The rare earths just aren’t rare you see. Just among the people I know and have talked to there’s a large new mine opening in Australia, two others being reopened, one in the US, another in South Africa. The three of them together, given a couple of years, could be supplying 40% of world demand: that’s a pretty big intrusion into a previous monopoly over 97% of production, isn’t it? And that’s before we start talking about the other four or five similar sized mines that are working through the technical process, or the 200 odd junior mining companies digging holes into likely looking heaps of rock.
Those poor deluded Chinese. Just when we suspect that they have set up a rare earths and metals association to help keep control of the REE market if they lose the REE complaint at the World Trade Organisation, as seems likely, along comes Forbes Magazine to tell us not to worry. The Chinese rare earths “cartel,” for that what Forbes calls it, is “too little too late” according to Forbes. The association is not yet a week old, but is already branded a cartel by Forbes.
With a wave of the Forbes magic wand, Tinkerbelle appears, and suddenly the west is awash with more rare earths and metals than you can shake a stick at. Who knew it was all going to be that easy. Now if only Forbes would get down to the problems of America’s uncontrollable debt, and Europe’s dying monetary union. Perhaps they might even be able to toss in a new rare earths mine and separation plant for poor old Greece. Forbes is entitled to their opinion of course, but somehow I think we deserve better from the likes of Forbes. My crystal ball is murkier than Forbes, but just saying something doesn’t make it happen.
There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.
The Chinese Rare Earths Cartel: Too Little Too Late
—-And that’s before we start talking about the other four or five similar sized mines that are working through the technical process, or the 200 odd junior mining companies digging holes into likely looking heaps of rock.
Or even what people like me are doing and looking at entirely unconventional sources of these elements (we throw away at least 20% of current world demand each year just in the wastes from the aluminium industry).
If China actually did have a monopoly, or anything like it, on deposits of rare earths then it might be right to be worried about their setting up of what certainly looks like a cartel. Given that the things are actually more common than copper, occur darn near everywhere (another acquaintance claims a mountain of them in Greenland) and really are not as difficult to mine and process as many seem to think, the setting up of that cartel could be said to be too little and too late to protect their position. Or even, given that it has always been a contestable monopoly that cartel is what is driving the people to contest it.