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China Government Science Technology

US Gives $120M For Lab To Tackle Rare Earth Shortages 170

coondoggie writes "With China once again playing games with the rare earth materials it largely holds sway over, the U.S. Department of Energy today said it would set up a research and development hub that will bring together all manner of experts to help address the situation. The DOE awarded $120 million to Ames Laboratory to set up an Energy Innovation Hub that will develop solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy security, the DOE stated."
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US Gives $120M For Lab To Tackle Rare Earth Shortages

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  • by CSMoran ( 1577071 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @06:35AM (#42544007) Journal

    what is the real hurdle to ocean mining

    The first google hit on "rare earths ocean" says this

    Deep-sea mining is an old idea, but one that has yet to prove itself in the face of high costs and environmental concerns. Discovered decades ago, chunks of manganese on the ocean floor and deposits of metals such as zinc and copper in the Red Sea have proven impractical to mine.

    “I don’t understand how this can be expected to be an economic way to recover rare earth,” says Daniel Cordier, a mineral commodity specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Minerals Information Center in Reston, Va.

  • They're NOT RARE (Score:5, Informative)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @08:36AM (#42544395) Journal

    From TFA:
    "...CMI specifically plans to organize its efforts in four mutually supporting focus areas:
    Diversify Supply
    Develop Substitutes
    Improve Reuse and Recycling
    Conduct Crosscutting Research ..."

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but Rare Earths aren't really rare in the sense of scarcity - they're about as common as lead or tin. They're "rare" in the sense that they're not found in veins or nuggets, they're found only by processing large quantities of materials (a usually complicated and toxic process that the US has largely farmed out to China because China's far more tolerant of environmental pollution). the article asserts that China controls 95% of the supplies of rare earths - I presume this means they currently produce 95% of the world's production, NOT that they sit on 95% of the world's reserves; two entirely different situations.

    So aside from perhaps the first subject peripherally, as far as I can tell none of these points tries to substantively address that MAIN barrier to our 'supply' of "rare earths": regulatory reform to allow US firms to compete economically and viably with Chinese rare earth recovery companies. There must be an economic motivation if so many countries are nervous about China's lock on the processing capability, certainly?

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @09:48AM (#42544895)
    Just reopen the mines that were deemed unprofitable when China still flooded the market with "dirt cheap" rare earth metals.

    Really. There's no actual shortage of the stuff. There's just a shortage of mines that produce them cheaper than China did back then. Market prices rise? Well, I guess those old unused mines might become profitable again.

  • Re:Solution (Score:4, Informative)

    by niado ( 1650369 ) on Thursday January 10, 2013 @11:32AM (#42546153)

    I'm regularly astounded at how little the US posters know about their own country. The State governments and Congress runs the country. Obama is in control of foreign policy and defence only. He has buggerall to do with the internal affairs of the USA.

    While I wholeheartedly agree with your point that most Americans believe that the president has more power than he actually does, and I am continually exasperated by political discussion that vividly illustrates this point, your statement is not entirely accurate.

    The POTUS [] is directly responsible for a very large segment of the government. [] In addition, to quote wikipedia "each modern president, despite possessing no formal legislative powers beyond signing or vetoing congressionally passed bills, is largely responsible for dictating the legislative agenda of his party and the foreign and domestic policy of the United States." The influence of the POTUS has grown substantially [] since FDR's presidency. []

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller