Last week, a group of European geologists used the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union to issue a call to the EU politicians, to put together a plan to utilise the rare earth resources located in Greece and the Nordic countries. A strategic response to Europe’s over dependency on rare earth elements supply from China. It will be interesting to see if austerity wracked Europe responds to what is a limited call for European resource nationalism.
Not that the European Union is itself austerity wracked, they just boosted their budget for the coming year by 7%. I have little faith that this approach is the right one for Europe. Brussels bureaucrats are the last people I would want picking which REE resources get developed and in which country. Better to let the “hidden hand” of free market do its work, which isn’t to say that the EU shouldn’t formulate a critical metals plan for the future.
Loan guarantees similar to existing export credit guarantees, creative European tax treatment, reduced mining restrictions, might be an acceptable way of promoting European resource development, while letting the market do its work among competing mining companies. Still, the call itself is reflective of a growing recognition that REE substitution is unlikely to be much of a solution, and that REEs are going to be needed for decades ahead.
Greek, Nordic Rare Earths Could Save European Industry
By Jonathan Tirone – Apr 26, 2012 4:23 PM GMT
Rare-earth metals in Greece and the Nordic countries should be tapped to save Europe’s car and electronics industries from uncertain imports, a panel of geologists said today.
While Europe is rich with the rare-earth elements used to power batteries and produce magnets, leaders haven’t demonstrated the political will to tap them, according to Friedrich Wellmer, former president of Germany’s Geological Survey. Scientists at the European Geosciences Union’s annual meeting in Vienna urged policymakers to address the problem.
“It is not that the elements don’t exist in Europe,” said Wellmer, who is now the chairman of sustainable management at France’s Institute for Advanced Studies. “It has become more unacceptable socially to mine them.”
Rare earths, 17 chemically similar elements, are used in products such as Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPod music players, flat-screen televisions and hybrid cars. European industry, which imports more than 90 percent of its rare-earth-metal needs, consumes about a third of the 70,000 tons of material used annually.
—- Tapping abandoned mines in Greece and Albania, along with newly discovered deposits in Finland, would alleviate European industries’ problem, according to Herrington, who proposes mandatory labeling to alert raw-material users about the origins of their products.
“Toyota is getting into partnerships with mining companies,” said Nick Arndt, a geologist at France’s Joseph Fourier University. “It’s not quite clear why European companies are not doing that.”