• 29 mins US Orion To Develop Gas Field In Iraq
  • 3 days U.S. On Track To Unseat Saudi Arabia As No.2 Oil Producer In the World
  • 3 days Senior Interior Dept. Official Says Florida Still On Trump’s Draft Drilling Plan
  • 3 days Schlumberger Optimistic In 2018 For Oilfield Services Businesses
  • 3 days Only 1/3 Of Oil Patch Jobs To Return To Canada After Downturn Ends
  • 3 days Statoil, YPF Finalize Joint Vaca Muerta Development Deal
  • 3 days TransCanada Boasts Long-Term Commitments For Keystone XL
  • 3 days Nigeria Files Suit Against JP Morgan Over Oil Field Sale
  • 3 days Chinese Oil Ships Found Violating UN Sanctions On North Korea
  • 4 days Oil Slick From Iranian Tanker Explosion Is Now The Size Of Paris
  • 4 days Nigeria Approves Petroleum Industry Bill After 17 Long Years
  • 4 days Venezuelan Output Drops To 28-Year Low In 2017
  • 4 days OPEC Revises Up Non-OPEC Production Estimates For 2018
  • 4 days Iraq Ready To Sign Deal With BP For Kirkuk Fields
  • 4 days Kinder Morgan Delays Trans Mountain Launch Again
  • 4 days Shell Inks Another Solar Deal
  • 5 days API Reports Seventh Large Crude Draw In Seven Weeks
  • 5 days Maduro’s Advisors Recommend Selling Petro At Steep 60% Discount
  • 5 days EIA: Shale Oil Output To Rise By 1.8 Million Bpd Through Q1 2019
  • 5 days IEA: Don’t Expect Much Oil From Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Before 2030
  • 5 days Minister Says Norway Must Prepare For Arctic Oil Race With Russia
  • 5 days Eight Years Late—UK Hinkley Point C To Be In Service By 2025
  • 5 days Sunk Iranian Oil Tanker Leave Behind Two Slicks
  • 5 days Saudi Arabia Shuns UBS, BofA As Aramco IPO Coordinators
  • 5 days WCS-WTI Spread Narrows As Exports-By-Rail Pick Up
  • 6 days Norway Grants Record 75 New Offshore Exploration Leases
  • 6 days China’s Growing Appetite For Renewables
  • 6 days Chevron To Resume Drilling In Kurdistan
  • 6 days India Boosts Oil, Gas Resource Estimate Ahead Of Bidding Round
  • 6 days India’s Reliance Boosts Export Refinery Capacity By 30%
  • 6 days Nigeria Among Worst Performers In Electricity Supply
  • 6 days ELN Attacks Another Colombian Pipeline As Ceasefire Ceases
  • 7 days Shell Buys 43.8% Stake In Silicon Ranch Solar
  • 7 days Saudis To Award Nuclear Power Contracts In December
  • 7 days Shell Approves Its First North Sea Oil Project In Six Years
  • 7 days China Unlikely To Maintain Record Oil Product Exports
  • 7 days Australia Solar Power Additions Hit Record In 2017
  • 7 days Morocco Prepares $4.6B Gas Project Tender
  • 7 days Iranian Oil Tanker Sinks After Second Explosion
  • 10 days Russia To Discuss Possible Exit From OPEC Deal

Breaking News:

US Orion To Develop Gas Field In Iraq

Alt Text

Don’t Expect Palladium Prices To Plunge

Palladium has recently soared to…

Alt Text

Will Oil And Gold Prices Rise This Year?

Both gold prices and oil…

Alt Text

How Long Will The Lithium Rush Last?

As the race to secure…

Chinese Rare Earth Mining Monopoly Threatens US Defense Technology

Chinese Rare Earth Mining Monopoly Threatens US Defense Technology

Technology that drives the Pentagon’s weapons program, the US auto industry and renewable energy ambitions is threatened by a lack of heavy rare earths for which China enjoys the global mining monopoly.

Heavy rare earths are a class of 17 elements of a similar chemistry that are used in the production of everything from unnamed military drones, radar and navigation systems to high-performance magnets used in commercial vehicles, wind turbine technology and a host of consumer electronics.

The Pentagon was caught napping in 2010, when the reality of China’s global monopoly on heavy rare earths mining hit home with Beijing’s decision to reduce exports. The resultant scramble for these precious chemical elements has led the Pentagon to team up with Toyota Motor Corp and two Canadian companies--Ucore Rare Metals Inc. (UCU) and Matamec Explorations Inc. (MAT)--to develop North American mines.

Rumor has it that the Pentagon has entered into an exploratory partnership with Ucore. It has also struck deals with two North American magnet makers to study rare earths applications.

As for the auto industry, the situation is rather urgent. Car makers build rare earth metals into hybrid vehicles, and also into conventional cars for catalytic converters.

Related Article: Recycling Magnets to Extract the Rare Earth Metals

With the current consumption rates, demand for key rare earths elements—dysprosium, yttrium and terbium—will exceed supply very soon. Consumption continues to grow while production remains unchanged. Much of that consumption is represented by the automotive, aerospace and consumer electronics industries. 

Toyota is working its way towards owning a 49% stake in a venture with Canada’s Matamec, and the two plan to mine a light rare earth element called dysprosium in Quebec, but are eyeing other potential elements in the area as well. (Toyotsu Rare Earth Canada has so far paid two installments of $8.5 million and $1.1 million to Matamec.)

These rare earths are even more valuable since China slashed exports. Still, prices have been up and down since then, most likely because manufacturers are wary of committing to production that depends on rare earths when they’re not sure supply will be there. 

Will these North American forces be able to challenge China’s global monopoly, which essentially supplies 95% of the world’s rare earths demand?

Related Article: Are Rare Earth Metal Prices About To Rise?

There are only perhaps 5 or 6 rare earths mines in the entire world with enough developed reserves for viable production. To get to that stage we’re talking about hundreds of millions in funding.

Alaska is one focal point in this scramble to out-do China. Experts believe that Alaska’s Bokan Mountain deposit, run by Ucore, may have the capacity to produce 3,000 tons/year of rare earths by 2016. Of course, first the mine needs to be built ($150 million), and Ucore is hoping that the State of Alaska will help foot the bill. 

Not only are they hoping to out-do China in rare earths mining: They are hoping that China will actually become an importer of North American rare earths. The reasoning behind this: China’s own consumption is increasing and the fact that it hasn’t discovered any new deposits means that at the current pace, it could easily use up its own supplies.

In the meantime, the scramble is picking up intensity. In October and November, China halted around 50% of its rare-earths smelting capacity in an attempt to get prices back up. Leading Chinese rare earths producers—Chinalco and Baotou Steel Rare Earth--halted production temporarily in early November.

By. Jen Alic of Oilprice.com




Back to homepage


Leave a comment
  • WAtt4Bob on November 14 2012 said:
    The US has a long history of ignoring Africa, and/or taking it for granted.

    The Chinese have long been engaged and helpful, and they extract mineral rights agreements on the cheap-and-friendly via that engagement.

    The Chinese treat Africa in much the same way we treat Mexico, as a sort of inexpensive neighborhood bodega.

    They built a railroad in Madagascar by shipping them one their own worn-out railroads, lock stock and barrel, and Madagascar is happy to have it.

    The US has been busy ignoring the strategic importance of Africa while the Chinese have been busy filling the continent with mom-and-pop small businesses owned and operated by Chinese.

    All of this is financed by Wal-Mart shoppers.
  • Timothy Gawne on November 14 2012 said:
    Indeed, you make an excellent point. Why isn't our government worried about this?

    I suggest that this is a symptom of a larger rot. The elites in this country simply no longer care. They are 'multinational', and see the United States as just a patch of land to loot before it gets sucked dry. After all, it was the elites that sent all of our industry to China in the first place, right? As long as they get their big profits now, the long-term consequences for the United States are not an issue.

    In parallel, our elites are increasingly financial. They make money by gambling in a casino, tapping the US treasury to cover their losses. They don't care about the grubby business of making things or providing services, and increasingly, they are insulated from failure. No matter what they do they will always come up with ever more money. So they just don't care, it's not on their radar screen.

    Thank you for your consideration.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News