How do the ignorant end up writing these articles?
Inside every wind turbine, inside computers, phones and other high-tech equipment from medical scanners to electric cars, are materials known as \”rare earths\”. This small group of 17 elements are in extraordinary demand – but their supply is limited, and most of the existing sources have already been snapped up by China in its quest for ever more rapid economic growth.
Last month China – which controls more than 90% of the reserves of these essential elements
China hasn\’t \”snapped up\” rare sources. And it most certainly doesn\’t have 90% of reserves. Even China\’s own numbers say 30% of reserves. 90% of current production, yes, but 30% of reserves.
Not that reserves is the important number of course. A mining reserve is stuff that we know is there, how much is there, how we\’re going to get it out and that it\’s worth getting out using current technologies and at current prices.
The important number is resources. The total amount of stuff that is out there. Given that one or two of the rare earths are, alone and by themselves, more abundant than copper then there\’s really no shortage of the dman things. After all, we\’ve been mining millions of tonnes of copper a year for many decades now. We use only 130,000 tonnes of REs a year.
Two things about mining for them in Greenland though. So, such mining might be polluting. Hmm, OK, so, where do you want your pollution? In a frozen wasteland that no one or thing inhabits? The interior of Greenland is, after all, one of the most lifeless places on the planet. If pollution there\’s going to be that\’s probably where you\’d like to have it.
The other thing is that this is all bound up with the European Union:
That is why Europe has been engaging in a strenuous bout of diplomacy with the home rule government of Greenland to allow access to the island\’s natural resources. According to geological estimates, below Greenland\’s vast ice sheet could lie enough rare earths to satisfy at least a quarter of global demand in the future.
The vice-president of the European commission, Antonio Tajani, has led the push, forging an agreement with Greenland to look at joint development of some of the deposits. The agreement will extend beyond rare earths
Tajani is, like all bureaucrats and planners, swiftly heading off in entirely the wrong direction. We need more metals? We must have a new mine! Needs lots more metals? We need lots or a large new mine (s)!
Gross stupidity of course.
Whether or not there\’s 130,000 tonnes a year available I\’m not sure. But I could easily point to 50,000 tonnes a year of REs in the wastes from already extant mining and processing operations. What is needed is not new mines but new methods of processing those extant resources.
Oh, BTW, the two main RE ores? Monazite and Xenotime? It\’s pretty much impossible to process either of them within the European Union.
That\’s how seriously the EU is taking the RE shortage.