So here\’s a business idea

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.

Hmmm….

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?

6 thoughts on “So here\’s a business idea”

  1. “…while I know about The City intellectually, I have no idea of real world workings”

    OMG – I have spent a measurable fraction of my life lurking here, thinking I was being improved by exposure to a sane version of free-market economics, case-hardened by constant and rigorous testing against the real world.

    And now you imply that you are no better than all those bubble-headed gonks who feel entitled to lay down the law all across ye internet by virtue of having read a couple of Ayn Rands and the blurb on tha back of a book about von Mises?

    I’m shocked, shocked.

    Very frivolously

    JSM

    Tim adds: Sadly so….my year as a stockbroker was not successful because I was very bad at it.

    But then I have read Galbraith as well……

  2. “thinking I was being improved by exposure to a sane version of free-market economics, case-hardened by constant and rigorous testing against the real world.”

    But you have been JSM old chap.
    Every time our genial host writes about rare earth metals, that is precisely what you are getting.

  3. terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, neodymium, europium, cerium, lanthanum – oh glorious metallic elements. Where, oh where else can I get my fix of economics and rare earths?

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