actually has several mines for rare earth minerals. That were shuttered many years ago when China began "flooding" the market with their own production. Because they were selling much cheaper than we could, those companies closed down the mines before they were exhausted. There was talk of re-opening several of the mines last year in an attempt to lessen the blow of China's announcement of limiting their production. I believe the WTO case is more "China agreed to supply X amount of Y minerals and now is going back on their word". Certainly they are within their rights as it is their natural resourses, but in a global economy, it's not the wisest move to make.

The other countries affected could re-open previous mines, find new deposits, or alternate minerals for their products (or all of the above) and tell China to shove it. China is becoming quite the powerhouse for producing cheap products, but if no one is buying it doesn't do them much good.
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#31 Mar 14 2012 at 8:26 AM Rating: Excellent
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Yeah, the U.S. actually has a large portion of the worlds known Rare earth Deposits. The mines were closed due to unfair competition from China, but also because environmental regulations at the time basically strangled them out of existiance. Rare earths are often found in the presence of heavy metals amongst other things. One of the rare earth mines in the U.S. will be back operational in about 8 months in Mountain Pass, California (http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=a9e8676e87fad805702b98564&id=aaec2518fe&e=%5BUNIQID%5D) and a second, much larger deposit was recently discovered in Nebraska. http://www.digitaltrends.com/gadgets/huge-rare-earth-minerals-depost-springs-from-tiny-nebraska-hamlet/ The seabed of much of the pacific ocean is also pretty much all rare earths. There are also significant deposits in Colorodo, etc. http://www.usrareearths.com/eco/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18&Itemid=55

China's landmas is thought to contain about 37% of the known rare earths on the planet. We've got probably another 35% or so, with other large deposits known of in Brazil, Greenland, Europe and Russia. Many of those will be producing again within the next 3 years. The timing of the china rare earth export cuts is particularily bad, because much of the HDD parts stock that was destroyed in the Thailand flooding was made out of rare earths, as well as most of the components required to make large monitor and TV panels. The economy melting has slowed down demand significantly, but if it hadn't, we would basically be screwed until sometime next year, and even then, this definitly IS effecting the rest of the world economy negativly. It's actually even been bad for China, because most of their domestic suppliers have far more inventory ready than they can sell internally. the whole thing was politically motivated, not due to any actual shortage on the part of China. In fact there is reportedly a thriving black market on the stuff at the moment out of South Korea.

At any rate, U.S. held rare earth stocks will likely be going up for a couple of years until china floods the market again once they remember how much the rest of us actually have of this stuff.
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#32 Mar 14 2012 at 8:47 AM Rating: Good
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Note that rare earth prices have been falling for a while now, with the exception of dysprosium.
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#33 Mar 14 2012 at 9:09 AM Rating: Excellent
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We've got probably another 35% or so, with other large deposits known of in Brazil, Greenland, Europe and Russia.

I was looking at some map the other day which showed deposits in Africa but, depending on where in the continent (I don't recall), it's probably not politically practical to mine there.
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#34 Mar 14 2012 at 9:51 AM Rating: Excellent
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Debalic wrote:

This was my reaction. It's like the oil situation - we need to find new ways to do this.


Aripyanfar wrote:
We have rare-earth. We chose not to prepare for the future by developing rare-earth mines. We have no-body else to blame but ourselves for our current situation.


Drill baby drill!

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#35 Mar 14 2012 at 8:27 PM Rating: Excellent
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Jophiel wrote:
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We've got probably another 35% or so, with other large deposits known of in Brazil, Greenland, Europe and Russia.

I was looking at some map the other day which showed deposits in Africa but, depending on where in the continent (I don't recall), it's probably not politically practical to mine there.


Africa too. China owns most of those particular mines though at the moment.
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#36 Mar 15 2012 at 1:46 AM Rating: Excellent
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Obviously it's time we sent out some Settlers and found one of those gem deposits so we can set up a village....
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#37 Mar 15 2012 at 7:07 AM Rating: Good
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Rare Earth Elements are found all over. They're just no where concentrated enough to make mining them efficient. It's a messy work so it would be best not to do it in our collective backyard.

I found this National Geo article from last summer - it lacks the pretty pictures but it's only 2 pages long. In the 80's the US mined 60% of the worlds supply of rare earth elements.

I think we can mine our own stuff here - that's what I'd like to see, but it would require fighting lots of NIMBY wars.

In the meantime I think we'd have better luck using the carrot versus the stick in dealing with China. We need to barter with something they really want.
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#38 Mar 15 2012 at 7:35 AM Rating: Excellent
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Obviously it's time we sent out some Settlers and found one of those gem deposits so we can set up a village....
We must construct additional pylons.
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#39 Mar 15 2012 at 8:21 AM Rating: Good
Skelly Poker Since 2008
*****
15,531 posts
lolgaxe wrote:
Belkira wrote:
Obviously it's time we sent out some Settlers and found one of those gem deposits so we can set up a village....
We must construct additional pylons.

Sleestak slave labor? Smiley: confused
____________________________
Alma wrote:
Post and be happy!
#40 Mar 15 2012 at 8:40 AM Rating: Excellent
Liberal Conspiracy
*******
TILT
lolgaxe wrote:
Belkira wrote:
Obviously it's time we sent out some Settlers and found one of those gem deposits so we can set up a village....
We must construct additional pylons.

Set up solar collectors!
____________________________
Belkira wrote:
Wow. Regular ol' Joph fan club in here.
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