Ambrose E-P tells us that China is going to restrict its exports of rare earth metals.
A draft report by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has called for a total ban on foreign shipments of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium. Other metals such as neodymium, europium, cerium, and lanthanum will be restricted to a combined export quota of 35,000 tonnes a year, far below global needs.
China mines over 95pc of the world’s rare earth minerals, mostly in Inner Mongolia. The move to hoard reserves is the clearest sign to date that the global struggle for diminishing resources is shifting into a new phase. Countries may find it hard to obtain key materials at any price.
The Mountain View mine in California will reopen but from memory it only contains the light rare earths, not the heavy. However, there\’s one error:
The rare earth family are hard to find, and harder to extract.
No, the thing about rare earths is that they are not in fact rare nor are they all that difficult to extract. Certainly far easier than gold or platinum.
Wait, but there\’s more! For your humble Timmy knows where to find all of these rare earths. He\’s even paid to have one version of an extraction technology developed. And no, it\’s not some hole in the ground in some dodgy area of the world. It\’s in processing the waste from another industrial process. In fact, clean up the waste from an industrial process, save the producers of that waste pots of money and get the rare earths as a by-product.
Anyone got a spare £10 million or so? Err, yes, this is in fact at least mildly serious. It really is possible to produce these metals, at the right price, from what is currently thrown away at some 35 different sites around the world. Money requirements would be around $500,000 or so to do proof of technology, $5 million or so to build and operate first plant (very rough numbers) and while I know about The City intellectually, I have no idea of real world workings.
For, if we cannot get lutetium from China, how are we going to make MRI machines?