Metal related-China's rare earths problems

Right now there is only one mine in the USA producing rare earth elements. They recently stopped mining and are just maintaining the
mine. And this mine was the only one in the western hemisphere producing rare earths.The stopped production is because the price of rare earths has dropped a huge amount. We see this in the super cheap rare earth magnets available today. China is the world's top producer of rare earths and for a long time limited production of them in order to keep prices high. In fact the Chinese government still limits production. The problem is because there is about 4 times the legal amount mined. So there are plenty of illegal rare earth mines operating in China and the Chinese government has not been able to stop this mining. Hah! For a long time it has seemed that the Chinese have considered it ethical to steal intellectual property and then produce goods using this info. Every product seemed to be vulnerable to pirating. Now this ethic is biting them back. The pirated rare earths are much cheaper than the legal ones. A big part of this lower price is because the pirate mining operations don't have to follow the rules the legal mines do. Sound familiar? And the users of rare earth elements in China are buying them on the black market for so much less that demand from legal sources is dropping. Competition among pirate producers have caused further price drops. The Chinese government is really pissed off about this illegal maining but has not been able to stop it or even slow it down much. Boo hoo. Eric
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On Wed, 14 Oct 2015 14:05:07 -0700, etpm wrote:

The intersection of politics (and sometimes warfare) and economics can get interesting when mining is involved.
I kind of agree. It's something of a shame that we don't have any rare earth mines over here, which will burn us in the short term if prices ever jump back up. On the other hand, where the situation is now is that we have a bunch of known reserves out there that we can get our hands on in the time that it takes to re-start a mine.
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On Wed, 14 Oct 2015 14:05:07 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@whidbey.com wrote:

<snip> Some items not mentioned: * Domestic jobs * Domestic tax base * Domestic methodology and technology * Current Accounts Balance of Trade Deficit * [sleeper] Thorium
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On Wed, 14 Oct 2015 17:44:48 -0500, F. George McDuffee

Not many jobs. Nothing significant in taxes. The methodology is well known, but is always an ecological threat. The balance of trade would hardly be touched.
We need only tiny amounts of rare earths. That's the problem. It isn't woth the investment. And where they mine it in China, lung-cancer deaths start to spike. Uranium and thorium go along for the ride in rare-earth mining.
Here's a fairly brief explanaction:
http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-rare-earths-roller-coaster
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"Ed Huntress" wrote in message wrote:

Not many jobs. Nothing significant in taxes. The methodology is well known, but is always an ecological threat. The balance of trade would hardly be touched.
We need only tiny amounts of rare earths. That's the problem. It isn't woth the investment. And where they mine it in China, lung-cancer deaths start to spike. Uranium and thorium go along for the ride in rare-earth mining.
Here's a fairly brief explanaction:
http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-rare-earths-roller-coaster
--
Ed Huntress
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On Wed, 14 Oct 2015 23:14:06 -0400, "Carl Ijames"

===============================================================>That article was posted May, 2014. Molycorp never met production targets

It's been about ten years since I had to research and write anything about it myself, so I don't know the current situation. But the basic problem in the US has been that rare-earth mines are an ecological disaster. Downstream of one, the creeks and rivers are essentially dead for miles, and the tailings often are radioactive. That's why most of the US mines closed down years ago.
They can be made to run clean, but the cost is exhorbitant. The Chinese will undercut any reasonable price for US-mined rare earth, and they will do so if they feel their hegemony is being threatened.
However, we *can* mine it, so we would make the investment if it became a serious national security issue. Overall, it's a little like the situation with North Dakota oil: it's there if we need it, but at current world prices, we aren't going to pump a lot of it.
Now, things could have changed over the past decade, and I wouldn't know it. So check up before assuming this is the current state of affairs. It's just what was happening in a narrow range of time when I was reporting on materials.
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Ed Huntress


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