Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An American Rare Earth Industry Revival?

As Mainland China looks more and more likely to reduce future rare earth element export quotas, will an American rare earth industry revival fill in the global shortfall?

By: Ringo Bones

If you're one of the few concerned citizens of this planet closely watching the concerns surrounding the global rare earth metals demand, then it is inevitable that one of these days, a news that the United States is seriously playing catch-up with the established 21st Century global rare earth industry - namely Mainland China - which controls 97% of the global rare earth industry. But is America's rare earth industry revival nothing more than a toe-in-the-water exercise in economic terms?

In a July 12, 2011 interview with the BBC, Molycorp spokesman Jim Sims says that Molycorp has already reactivated a "retired" open-pit rare earth mine high in the Mojave Desert of California that has been closed 10 years ago. Even if the long-term economic and political will driving this endeavor remains uncertain, are there other obvious advantages of reviving America's home-grown rare earth industry?

Whatever the incumbent and/or incoming administration decides in the near future, America's concern for securing her rare earth metal demands is not just combined to high-tech and carbon-neutral technologies anymore like laptops, loudspeaker magnets, hard-disk drives, color TVs, electric cars and wind turbines anymore. Rare earths also serve a very important component in the American defense industry. From unmanned drones, actuators in JDAMs and guided missiles just to name a few. The question now is not only whether or not the occupational health and environmental concerns surrounding the revival of America's rare earth industry is worth it in the long-run, but also if America can still afford to chose not to revive and then expand its long dormant rare earth metals industry?

1 comment:

  1. I've seen this particular BBC interview of that Molycorp spokesperson, all I can say is that rare earth metals mining is not particularly environmentally friendly and that Mojave Desert rare earth open pit mine is probably the ugliest I've ever seen.