will we cope if the rare earths live up to their name?
For decades, the world has been busy- Known as rare earth elements to a variety of high Technology equipment including disc drives, wind turbines and hybrid cars. The chaotic business of mining ore and extracting elements is left to China, and few in the West care that China controls 97 of the world\'s supply. \"Rare Earth\" is an alternative name for rare earth elements-elements 57 to 71 y and SC, and despite this name, most elements are not considered rare at all. When China appeared to block exports to Japan and the United States a few weeks ago, these factors made headlines. The Chinese government has also been tightening export quotas, claiming that mining procedures need to be cleared and supporting its growing demand for rare earths. So what can the rest of the world do about it? The most obvious thing is to mine elsewhere because China\'s known reserves are only the third largest. Japan is the largest importer, hoping to open a mine in Vietnam. In the United States, Molycorp Minerals plans to reopen its Mountain Pass mine in California, which has been inactive since 2002 when radioactive waste leaked from the pipeline there. However, facilities for refining rare earths cannot be built overnight, and American scientists rarely know what to do. Gareth Hatch, a technology metal research company, said: \"Even if Molycorp can now mine and concentrate materials . . . . . . It also has to send the materials to China to refine, \"a consulting firm based in Illinois. Recycling is another option, but impurities come in quietly during this process, so the recycled material is not always as good as the newly refined one. For example, the nd magnets used in hybrid cars do not work very well at high temperatures when using recycled nd. Some items containing rare earth are reusable. For example, nd magnets in computer disc drives usually have a longer life span than the computers they are in, but Disc drive manufacturers have so far found it cheaper to use new magnets than to reuse old ones. Hono kazuiro of the National Institute of Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan, is addressing scarcity in different ways. Dys is one of the rare earth elements, so Hono is reducing the element content in permanent magnets for hybrid vehicles. Horno hopes the crisis will encourage more scientists to enter the field. \"It is important to recognize the importance of the world,\" he said . \" With a focus on innovation, he added, \"The solution to this problem will emerge in the future \".