The Rare Earth Story

By Jack Lifton, Independent consultant, focusing on the sourcing of nonferrous strategic metals.

1. The forces of nature placed rich resources of the light rare earth elements, LREEs, in, among other places, Inner Mongolia and of heavy rare earth elements, HREEs, in Szechwan, People’s Republic of China.

2. Economic forces in the last 25 years caused lower priced REEs from China to eliminate profitable production anywhere else in the world, including the huge rich resource for LREEs at Mountain Pass, California,

3. The age of technology metals began in the second half of the twentieth century,

4. American innovation just with the rare earth technology metals gave us nickel-metal-hydride ( where metal =rare earth) batteries, the highest strength permanent magnets ever developed, the neodymium laser, the PC with its small yet efficient and high storage rare earth magnet dependent “hard drive,”, fluid cracking catalysts, based on lanthanum (the name metal of the lanthanides, i.e., the rare earths) for transforming heavy petroleum products to useful lighter ones.

5. Manufacturing of all of the above technologies, except fluid cracking catalysts for oil, has now moved to China where there are sources of the raw materials and an industry to produce them in their necessary metallic and alloy forms for further fabricating!
6. Now China wants to insure that its high tech employment, which manufactures the end-use, high value added, components which depend on rare earth metals, continues and grows domestically in China both to increase high tech employment in china and to justify the investments made and to be made.

7. In China Socialism drives the need for full employment and a state sponsored type of capitalism drives the development of resources and manufacturing capabilities.

8. If America does not wake up and drive, from the top, the production of our own resources of REEs then all the employment and wealth creation from the REEs and their end uses will simply, by default, accrue to China.

10. There are huge privately owned resources of LREEs in California (MolyCorp), Idaho, and Montana(Thorium Energy, Inc.), and there are perhaps the world’s largest untapped reserves of HREEs in Canada (Avalon Rare Metals (AVL.TO) and Great Western Minerals Group (GWG.V).

11. The technology to separate REEs from ores exists in North America and is in operation at Mountain Pass, California, the largest such vertically integrated operation in the world outside of China.

12. The technology to reduce compounds of REEs to produce metallic and alloy forms of REEs exists in the USA and in the United Kingdom in both of which places it is owned by a Canadian company (GWG.V)

12. The technology to fabricate REE based permanent magnets exists and is dormant in the USA due to a lack of assured REE supply.

13. Ironically therefore the way is there in North America but not the will.

The de-emphasis in America on wealth creation by the development of natural resources and the domestic manufacturing of their end products has now reached a crisis in the case of the rare earths. If we don’t stop the erosion of this method of wealth creation a trickle of lost jobs and opportunities will become a flood. Our security is now threatened. We need to wake up immediately or just replace China s the world’s sleeping giant.

2 Responses to “The Rare Earth Story”

  1. Very Interesting!!

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