Monday, September 17, 2012

Due To China's REM Dominance, U.S. Businesses Highly LIkely To Push For Alternative Sources Of Rare Earths In The Next Three To Five Years

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and CRS CEO, John Yob
on Creative Recycling's E-Scrap Processing System
Executive Summary:
Due to the expanding use of rare earth minerals (REM) in U.S. industry, is highly likely that improved sustainability and availability measures need to be implemented. Because REM are 100 percent imported, it would be prudent for the United States to reopen its mining operations for use in, among other areas, manufacturing of high technology, alternative energy, and defense applications.  It is also advisable to invest in research to find substitutes and sustainability measures for REM since they are a finite resource.

Environmental and policy factors in the U.S. have allowed China to maintain a stranglehold on the REM mining industry. In June of 2010, the Rare Earth Supply Technology Resources Transformation (RESTART) Act was introduced to promote domestic rare earth production. However, the National Mining Association stated that although the United States has $6.2 trillion dollars of mineral resources, it has the slowest permitting processes in the world for new mines, taking from seven to ten years. Recently, the Metal Service Center Institute suggested that simplifying and reducing taxes, less strict regulations that still protect the environment, and improved energy policy would likely improve the availability of REM from domestic mining. According to Forbes, North America is finally waking up to the consequence of China’s REM monopoly and has invested money and resources to domestic mining. Additionally, a new and steady source of domestic REM mining would likely revive the U.S. manufacturing sector, adding jobs while reducing dependence on China.

Currently, REMs are used in conjunction with many other scarce elements to create everything from glass/lcd (indium and erbium; lanthanum and gallium), to light-emitting phosphors (terbium and indium; terbium and gold; terbium and niobium; terbium and lithium; lutetium and indium), to fine wire for electrical conductors (lanthanum and tungsten; lanthanum and gold), to wavelength amplifiers for fiber optics (lanthanum and gallium; terbium and tantalum; erbium and germanium; lutetium and germanium), to permanent magnets (terbium and vanadium; terbium and cobalt; samarium and cobalt). Clean energy industries employ REMs as catalysts for cleaning diesel emissions (lanthanum and thorium) and in (lanthanum, beryllium and indium).

The United States Geologic Survey (
USGS) is conducting national mineral resource assessments, but these studies are time consuming and expensive. Several North American ventures have begun extracting and processing REM, including Orbite Aluminae and Molycorp. In addition to current mining operations, the need to find substitutions and sustainability measures is likely critical to short-term REM independence. Creative Recycling Systems, Inc. and GreenRock Rare Earth Recovery Corporation announced a joint venture, and will be recycling rare earth minerals found in consumer electronics, magnets and batteries. REMs are suitable for recycling because they do not degrade with use, and the elements are actually found in higher concentrations in used products than from original ores. The growth of the sustainability market will likely lessen China’s stranglehold on the REM market.

Analytic Confidence:
The analytic confidence for this estimate is medium. Source reliability is high and sources did corroborate. The analysts’ expertise is medium and the analyst worked in a team. Subject complexity is high and the time available for the task was adequate. Structured analytic methods were not used.

Methods And Processes:
Our plan for completing this assignment was to utilize Google Docs to create the SFAR and as a collaborative tool, using the comments and chat functions. In addition, we would telephone each other if further discussions were needed. We planned to use Zotero for accessing research and saving new resources. Finally, we would publish the document on the Strategic Minerals blog using Blogger.

Google Docs worked well for collaborating and compiling the document. Our initial idea for the SFAR did not hold up once research began so we had to work through how to change our focus. We were able to define a new process using Gmail and Google Docs. From there, we worked independently writing the document while collaborating on the final version.

Karen Omniewski, email, Google+, Twitter
Leslie Guelcher, email, Google+, Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment