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This is very, very, amusing

Mr. Orlowski interviewed me (“had a Skype chat with me”) for a column of his. Amazingly, it wasn’t the column about rare earths, Which is something of a pity really.

But it’s a dirty business – processing one ton of rare earths may generate around 2,000 tons of toxic byproducts.

No, really, no.

Whatever toxicity there is will already have been there in the host rock – the thorium say. So the worst that happens is that the stuff that was already here gets moved around a bit. And 2,000 to 1 ratios? That means that your original concentration of RE to rock must be 0.05%. Which isn’t something you would mine for REs.

Japan found this out the hard way in 2010, when the PRC suspended supplies to Japan over a diplomatic dispute. It cut exports by 40 per cent, and the global price quadrupled.

And what happened then? That’s right. Mountain Pass reopened, Lynas built their refinery, RE prices collapsed.

Even after the US military became so dependent on Beijing that its USAF fighters couldn’t take off without Chinese magnets,

As DoD has repeatedly said (that idea that the F35 requires 700 lbs, or 900 lbs, is absolute nonsense btw) they use so few rare earths that they don’t need a domestic supplier, they don’t need a stockpile. It’s Congress – being able to dole out the subsidies is such fun! – which has repeatedly insisted that they have both. DoD keeps saying “No, ta”.

For example, a trinity of three known as the NdPr metals powers every magnet in every wind turbine.

That’s two metals. it’s actually FeNdB and you can add Pr if you like. Also Dy and Tb for high temps if you really want to.

Even China does more processing than mining now, so our foreign relations, and ensuring the stability of source countries such as the Congo, is critical.

Congo has bugger all to do with REs.

Even without net zero, our future will need rare earths more than ever. Both gas and nuclear power stations require turbines, and the minerals are also critical in drones, microchips and satellites.

Turbines? REs? Nickel cobalt, sure, but REs?


11 thoughts on “This is very, very, amusing”

  1. I suppose I shouldn’t repeat myself. But rare earths aren’t rare.

    The only problem with them is the fuss made over the waste products. Especially thorium.

    The utter terror that the woke have of radiation is the cause of the problem. I remember lounging on the beach in my youth. The minerals in the sand are radioactive, as is the potassium in my body. The minerals didn’t cause me any problems. Nor does the potassium, although I’d be dead without it.

    If the US does not want to depend on foreigners for their rare earths, they merely have to mine and process them. They’ve got plenty.

  2. So, all those power stations that we built three or four decades before we started mining rare earths, they clearly don’t exist.

  3. My guess on the turbine front is that someone noticed certain Inconel alloys contain niobium, then (incorrectly) considered that element a rare earth on the basis it has a slightly exotic name.

  4. Having teased Andrew, he says that the problem is with the subs. Who think “critical metal ” and “rare earth” are the same thing.

    BYW, yttrium is used in certain military jet engines. But only military so far as I know. GE once asked me if I could get some for them…..

  5. Is Orlowski saying he doesn’t get final veto over his articles and that the subs insert errors that he has no opportunity to correct?

  6. 《So the worst that happens is that the stuff that was already here gets moved around a bit.》

    What about Butte, Montana, and its tailings pond, threatening to overflow into the surface water?

    Why can’t we just recycle the batteries we throw away?

  7. 1) We’re building out the number of batteries in use. That means we need to increase the stock of battery materials available.

    2) Currently – this might not last forever, but currently – recycling is more expensive than virgin material. Just one of those things.

  8. Tim

    《Just one of those things.》

    Do you agree with Fischer Black in “Noise”:

    《we might define an efficient market as one in which price is within a factor of 2 of value, i.e., the price is more than half of value and less than twice value.11 The factor of 2 is arbitrary, of course. Intuitively, though, it seems reasonable to me, in the light of sources of uncertainty about value and the strength of the forces tending to cause price to return to value. By this definition, I think almost all markets are efficient almost all of the time. “Almost all” means at least 90%.》

    If prices are pretty arbitrary why rely on their signals when it comes to recycling? Why not subsidize recycling with non-tax (created, and inflation-proofed) money?

  9. “Why not subsidize recycling with non-tax (created, and inflation-proofed) money?”

    You mean a second and separate type of “money”? That never touches the Money Pool the Hoi-Polloi get to use?
    Better not cross the streams…

  10. How about a Fed dollar-denominated, inflation-indexed, non-tax-funded, universal CBDC account?

    Would it be Pareto efficient even, because you could choose to inflation-proof your savings by depositing them in the Fed CBDC account? Why shouldn’t the Fed pay the inflation rate as interest to encourage savings directly in inflationary times?

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