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Subeditors, eh?

The fight for rare Earth minerals

Getting the capitalisation properly wrong.

There are varied headline styles that one can use. One is to capitalise as in a normal sentence (others might be capitalise all “big ” words, capitalise all words, even run ALL CAPITALS) but even that would mean either “rare earth” or “Rare Earth” but not rare Earth.

Tsk, the young people to today etc….

26 thoughts on “Subeditors, eh?”

  1. Well, there is only one Earth ( that we know of) so that does make it pretty rare. I guess.

  2. Interesting topic, capitalisation. English seems to be somewhere between Germanic & latin, when written.

  3. The defence aspect scare in the article sounds like bollocks to me. These minerals are not unavailable. It’s a case of quantity. Markets will look after the rest. Defence will be able to bid higher for the limited number of components available because the added cost against the total cost systems will be trivial.
    It’s the consumer electronics market gets hit. And since that’s largely supplied out of China anyway, it just makes the Chinese ever more competitive.

  4. Out of interest, is it possible to reclaim these minerals from defunct electronics? There must be tons going to landfill every day. I would presume there’s so little in anything, the extraction costs would be too high.

  5. There’s not actually very much in electronics. Neodymium is in the magnets in hard drives, yes. But each magnet is a few grammes, the alloy is 20% or so Nd and the hard drive needs to be hand disassembled to get at it. Further, the real cost in rare earths is not the mining of the base material, it’s the purification into the separate element, something you’ve got to do all over again if you reprocess scrap (mixed concentrate might be $2 or $3 a kg, the processing of that concentrate $20 a kg – rough numbers).

    Of course, a 5 tonne magnet out of a windmill, sure, recycle that. But in consumer stuff, no, too dispersed – and rare earths just aren’t rare enough.

  6. Well yes Tim. As we all agree, it’s the environmental fuss that gives China its advantage.

    Must admit I’ll be entertained to see how the pre-refining in Oz before the stuff is shipped to Malaysia goes. Western Australia has a Labor government, but perhaps they’ll be more interested in the welfare of the state than in pandering to the Greens.

  7. “it’s the environmental fuss that gives China its advantage.”
    China has an advantage in talking angels with revolving head go on Xmas trees & then in the bin.

  8. As the name of a planet Earth is a proper noun, is that the reason for it being capitalised?

  9. Hmmm.. I could be mistaken, but what is the US Army going to do with the stuff once they have it. Sit on it?
    They don’t produce anything important directly, after all. All the pewpew and fancy stuff is made by contractors. And at the level of rare earth metals even contractors of contractors.

    I can see several ways how the US can try and break China’s “stranglehold” om rare earth production by throwing money at the problem, but throwing it at the army isn’t it, really.

  10. Much of that article is rubbish. DoD has repeatedly said that it uses so little rare earths that it’s just fine, thank you. At which point the politicians keep demanding that they give it hundreds of millions to do something about it with.

  11. But each magnet is a few grammes, the alloy is 20% or so Nd and the hard drive needs to be hand disassembled to get at it.

    A few months back I saw a video of some new Apple robot disassembly lines, designed to dismantle their kit for recycling. I have no idea whether it makes genuine economic sense or is just green virtue signalling, but hand disassembly is going the way of hand spinning.

  12. @AtC
    I wouldn’t have thought extracting magnets from electronic equipment automatically would be much of a technical challenge. Magnetic detector. Run a core drill through the hotspot. Tumble the extraction & magnetically separate.
    Can I get a patent for that?

  13. That’ll not be for the Nd magnets, given that most mobile kit doesn’t have Spinning Rust as a storage medium to begin with anymore…
    The only practical application for proper HDD’s that need the Nd magnets is in long-term “slow” storage nowadays. Storage/File servers and home NAS and the like.

    And it takes all of 1 minute to disassemble a HDD into recycleable parts even with hand tools if you know what you’re doing. Nothing a local employment/anti-poverty scheme in the Usual Places can’t handle…

    There’s EcoTwattery involved, but my bet is that Apple are doing it for the batteries. And to extricate those from the Mess o’ Glue Apple is famous for you need a robotic line. Because doing it by hand will never be profitable, even with real slave labour.

  14. @Tim
    English is a funny language, though, isn’t it? It capitalises adjectives derived from proper nouns. In the sense “earth” is being used here, it’s an adjective. Not a noun, proper or otherwise.

  15. stony/BiS “In the sense “earth” is being used here, it’s an adjective. Not a noun, proper or otherwise.”

    the earth in rare-earth is not the planet but a synonym of dust/dirt/…

    The headline writer probably put in through a spell check that assumed the planet

  16. That grilling is still about 100 million years in the future, if not more.
    By that time we’ve become long extinct, or possibly All Over The Place in various adaptations to local conditions/evolutionary pressures in our “local neighbourhood”.

    Within the next 1000-10.000 years? Mere temperature wobbles won’t end humanity. At this point only humanity has a shot at ending humanity. And the Earth wouldn’t care, pick the Next Winner, and move on..

  17. Could barely believe that a wind turbine magnet could contain 5t of Nd so had to search and found this:
    “In the GE 1.5-megawatt model, the nacelle alone weighs more than 56 tons, the blade assembly weighs more than 36 tons, and the tower itself weighs about 71 tons — a total weight of 164 tons.”
    Gobsmacked at how much total weight is effectively sitting on the top of one of those towers – I’d just presumed that it would be fraction of the tower weight, not more than. It’s amazing they don’t keel over and smash the ground more often – someone must be doing a great job lining them up straight so the centre of gravity runs almost exactly through the centre of the tower.

  18. Not sure I’d claim 5 tonnes of Nd. 5 tonnes of NdFeB magnet, yes. Could be 5 tonnes of Nd but that’s not something I’d claim……

  19. What Grikath was saying has made me think. Disassembly plants should be sited next to volcanoes. Chuck all the boards into Mount Doom, they melt and disappear and in 20 million years there’s a nice supply of rate earths and gold and stuff…

  20. I think the claim you wouldn’t like to yet assert will be broadly right though Dr Worstall.
    A search on Haliade – X12 MW indicates that the biggest nacelle up to 2019 weighed 675t.
    Got to be a lot of Nd in the battery of that mother.

  21. I successfully recycled one of my stock of hard drive magnets as a fishing line for a pair of secateurs lost in our thorny hedge. There was a satisfying click when the secateurs took the bait.

  22. Disassembly robots are great if you’re Apple and have a portfolio of less than 100 distinct products produced over the last decade, that you can distinguish perfectly and you know the assembly process and location of all parts internally. You also know what alloys are in different parts of the structure/casing, so can aggregate them pretty accurately which makes them far more valuable to recyclers.

    Solving for generic “electronic waste” — especially where a high proportion of the mass is plastic — is a whole order more complex and another whole order less economical.

  23. ‘Chuck all the boards into Mount Doom, they melt and disappear and in 20 million years there’s a nice supply of rate earths and gold and stuff…’

    +100000 Otto!!! A sensible ecologically sound approach using the energy of a whole planet full of naturally radioactive waste.

  24. Don’t let get you down no no, don’t let it turn you around and around. Rare Earth is a proper noun, and a personal fave band. Celebrate!

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