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China Considering Cuts In Rare-Earth Metal Exports 456

Posted by kdawson
from the thulium-and-thalium dept.
SillySnake sends in a report from the Telegraph on draft plans in China to restrict exports of rare earths. "Beijing is drawing up plans to prohibit or restrict exports of rare earth metals that are produced only in China and play a vital role in cutting edge technology, from hybrid cars and catalytic converters, to superconductors, and precision-guided weapons. A draft report by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has called for a total ban on foreign shipments of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium. Other metals such as neodymium, europium, cerium, and lanthanum will be restricted to a combined export quota of 35,000 tonnes a year, far below global needs."

China Considering Cuts In Rare-Earth Metal Exports

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  • The new "oil" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:21AM (#29364121) Homepage

    Just what the world economy needs. A single-country "cartel" that will cause prices to greatly rise. This should be interesting to watch.

    I guess rare-earth metals are the new "oil".

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:26AM (#29364173) Journal

      Just what the world economy needs. A single-country "cartel" that will cause prices to greatly rise. This should be interesting to watch.

      I guess rare-earth metals are the new "oil".

      Some key points you may have missed from the article:

      Mr Stephens said China had put global competitors out of business in the early 1990s by flooding the market, leading to the closure of the biggest US rare earth mine at Mountain Pass in California - now being revived by Molycorp Minerals.

      So, if this goes through, we merely open the mine in California. I'll feel better about paying a higher price for something if it is created under tighter environmental regulations than what they have in China. Cheap labor and lack of an EPA and potential corrupted officials? Of course they can undercut California!

      Secondly a rare metals dealer in Australia said

      This isn't about the 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.

      So your analogy is lacking in many ways. We can refine the metals here and China needs them for their own growing demand.

      • by raddan (519638) * on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:34AM (#29364237)
        On the other hand, cost drives innovation. As the article stated, it may take several years to bring the old rare-earth mines back into operation. In that time, we either pay more, or use our engineering degrees and come up with workarounds. I have a feeling that the latter may frequently be the case. For instance, if rare-earths are required to manufacture hard disk drives, SSDs (which I assume do not require these metals since they require no magnets) will probably become favorable.

        China's move may affect regular people but I suspect not. This is probably more important to you if you're in manufacturing or trade.
        • by jonbryce (703250) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:45AM (#29364321) Homepage

          Or alternatively we buy our hard drives from Chinese manufacturers, which I think is what they want to happen..

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @10:03AM (#29365307)

          Frankly, I miss the days of over-engineered machines built of inferior materials.

          I have wood working machines from the early 1900's that are more durable, accurate, and mammoth than the cheap plastic shit you buy today.

          Funny thing is, they still work. Like new.

          If this means we actually start over-engineering and building things to -last- again, I'm all for it.

          • Planned Obsolescence (Score:3, Interesting)

            by MindKata (957167)
            "I miss the days of over-engineered machines built of inferior materials." ... "Funny thing is, they still work. Like new."

            Sadly thank the Gillette razor manufacturer for creating the tread with their idea of the disposable blades, just over a hundred years ago. Since then ever more products have been designed to wear out and fail. Its the whole concept of planned obsolescence which is a big marketing tactic. (So much for conserving and using earth resources responsibly. These companies are far more (sel
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by couchslug (175151)

            "I have wood working machines from the early 1900's that are more durable, accurate, and mammoth than the cheap plastic shit you buy today."

            Woodworking was much more important in the early 1900s, labor was cheap, and people who purchased machinery were usually mechanically literate, professional users. They expected commercial quality gear when they bought machines, while the home hobbyist carpenter could make do with hand tools instead. Mass production has made inexpensive, capable, but non-commercial-qual

      • by cats-paw (34890) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:38AM (#29364985) Homepage

        I'll feel better about paying a higher price for something if it is created under tighter environmental regulations than what they have in China. Cheap labor and lack of an EPA and potential corrupted officials? Of course they can undercut California!

        Isn't this the problem ? There is no such thing as "free trade". We're all Ferengi now, the profit is what's important. The mine should have not been allowed to close in the first place. It's ridiculous to say companies have to compete when the competition is an autocratic country with no environmental laws and other "advantages".

        And no, the answer is not to weaken our environmental laws, that's called the race to the bottom, and I don't want to run in that race.

        Child labor, lack of environmental laws, repressive regimes, none of it matters when it comes to "free trade".

      • by Terje Mathisen (128806) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @12:15PM (#29367103)

        Until about 10 years ago, there were many magnesium manufacturers around the world, including one in my home town of Porsgrunn (in Norway).

        When China decided that light metals was a crucial market for them, they started a bunch of very low-tech/high-pollusion magnesium smelters, and many/most Western competitors folded.

        In the latest (for the year 1998) SFT (Norwegian EPA) regulations for the Porsgrunn factory (in norwegian [bmi.sft.no]), the limit on some pollutants was set to maximum 1 gram/year, I suspect the Chinese smelters are many orders of magnitude above this level.

        Terje

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by WindBourne (631190)
        So your analogy is lacking in many ways. We can refine the metals here and China needs them for their own growing demand.
        Sadly, your facts and analogy are far far worse. China has more then enough REMs. In POF, if they were to supply 100% of the worlds demand, including the coming increases, they would have more than enough for over 100 years.But you really screw up. Lets assume that this really is about them. If so, then a simple stockpile would guarantee that they had plenty for the future. It would be
    • And what do you think Afghanistan has lots of... (Hint: It isn't oil.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kimvette (919543)

      One quick and easy solution is to respond by this by deporting all Chinese nationals who are attending American schools.

      "Okay, so you want to hoard rare-earth metals? I'm sorry, but your students are immediately no longer welcome at our schools until you have fully reconsidered the matter. They will be returning to China by the end of the week and we will be invoicing you for the travel costs. Thank you, come again."

      The problem is, corporate types have been thinking short-term for a couple of decades now. S

      • Re:The new "oil" (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hurricane78 (562437) <(deleted) (at) (slashdot.org)> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:57AM (#29365227)

        Uuum, what have the Chinese nationals to do with their asshole government? They are not their government. It's like punishing you for the murderings by the US Army in in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wouldn't you feel unfairly treated?

        Perhaps they even go to American schools to *avoid* "their" government.

        It's people with your mindset that create hatred against a whole nation for the fault of a few.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wvmarle (1070040)

          Uuum, what have the Chinese nationals to do with their asshole government? They are not their government. It's like punishing you for the murderings by the US Army in in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wouldn't you feel unfairly treated?

          The first part you are totally right. The second part actually is not even that unreasonable, after all the US is a democracy, where the government is elected and as such directly represents the population. If the population at large doesn't like what the government is doing, then they can vote them out of office. This is more or less what happened to Bush who got into Iraq and got replaced by Obama who is doing his best to get out of there.

          Now try that in China.

      • Re:The new "oil" (Score:5, Insightful)

        by srealm (157581) <prez&goth,net> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @10:05AM (#29365349) Homepage

        This is typical protectionist crap. Sorry, but you may be right about businesses thinking short term, but if America starts banning foreign nationals from its schools, and slapping tariffs on foreign imports, how does that make America any better than China?

        And for the record, America DOES still slap tariffs on foreign imports into this country. Usually at the behest of the powerful lobbies. Ever look at things like sugar and wheat imports? Both have either rather large tariffs, or just subsidies for the domestic industry. Why? Because the industry lobbies for those products demanded it. And it has caused a lot of friction with America's trading partners.

        Hell, I remember a 'free trade' agreement a few years ago with Australia where not only did America put tariffs on Australian wheat imports (because of pressure from the US wheat lobby), they also insisted as part of their free trade deal that Australia adopt something similar to the DMCA as part of the deal - at the behest of the RIAA/MPAA. So if you really believe America has been doing other countries a favor in it's trading practices (Food for Oil anyone? Or how about withholding aid money, which is supposed to be completely unrelated to trade), then you're deluded.

        In short, protectionism is bad no matter what. Now whether China is banning these exports because it truly doesn't have enough to satisfy domestic demand, and thus can't afford to supply foreign demand, or they're trying to use this threat to gain more concessions from the international community is irrelevant. Instituting protectionist policies won't help Sino-American relations, and considering, as you have said, America relies so heavily on China for it's manufacturing of almost everything we buy, America just can't afford to ruin it's relationship with yet another country, especially one it relies so heavily on.

        America used to be able to take the high moral ground, and used to be viewed in a generally favorable light in the world. It's America's own greed and arrogance (not to mention going around the world like a bull in a china shop sticking it's nose in everyone else's business) that has tarnished this reputation. The election of Obama has actually started to repair this a little, but only when America starts playing fair with the rest of the world again (ie. treating other countries as equals, as opposed to approaching each trade deal as a "we want this, give it to us or else you're not our friend anymore!" deal) will it actually gain respect again. You seem quick to cry 'foul!' when another country starts using the same tactics America has been using for decades against America. You (ie. America) wrote these new trading rules, don't be surprised when someone else plays by them.

      • Re:The new "oil" (Score:5, Interesting)

        by linzeal (197905) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @10:14AM (#29365465) Homepage Journal

        Ok, mister xenophobe.

        Why shouldn't China be entitled to use its own resources to build out its own economy? China has a horrible standard of living for the amount of production present in the country and the pollution that goes along with it. I hope they use it all for domestic green energy projects, because frankly they need it more than we do where going "green" is more a luxury than anything. Building green jobs here with our own rare earths is entirely possible considering we have far more known rare earth ore deposits than they do. So what exactly are you complaining about, that we can't rape their country for all the resources? They have a billion people and it is highly unlikely they will ever have the same standard of living as the US in our lifetime but the very least we could do is not bitch and moan every time China does something nice for its own citizens.

        You know, I would rather deport people like you than hard working or studying immigrants. Why don't you all go down to the south of the US and secede, this time the rest of us northern folk won't stop you. Well considering there is hardly any natural resources in the south besides coal and oil you can all have your coal power plants and big trucks and you won't need to worry about new-fangled technologies irritating you. You can all live gloriously embittered lives scapegoating the rest of the world for your problems as you walk around yelling in the swamps, marshes and hurricane-prone areas of the gulf states like some sort of swamp curmudgeon. You could yourself America for Americans only or something. Build yourself a Lou Dobbsian wall around your entire country to keep Yankees and Mexicans out. Give all those janitorial, landscaping and construction jobs back to Americans because we all know how much Americans love doing menial labor for low wages without health insurance. Right, mister xenophobe?

      • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @11:38AM (#29366655) Journal
        is EXACTLY what has gotten us to where we are. China is in a cold war with us and it needs to be addressed.

        I TRUST that you are kidding about tariffs, yes? They do not work. The issue is that China was given MFN and into WTO by promising to open their borders and to free their money. All good. Problem is that China has not LIVED up to their word. They still have barriers up and most of all, the money is not traded freely. It is in a "basket" that is controlled by their gov. In addition, they allow pollution (co2 and other ) to be emitted in large amounts to give an even larger boost to low costs. Our energy bill is going to be a disaster and will encourage China,India,Mexico, etc to pollute more to take more jobs.

        So, here is my solution:
        1. Pollution is a serious issue, but so are economic issues. Kill the new energy bill before it gets implemented. Instead put in a TRUE cap/tax. We need to put in a cap on our CO2, and then put in a tax on ALL GOODS (local and imported). It should be based on the pollution that comes from the areas that the good was made from. That means that each country has a sliding scale based on CO2, and ideally the pollutions such as SO2, Mercury, etc. To implement this all at once would hurt the world. Instead, create a max of say 2-3% and than slowly raise that several percent each year. That gives each nation the opportunity to change (including America).
        2. Drop the MFN for all nations. Nearly all the countries that are part of that were for political reasons only. That needs to be stopped. Instead, create a new MFN and set up the conditions in which ALL NATIONS that meet it would get it. It should be a limited set of conditions.
          • freely traded money (EUdollar is freely traded; Yuens -> dollar is fixed).
          • Free trade. Not sure exactly HOW free, but most if not all goods should be allowed to move back and forth. Exceptions should be made for certain goods. For example, NAFTA was overall good. It has helped Mexico and Canada.
          • A minimum standard of an environmental condition. That would prevent countries from subsidizing the goods by degrading the world. Personally, I would prefer Canada as minimum. MUCH cleaner than most. We would probably just use ours though.
          • A minimum wage and labor condition.
          • A minimum education condition (such as requiring all children in school up to a certain age), etc.

          If we do the above, then there will be no real need for free trade acts. What is really needed is to make certain that we avoid exceptions. There are a number of countries that we allow to have one-way trade with us and do little to nothing to help those countries.

        If the above is done by the west, it would bring up conditions all over the world. EU has talked about doing Free Trade agreements with Latin America, but they want to use it to push better conditions for the citizens. I have to say that it is not a bad idea, but I think the above is even better.

  • Update (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dingadong (1321301) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:21AM (#29364127)
    Terrorists found in Beijing and Shanghai, U.S. Troops invade.
    • Re:Update (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Stu101 (1031686) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:26AM (#29364179) Homepage

      Issue with that is that I think China, unlike Iraq, Iran and Saudi could stand up for themselves.

      Don't forget they DO have WMD, massive military complexes and stolen US designs for highly deadly weapons.

      Then there is the cyber angle. I suspect America could be pwned quite quick.

      Lastly, who is gonna supply walley word with cheap tupperware and lawnmowers to the post nuke surviviors. There is no way that could happen.

      China is the new economy. Western Europe is just on a downhill spiral.

       

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        China doesn't really need WMDs or stolen designs to hold off an invasion. Conventional weapons combined with their sheer manpower would make it a suicidal proposal to attack them on their own turf. It's not exactly Iraq.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mgblst (80109)

          No, this is not true. I don't think you realise how powerful the US military is. They spend an order of magnitude every year more than all other countries combined. They have the most advanced equipment by far, that they wont even sell to their allies like UK and Australia.

          They don't have this stuff for Iraq or Afghanistan. They have it for Russia (less so now), and for China.

          Most of the stuff they pay for are really advanced war equipment, for fighting a major player.

          They would crush China. There is no two

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by RobotRunAmok (595286)

        Then there is the cyber angle. I suspect America could be pwned quite quick.

        Because...?

        Lastly, who is gonna supply walley word with cheap tupperware and lawnmowers to the post nuke surviviors

        Ohh, I see now. Midwest-hating urban hipster. never mind...

      • Re:Update (Score:5, Funny)

        by 4D6963 (933028) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:46AM (#29364327)

        China is the new economy. Western Europe is just on a downhill spiral.

        No. We are Willie Wonka. China is the Oompa Loompas.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Then there is the cyber angle. I suspect America could be pwned quite quick.

        Bearing in mind just about every router/switch in the US Gubment has "Made in China" on them do you honestly think there are no back doors?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Issue with that is that I think China, unlike Iraq, Iran and Saudi could stand up for themselves.

        Don't forget they DO have WMD, massive military complexes and stolen US designs for highly deadly weapons.

        Another important part is that Chinese citizens generally support their government (yeah, yeah, dictatorship can have popular support), and especially in the event of U.S. invasion the patriotic feelings would be on the rise. Not only this means no lack of human resources to replace losses, but also consider: how do you counter guerrilla warfare in an occupied country with a population of 1.5 billion, virtually all of which is hostile towards you?

    • Ha! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Wait, that's not the right one...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by macshit (157376)

      Terrorists found in Beijing and Shanghai, U.S. Troops invade.

      Immediately get stuck in traffic. Nobody notices.

  • That's ok (Score:3, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:23AM (#29364143) Homepage
    That's ok, we still have plenty of Uranium...
  • I for one Welcome our new, short, communist overlords.

  • by Benson Arizona (933024) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:24AM (#29364153) Homepage
    Let's hope that they don't stop dilithium shipments!
  • Hmm...what doomsday weapon requires mass amounts of rare earth metals?

  • by valinor89 (1564455) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:43AM (#29364307)
    I think that if they do so they won't mind if we ( as in the other western countries) put prohibitions and restrictions of our own in other product importations. We could revive our cloth, electrodomestic, chemical, (whatever) old industries. It might be a bit expensive at first (mostly for those multinationals ) but then we can be sure of better occupation rates. I's a shame that this is only wishfull thinking...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, please, let's unlearn everything from the Great Depression [voxeu.org] in the middle of a recession. What could possibly go wrong?

    • by khchung (462899) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:11AM (#29364607) Journal

      It does not even make sense! China restricts exports and you propose retaliation by restricting imports?!

      I assume you live in US (who else always talked about reviving local industries?), do you even know how many export restrictions there are in the US? Crypto, high-tech stuff, whatever vaguely related to "national security", you name it.

      All countries (except those that have already became a vassal state of the US) restricts exports of critical resources, and this is allowed in WTO treaties. Examples from countries all over the world include restricting natural resources, science & technology, and even critical infrastructure (you do know that US blocked a company from buying the operations of the Panama Canal for "national security" reasons?).

      Only in /. would this non-news story becomes news worthy to make the front page.

    • by Dolohov (114209)

      "Won't mind"? That's probably the point -- they can then use this as a bargaining chip to get access to anything they happen to be short on, or political concessions. They're betting, probably correctly, that while there are substitutes for cloth, wood, petrochemicals, and lots of other raw materials, nothing short of transmutation will give us yttrium in quantity.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      Sadly, we're well beyond that now. A trade war with China now would likely hurt the U.S. a *LOT* more than the U.S. 30 years of "free trade and free markets" aren't something you can just turn away from now without a total economic collapse. Most of our largest retailers now are all but owned by China.
      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Meant to say "A trade war with China now would likely hurt the U.S. a *LOT* more than China."
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:45AM (#29364323) Homepage Journal
    and finally call China out on it's myriad of violations? The US and Europe seem content over bickering about Airbus and Boeing when in actuality, those two companies' violation(if any) are a real drop in the bucket compared to China's insanely flagrant violations. However, the US is an addict hooked on selling China our debt, instead of oh I don't know, not invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 we decided it was a much better idea to sell ourselves lock stock and barrel to the Chinese. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
    • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:56AM (#29364423)

      Fat chance. The US and Western Europe are indeed addicted to the unsustainably cheap supply of Chinese credit and cheap labor. We effectively wink at them gobbling up global resources so they can be churned through a cheap labor pool and nonexistent health/safety regimens in order to satiate our desire for a high standard of living at minimal cost. China never had any real intention to abide by the WTO's rules and viewed membership as a national pride issue. Don't hold your breath waiting for China to alter its behavior even if the WTO adds some stank to their toothless regulations.

    • by RobBebop (947356)

      we decided it was a much better idea to sell ourselves lock stock and barrel to the Chinese.

      And now that it's time for them to collect on that debt, it's probably a good idea for them to stop giving us these cheap resources that are also important to their own development. In school lunch terms... if somebody borrowed $10 from you last week because they wanted to buy stuff from the cafeteria, would you agree to sell him your bag of Doritos this week for a quarter?

      This is a hard lesson to learn, but those in debt deserve to be CUT OFF.

    • by lwsimon (724555)

      The Congressional Research Service puts the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at $3 trillion. Obama has been in office for 6 months, and we now have a "projected" deficit of $9 trillion, last I heard.

      Three times the debt, in 1/12 the time. There's some change you can believe in!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by samkass (174571)

        The Congressional Research Service puts the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at $3 trillion. Obama has been in office for 6 months, and we now have a "projected" deficit of $9 trillion, last I heard.

        Three times the debt, in 1/12 the time. There's some change you can believe in!

        The deficit is the difference between revenue and expenditures each year. The debt is the total accumulated deficits over time.

        The Congressional Budget Office projects that if nothing changes (ha!) over the next 10 years, in

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      What makes you think it would make any difference? The WTO has made multiple rulings against the US which the US has simply ignored. Why would China care what the WTO says?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm not sure how this is relevant to subject at hand, since this isn't a violation of any obligations of China as a member of WTO.

      Simply put, you don't have a right to refuse to buy for no good reason, but you have absolutely no obligation to sell.

  • As much as the world's stock of precious metals is being depleted by pseudoenvironmentalist hybrid drivers there will be alternatives. Remember when we all had to change our automotive refrigerants in the late 1980s and early 1990s? Even after the air conditioners were retooled we still found an alternative compound that works with the old R12 models.

  • This is why so many of the worlds worst dictators where loved by Moscow and Washington.
    As long as the rare raw materials flowed, mass graves where just enemy propaganda.
    National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) - April 1974
    http://www.population-security.org/28-APP2.html [population-security.org]
    "It is vital that the effort to develop and strengthen a commitment on the part of the LDC leaders not be seen by them as an industrialized country policy to keep their strength down or to reserve resources for use by the "rich
  • Can they restrict the export of the following too? Lead paint(makes kids retarded), melanine(kills cats), drywall(poisons houses), heparin(kills people dead) and keep them for their own internal market?

    Or maybe someone could be held accountable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by chill (34294)

      Or maybe someone could be held accountable.

      You mean like when China executed several management types found "responsible" for these incidents? That type of accountable?

  • Leveling (Score:2, Funny)

    by JoelMartinez (916445)
    But how will I level my blacksmithing if they stop posting mats to the auction house? guess I'll have to take up mining :-/
  • by Maltheus (248271) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @09:15AM (#29364673)

    Maybe they're getting tired of exchanging their wealth for our paper. I admire the way China is focused like a laser on their infrastructure and the acquisition of raw materials, while we're busy making up new problems to solve as a way of avoiding the very serious ones we already have. Perhaps if we focused on production, rather than consumption, we might have a little extra wealth to spend on our own decaying infrastructure.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by russotto (537200)

      Perhaps if we focused on production, rather than consumption, we might have a little extra wealth to spend on our own decaying infrastructure.

      Production is icky and bad for the environment.

    • This is what you get when your government does not have to spend all its energy fighting the next election the day after after it gets elected. They can actually put long term plans in place and do nto have to cater to small swing voting blocks.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @10:46AM (#29365933) Journal
    China is now refusing to export a number of rare earth elements. These are ones that are currently expensive to get elsewhere. In addition, they HAVE put caps on other ones. But that is not the real problem.

    The real issue is that they are running around BUYING UP all the mines in the free world. Basically, they are trying hard to make a monopoly of this. The place to watch is Australia, Canada, and America. America has the largest active RE mines and China made a bid for these last year(US gov said no). They currently are trying to buy 2 start-up mines in Australia. Finally, IIRC, they DID buy a Canadian producer (though I do not recall where mines were located).

    The other day I commented about how we should be mining space, to which a fool responded that it was not practical. At that time, I pointed out that long-term countries would try to limit access to various elements/minerals. Sure enough, that day was when I found out about China thinking of limiting REM. The problem is that when items are taken off the market, it means that you limit countries capabilities. That tends to make wars happen. Imagine if another GWB gets into office in say about 2 years and REM is expensive to the west. GWB would go to war over this because CHina is building up their military and will want to stop it before they get too strong. Keep in mind that China is positioning themselves for a first strike, not for a defensive position. If we want to avoid stupid wars, we MUST get into space and locate new elements/minerals esp. REMs. They are the foundation of militaries as well as electrical systems. All of our future motors and many of the advanced electronic boards depend on these.

    China is not about playing fair. They are very much in a cold war with the west, whether we like it or now. If we want to prevent a hot war, we will have to prevent them from limiting our access to resources (either by war or by finding new cheap mines) and will have to bring back manufacturing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nedlohs (1335013)

      What else are they supposed to do with all the foreign reserves they have?

      Wait for them to become worthless? Or use them now before they do to buy useful productive assets.

  • Africa (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Shag (3737) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @11:25AM (#29366503) Homepage

    Another big source of uncommon metals is sub-Saharan Africa - for example, something like 80% of the world's supply of either Cobalt or Coltan comes from mines in the Congo. And China has been making big inroads into that region too, in terms of international aid and trade.

    There are times that being an officially godless commie state comes in handy, really. US shows up and says "we'll give you aid money as long as you don't promote safe sex, and oh, sorry, our business community is a little too nervous to really trade with you." China shows up and just says "look, we want to do business; you have resources we need."

    Unsurprisingly, African governments are talking more to China these days.

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