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Report: China Considering Prohibition or Restrictions on Rare Earth Metal Exports

Daily Telegraph. A draft report by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Beijing is proposing a ban on exports of the rare earth metals terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium. Other rare earth metals such as neodymium, europium, cerium, and lanthanum would be restricted to a combined export quota of 35,000 tonnes a year.

China currently mines more than 95% of the world’s rare earth metals. Prohibiting or restricting these rare earth metals would impact a number of technology areas, including electric motors, catalytic converters, superconductors and precision-guided weapons.

Alistair Stephens, from Australia’s rare metals group Arafura, said his contacts in China had been shown a copy of the draft—`Rare Earths Industry Development Plan 2009-2015’. Any decision will be made by China’s State Council. “This isn’t about China holding the world to ransom. They are saying we need these resources to develop our own economy and achieve energy efficiency, so go find your own supplies”, he said.

...Each Toyota Prius uses 25 pounds of rare earth elements. Cerium and lanthanum are used in catalytic converters for diesel engines. Europium is used in lasers.

The Japanese government has also drawn up a “Strategy for Ensuring Stable Supplies of Rare Metals”, calling for stockpiling and plans to secure overseas resources.

Comments

kelly

“This isn’t about China holding the world to ransom.." - but it would effectively be what their doing.

This appears a serious threat to 'common earth' trade.

Mannstein

Perhaps we should do the same but then again Western Capatalists would sell their grandmothers just to make the numbers for the next quarter.

aym

All countries have strategic reserves of rare materials. Everyone including the US.

Don't try to spin this as some sort of thing that only China could do; the last paragraph includes Japan creating it's own strategic reserve plans.

This of course will drive the technological change into substituitions, which is no bad thing.

kelly

@avm,

That "China currently mines more than 95% of the world’s rare earth metals.." doesn't sound accidental.

The "draft report by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology Beijing is proposing a ban on exports of the rare earth metals.." doesn't sound like spin.

It does sound like the "sort of thing that only China could do.." and it would launch negative trade responses.

HealthyBreeze

There is also the issue of limited Lithium supplies. Chile and Argentina crank out the most. China and Australia have some. Everybody else? Not so much.

I wonder how how plentiful Barium and Titanium supplies are if Barium Titanate becomes an important part of future portable power storage systems?

I saw some analysis by a UC Berkely professor that recommended making energy storage systems with Iron. The Kwh/Kg potential is not as good as Lithium, but the stuff is so plentiful it could be made dirt cheap.

Peace Hugger

Why not just jack up the prices as they are rare?

aym

There's a difference between people relying on a developed source and then developing new sources in light of any shortages. There are undeveloped sources of these materials available. We have just left them alone.

http://www.resourceinvestor.com/News/2009/8/Pages/Heavy-rare-earth-elements-and-the-future-of-hightech-mfg-in-the-US.aspx

And as for China, they are a sovereign nation which can allocate it's own resources as it see fit for it's own needs if it feels it's necessary. Every country develops the same sort of strategy to it's resources.

http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=5043&type=0

And this is from 1983.

Considering it's own booming industries, you can see why they would want to restrict the exportation of a key material that in their own future would be of importance for their own use.

Besides which, where does a lot of the manufacturing get done anyway?

Every country does do this. In the west it's spun as protecting democracy, industry, consumers, etc. When others do it to us, it's spun as exploitive, dangerous, socialist, etc.

It isn't as if the material cannot be found in the rest of the world. And it isn't as if the rest of the world doesn't have it's own policies of a similar nature. If any gov't didn't, then they would be considered foolish. Look at talks over US phosphate reserves.

Roger Pham

For that reason (shortages of rare earth metals), parallel HEV's are much more resource-sparing than serial HEV's, PHEV's or BEV's.
The response to these strategic-resource-protection acts is a comprehensive and mandatory recycling plan of all automobile parts that contains strategic materials, even if it might cost more to recycle than mining new minerals. Recycling will provide more jobs and reduce environmental contamination when stuffs are laid wasted in landfills. Un-regulated Capitalism and pure market economy cannot be counted on to protect our environment and provide jobs for the people.

ToppaTom

Don't try to spin this as some sort of strategic reserves thing that a country does to insure sufficient supplies of some resource.

This is NOT like keeping your pantry stocked; it's like locking the gate to your swimming pool when a thirsty traveler comes by.

kelly

"It isn't as if the material cannot be found in the rest of the world." could be said of oil as well.

When OPEC sets oil prices they consider the economically unviable oil that lies under many miles of water, rock, frost, etc. in the rest of the world.

Look at the impact of high oil prices and embargoes.

Rare earth elements(REE)are critical to EVs, solar, and other attempts to escape the oil nightmare.

The world's economically viable REE's are being mined.

Now China plans an REE trade embargo, which could lead to trade retaliation.

Perhaps, as Kubrick noted, we face a mine shaft gap..

Patrick

Roger,

You state that the US should recycle and re-use more of our vehicles components...we already do and guess who our number one customer of recycled scrap automobile parts is? If you said China, you guessed correctly!

Henry Gibson

Iron, salt and aluminium can be used to make a battery pack as energy dense as many lithium battery packs. ..HG..

kelly

FYI - gap - http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN26285433

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