rare earths: why china is cutting exports crucial to western technologies
Warehouse, yard and steel plant.
But on the outskirts of north China\'s steel city, there is a pile of buildings that are significantly more modern than others.
They are home to an institute that suddenly became the envy of the world.
Exhibition headquarters of \"pioneering Rare Earth Hi-\"
The tech development zone has 400 research scientists who focus on 17 metals called rare earths.
Until recently, most people have never even heard of these vague elements.
However, they are magical ingredients in almost everything that makes modern life possible.
They may be exotic.
Sounds like names like tb, eu, pro and lute, but they also have obvious everyday applications;
From BlackBerry and iphone to catalytic converter and low-
Rare Earth, known in China as an \"industrial vitamin\", is an important part of green technologies such as electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines.
Rare earth is not only vital to civilian life; the world\'s hi-
The tech army also needs rare earths to meet a range of applications ranging from reinforcement of tank armor to guidance of intelligent equipment.
Bomb and night powervision goggles.
Given their global application, it may be surprising to know that the world\'s rare earth production is controlled by one country, China.
Last year, China\'s Commerce Ministry announced a sharp cut in the number of rare earths available for export.
In the second half of 2010, the quota was reduced by more than 8,000, only 29,000 tons, compared with tons in the same period last year, when the global demand for rare earth elements (REEs)
Is recovering quickly.
A synthetic version of rare earth metal palladium made in Japan South Korea and Myanmar signed a rare earth agreement on how the electronic boom has led to a surge in rare earth demand. Chinese Communist Party officials are dating nearly 700 women. Google: China is blocking Gmail. Analysts say the quota is expected to drop by 11 percentage points this year.
Demand for rare earths has tripled over the past decade, reaching an estimated 136,000 tons this year.
2014, some analysts currently expect 20,000-
Key metal ton gap.
Most popular prices
After the surge in rare earth metals and oxides in the international market, some dealers reported that,
For computers and lasers)
It is now impossible to obtain outside China.
The oxidized ce for polishing glass and lenses is $72 per kilogram and is now 15 times more expensive than a year ago;
Over the same period, the value of nd has more than doubled to $115.
Analysts expect they will not calm down for at least two years.
So how did the world find itself almost entirely dependent on China\'s rare earth metals?
Part of the answer can be found at the main entrance of the Baotou complex, where a welcome sign quotes a reform by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping --
Promote a trip to the south in 1992: \"There is oil in the Middle East, but there are rare earths in China.
Twenty years later, it turned out to be a prophecy.
For nearly 50 years, China has been focusing on rare earth development. After discovering that Baotou Research Institute was sitting on the \"mother grain\" of baiyunebo iron mine rare earth deposit, Baotou Research Institute was established in 1963.
Iron ore about 80 miles north of Baotou.
It\'s from iron-ore tailings (the waste-
Products During iron extraction)
China has extracted a large number of rare earths, and because of the use of waste, its cost is very low.
So far, Baiyun Ebo is still the largest rare earth deposit in the world, and industry experts say that even today, China has only used about 1-
Baiyun Ebo potential fifth.
In a showroom-with an apologetic smile, we were told that foreign journalists were not allowed to meet scientists themselves, it is also not allowed to visit their laboratories and factories or the historical facts of the rare earth in baiyunebo mine prove that this is not rare.
Some of these elements are richer in the crust than lead and nitrogen.
Of the nearly 100 million tons of global known reserves that can be mined economically, the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS)
There are 36 million people in China, 19 million in Russia and the former Soviet Union, 13 million in the United States and 5 in the United States.
Australia 4 million and 3.
India 1 million
Resources are also available in South Africa, Mozambique, Vietnam, Greenland, Indonesia, Nigeria, Canada and North Korea.
In 1787, a Swedish amateur geologists discovered rare earths for the first time in a stone mine outside the city of Stockholm.
By the 20 th century, they have been used by more and more industrial applications.
It was not until 1949 of India and Brazil produced most of the world\'s rare earths that they were occupied by the monazite mine in South Africa.
In the 1980 s, when the electronics industry took off, the United States led the production of Mountain coal mines in California.
Sony Walkman, the electronic exquisite logo, is made by sm-
Only cobalt magnets are light and efficient enough to run a cassette player powered by two AA batteries.
S. Dominance quickly disappeared in the 1990 s, when China flooded the market with super currency.
Cheap rare earth elements are usually mined at huge environmental costs.
China\'s rare earth prices are so low that by the beginning of 2000 most of the world\'s mines were closed.
Yamaguchi was sealed on 2002)
Cannot compete with China\'s prices and supply.
At the same time, China has invested heavily in complex technologies for rare earth refining and production, found cheap processes for replacing nitric acid with hydrochloric acid and refined the extraction to 99.
Purity was 999, several percentage points higher than that of the United States.
As a result, according to US analysts, the rest of the world has entered a dangerous situation where it is now.
\"We all know the ball has dropped. rare earths]
Christopher ekelston of New York wrote: \"space, not only the United States, but also the entire Western economy --\"
Headquartered at investment consultancy Hallgarten & Co, in a critical report on the issue.
But as Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, pointed out later last year, the world is now \"Awakening --up call\'.
Administration of accountability (GAO)
A report entitled rare earth materials in the defense supply chain was published.
It pointed out that even the main battle tank M1A2 Abrams in the United States used sm-
Cobalt in navigation systems, and countries-of-the-art Aegis Spy-1 radar.
Rare earth is also used in motors that power the rudder and tail
The fifth fingeneration F-
Raptors, even Hellfire missiles targeting Taliban terrorists from drones over the battlefield in Afghanistan, need a chemical produced only in China.
The GAO report estimates that it may take 15 years for the West to catch up with China and develop alternative supplies.
Carl gnidner, a senior metallurgical scientist at the Ames Lab at the US Department of Energy, has been studying rare --
Earth materials since the 1960 s
Few rare ones
In an interview with the chemical and engineer news, he said that mining, processing and research are currently being carried out in the United States.
Some international mining companies are racing to fill the gap by finding deposits in Canada, Australia, South Africa and Greenland.
Some companies, such as U. S. company Molycorp, which now owns Yamaguchi mine, plan to start production again next year.
So is the world right to feel fear of rare earths?
After years of carelessness
China believes that mining is now only aimed at consolidating production and putting the supply of important resources on a more sustainable basis.
These arguments are to some extent economic-China\'s own emerging technology industry, and China\'s efforts to lead the world in the field of green technology, will require a large number of rare earths in the future, in a certain
In addition to Baiyun Ebo resources, China also has rare earth deposits in Jiangxi and southeastern provinces, and high concentrations of metals can be found in clay a few feet from the Earth\'s surface.
As a result, 1990 people saw explosions in the number of poorly maintained mines that were both wasteful and contaminated.
On the mountain in Longnan county, southern Jiangxi province, you can see the dense hillsides of the mine.
There are signs that these sites are not open to tourists, and it is not difficult to see the reason after careful inspection.
The word \"Mine\" is too grand to describe the original tangle of plastic pipes buried at the foot of the hillside and rough-built chemical tanks.
The concrete side of the tank is cracked and worn, and is set in trios;
One is full of bright blue liquid and the other is full of thicker chocolate
Brown solution, the third is white powder, flashing under transparent liquid.
As we approached, the smell of ammonia hit us in the breeze.
These low ones seem incredible. tech, mom-and-
Pop mining business is the cradle of some of the world\'s best mining businessestech gadgets.
The brown paste rotating through the Heath Robinson filtration system represents one of the world\'s major resources for rare \"heavy\" rare earth elements.
The floor of the valley is dotted with mines that the eyes can see, and the aquamarine pool studies the rich green landscape like BelleAir suburb.
The system of rare earth acquisition is extremely basic.
Miners dig about 8ft deep holes every once in a while and they drop into them --
Feed in the sulfuric acid concentrate that sinks through the clay and drain the rare earth element when it passes.
Some of the acid also travels up through the roots of the trees that curl and get sickbrown leaves.
When the rain comes, the chemicals in the poorly managed mines are sometimes rushed into the water supply system, resulting in poisoning of drinking water, resulting in the death of rice crops, and in Guangdong in 2008, the entire fish stock was eliminated.
In the face of widespread environmental problems, China has shut down hundreds of illegal activities and promised to crack down on still-operating smuggling gangs, often backed by corrupt officials.
Once the original rare earth clay is extracted, it is transported by truck to processing plants across China that separate 17 elements and then process them into different rare earth oxides and compounds.
The owner of a private rare earth processing plant in southern China allowed us to enter their factory to observe the production process, but asked not to be named, and the Chinese government is becoming more and more sensitive to the rare earth problem.
Inside the factory is like a huge industrial chemical plant.
Rare earth clay is stirred in a long rotating bucket with a solution of acid and water, through which each element is separated from another element.
As the solvent-
The extraction process continues, the staff move around, monitor the tank and check the pH and flow
Until they end up with the original elements in the solution, such as liquid nd chloride (NdCi3).
In the final stage of the process, pure elements, which have so far evaporated into white powder, are shoveled into the casserole
The size of the ceramic dishes, baked at high temperatures for several hours.
The dishes are presented in the color of the toasted toast, and their contents are unloaded and packed into drums for delivery.
Returning to Baotou Rare Earth Research Institute, Zhang Rihui, senior economist at Baotou Rare Earth Elements Division, said that he pointed out that China has no intention of restricting foreign enterprises from using rare earth resources and enterprises can come to China, enjoy unlimited and relatively cheap rare earth supplies, including many businesses around the world.
Leading companies such as Rodia of France and Showa Denko of Japan already have them.
He added that China has a legitimate right to protect the reserves of some metals, such as the nd needed for emerging green metals --
According to state media reports, the Chinese government is manufacturing stocks, which further upset foreign governments.
Zhang said that the current sharp rise in world prices, without irony, is only an objective result of the Chinese government\'s policies, not their intentions. He reiterated that quotas were necessary to protect and regulate resources.
He added that China just wants to properly manage the industry on a good environmental basis and minimize waste of resources.
I reiterate that the price of rare earth materials is nothing compared to the finished Price of integrated rare earth materials, so as a rare earth supplier, China has only made a very small profit.
This is not sustainable.
China welcomes the world\'s search for alternative sources of supply.
Western complaints also ignore the fact that while China has imposed restrictions on exports of metals themselves, there are no restrictions on exports of Chinese-made products using rare earths.
Perhaps surprisingly, foreign industry experts, who do not have a political axis to grind, expressed sympathy for China\'s position.
They say many of the current concerns about rare earth supplies have been exaggerated, in part because speculative investors want to quickly profit from the stock of emerging rare earth exploration companies, part of the reason is that vested interests in Washington are seeking subsidies and guarantees for their business.
Ian Chalmers, general manager of Alkane Resources, said there is currently a lot of hype around rare earth metals, many of which are very frustrating, a mining company based in Perth, Australia, rare earth deposits will be put into production in the next 12 to 18 months.
\"I have been in this industry for 20 years and have never seen such a thing.
The reality is that China dominates the rare earth industry and it has a very clear policy of seeking to add value to these rare earth metals --
This is a matter of concern to many people.
But if you look at the products that are coming into production
In the next 10 years, the situation is not as severe as people think.
Nigel Toona, British general manager
Metal Pages, a leading industry information provider, is also skeptical about long-standing claims.
Rare earth shortage.
He acknowledged that China\'s strict quotas forced prices to rise and caused a temporary shortage of some metals, but that, in turn, would spur global production or force manufacturers who did not want to rely on China to find alternatives.
Analysts have predicted that the two largest rare earth mining companies, the US Molycorp and Australia\'s Lynas, will put another 60,000 tons of rare earth on the market by 2015.
China\'s policy is two things, Tunna said.
It protects foreign ownership of strategic resources and creates incentives for foreign companies to bring their manufacturing to China.
The West is used to cheap raw materials, but the fact that prices will rise as countries compete for limited resources will have to adapt.
Ironically, given concerns about tight supply of rare earths, many in the industry are not worried about a shortage of metals, but that the future surplus may push down prices and make it again
China\'s economy is sluggish.
Judith chegevden, a leading industry analyst at Roskill Information Services in the UK, explained that the reason is that the rare earth industry, while crucial, is small in terms of global standards.
Even taking into account recent price increases, by 2014, the entire rare earth business is expected to be worth only $3 billion a year, accounting for only today\'s iron ore market.
The world will spend $2 billion on rare earths this year, roughly the same amount China spends on steel.
Ore imports two weeks later.
More than 200 rare earths are currently being marketed to the investment community, and most of them will not make any progress, Chegwidden added.
In such a small market, prices may fall as quickly as they rise, and many of the rare earth mining opportunities that are being explored start to look very uneconomical.
Rare earths may be abundant, but it is problematic to find them at sufficiently high concentrations to make their mining more economical. One Canadian-
Listed company Avalon Rare Metals, which hopes to mine large deposits in northwest Canada, estimates it\'s starting
Market analysts say the cost has risen by $0. 9 billion considering the value of the industry as a whole, an astronomical figure. The military-
According to industry insiders, although strategic concerns are good for headline news, they are also a bit exaggerated. This view was recognized in October 2010 --
For a long time, the Pentagon has been looking at how to secure future supplies of rare earths and other key materials.
Lynas chief operating officer Eric Noyrez said during the third key rare metals summit in Washington in October that the number is very small, and it is estimated that, s. Military weapons systems require 10 to 20 tons of rare earth metals a year.
It doesn\'t take much time to solve the problem, he said.
Looking ahead, the mining group will also have to face the risk that, with the emergence of alternative deposits, China may inject rare earth elements such as la and ce into the market, it has abundant resources in Baiyun Mountain.
At present, China\'s rare earth production capacity in baiyunebo only accounts for about its rare earth production capacity. Therefore, if China decides to mine, for example, a foreign rare earth executive working in China said, it can meet all the world\'s demand for rare earth metals, but will still throw away 75 cents, he asked not to be named
Officials from the United States, Japan and Europe are discussing whether to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization over China\'s rare earth export quota.
They worry that as China builds a green system, it will have an unfair price advantage.
It wants to export to technology industries around the world.
Last year, Geneva-
The WTO-based Secretariat warned in a two-year trade policy review that China\'s export quotas for rare earths and some other key metals caused a worrying distortion.
The resulting gap between domestic prices and world prices poses a hidden aid to domestic downstream processors of target products, thus providing them with a competitive advantage, the company said.
Those who doubt China\'s motives for controlling rare earths also pointed out that,
Last year, China and Japan held a long diplomatic spat over the arrest of Chinese fishing boat captains in disputed waters in the East China Sea.
It is reported that China has quietly ordered customs officials not to sign an agreement to export rare earths to Japan.
Several Japanese traders looking forward to shipping said they were intercepted without explanation;
China has denied the allegations.
The world remains to be believed.
Japan, which accounts for 65 of China\'s rare earth exports, has announced an investigation into China\'s policies.
Toyota, which produces Prius hybrid vehicles that require rare earth elements, rare earth elements and rare earth elements, has set up a special working group to study how to ensure that non-
China is seeking rare earth supplies from Vietnam.
The United States is launching a similar investigation, and the House has passed the rare earth and key materials Revitalization Act of 2010, which will support the development of non-rare earth enterprises.
China provides rare earth resources to the United States, in part by providing loan guarantees for exploration companies.
In Europe, discussions are underway on how to fight China\'s dominance, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying European investment in non-investment is \"urgently needed\"
Rare mineral resources in China.
Finally, perhaps, the rare earth debate boils down to the world\'s most valuable commodity-trust-when it comes to China\'s trade relations with the United States, Europe and Japan, trust is in a dangerous supply shortage.
For many, the reasons for not relying on China are growing.
As Senator Bart Gordon, chairman of the House Science Committee, pointed out in approving legislation that supports American companies in exploring rare earths, it is foolish to link defense and economic security with China\'s goodwill, or hope to compete in a fair and open global rare earth market.
The risk is too high.