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Without Rare Earth Elements, Is U.S. Industry a House of Cards?

Posted February 28, 2014 9:09 AM by RTD Manufacturing

Did you watch the finale to Season One of House of Cards? If you're a fan of this fictional political drama, you may recall that Congressman Frank Underwood's hopes of being appointed U.S. vice president depended on his ability to secure a source of Samarium in China. The Congressman is fake, of course (well, aren't they all?) - but Samarium isn't. It's one of 17 rare earth elements - all imported - that are essential to the American economy.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration and U.S. Geological survey, rare earths are even more essential to a wider variety of industries than petroleum is. As tensions with China increase over a range of issues, what is the U.S. doing to reduce its dependence on rare earth elements from a nation that many Americans now see as our greatest adversary? There's lots of talk about reshoring these days, but a shortage of rare earth elements could put American's manufacturing renaissance at risk.


"U.S. dependence on rare earths imports substantially exceeds our dependence on imported petroleum. In 2011, the United States imported 45 percent of the petroleum we consumed, but we imported 100 percent of the rare earth materials we consumed that same year - and rare earths are far more essential to a wider variety of industries than petroleum is. China controls the production, refining, and processing of over 95 percent of the world's rare earth elements despite only controlling about half of the world's rare earth resources." - Homeland Security Newswire


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#1

Re: Without Rare Earth Elements, Is U.S. Industry a House of Cards?

03/01/2014 2:09 AM

Rare earths aren't that rare. They are however difficult to isolate from their ores.

The US is listed as a geographic region with significant occurrences. China has the greatest production volume.

Apparently the US does produce some of its own but why bother producing all your needs when China can produce all you need at lower cost?

Basically if the US can't get their rare earths from China then they'll just ramp up domestic production to make their own.

It goes to figure that China produces all their own as they have the world's largest demand given their electronics manufacturing volume.

So, not rare, just difficult. China can keep all their not so rare earths....there's plenty around that just needs extraction and processing by whomever if it comes to that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samarium

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Re: Without Rare Earth Elements, Is U.S. Industry a House of Cards?

03/01/2014 10:38 AM

One major factor of China's monopoly is they are not concerned (yet) about the pollution and environmental damage involved in the mining and refining of these materials.

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Re: Without Rare Earth Elements, Is U.S. Industry a House of Cards?

03/01/2014 12:49 PM

I looked into investing in rare earth mining stocks a while back and so far the #1 obstacle they have is in fact EPA and related bureaucracy to deal with to get setup to actually mine and refine the stuff on any large scale.

I can understand the need for some degree of environmental tidiness but from what I got out of things was it simply came down to too many greedy bureaucrats and their agencies wanting their fingers in the pie for anyone to want to seriously bother with the mining and processing on a internationally competitive scale here in the US.

Regulations permits and follow up to those simply puts the potential profitability too low to be worth going after and those who have attempted it have been run near bankrupt for their efforts.

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Re: Without Rare Earth Elements, Is U.S. Industry a House of Cards?

03/02/2014 9:36 AM

Won't be a problem if we can can get leaders that understand reality.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/06/08/rare-earth-minerals-an-end-to-chinas-monopoly-is-in-sight/

But that's a very big IF.

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Re: Without Rare Earth Elements, Is U.S. Industry a House of Cards?

03/03/2014 12:00 PM

it's easier to pay for it with dollars, I was astonished in the text at the bottom that you import 45% of your petrol; I guess it's cheaper to pay for that in dollars and save yours for later.

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