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    Default Rare Earth Shortage in the US

    I don't know if I should go into this, but some of you might remember there was quite a discussion, here, some time back, about "rare earth". The stuff that is essential to make GPS, electric car and laptop batteries, and MUCH more. The US, I believe, put LOTS of tax subsidies into getting US Cos to start mining. They are not REALLY rare, they simply are not in huge deposits, like Minntac iron ore, BUT, we don't need millions of tons per day.

    Saturday's paper had an article that Molycorp, who is the largest rare earth mining Co in the US, is trying to make a deal to BUY a Chinese Company, based, I think, in Canada. China, who raised the price to astronomical levels, a couple years ago, when they set a quota on how much could be exported, will control even more of strategic minerals.

    It is definitely NOT, in my opinion, in our National Interest to allow this sale, but, HEY, profit is profit. Any opinions?

    Do a search. It was a pretty long thread.

    George

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    Why would a US corporation having more control over rare earth minerals be a disadvantage?

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    The few things I found and ever heard is just of some exploration since the china scare thing. I know we have lots of deposits in Canada but I can't find any actual production info on google anyway. So I'd be surprised any chinese company had much stake in that here yet. We definitely have mines and mills owned by other countries though, and a few of those are definitely owned by china, and some brazil, australia, whoever else has the cash apparently.

    If I had to chose between having something here owned by the US, or China, In most cases I'd pick China. Just about everything US companies got their nose into here has closed, had all sorts of union problems, became part of some accounting scheme to offset bad US assets against good canadian ones and then close the canadian one for not being profitable "on paper" and so on. Seems to me China has a bit better business sense. I don't know why we can't just own and properly manage our own resources that we have so many of up here, kinda puzzling and sad. But the really weird part is we own mines in a whole bunch of other countries, something like over 300 sites in mexico and well the list is long.
    Whatever happened to countries protecting their own assets.

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    The whole strategic minerals thing is one more boondoggle to waste taxpayer dollars. If the Chinese want to sell us cheap minerals, fine.

    There is some idea that somehow not having a domestic supply of these minerals is somehow dangerous. This is a completely false notion. If the Chinese raised their prices all that would happen is the 15 million other suppliers around the world activate their supplies. For example, take lithium. We buy lithium mostly from Chile, because that is where it is cheapest now, but if Chile suddenly imploded into space or blocked the export of lithium all that would happen is other lithium sources would be used. For example, in the US we have small active lithium mines in the Carolinas and literally dozens of inactive sites containing lithium all over the country.

    There is absolutely no reason for us to be giving millions of dollars to some random mineral company. It is just making a few well connected guys rich at the expense of the tax payer. We should just drop the pretense of "mining" and just write checks to those bozos for a $5 million each. That would be a lot cheaper than funding their bogus companies.

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    I seldom agree with jscpm- but in this case, I do completely.
    We do not have a rare earth "shortage"- instead, we have a shortage of miners willing to work for a dollar a day.

    China holds only about 30% of the worlds supplies of rare earths. But they will mine them cheaper than anybody else, so most companies buy from them.
    Now, the Chinese are both raising prices and restricting exports of rare earths- 17 elements in all- so that they can sell completed manufactured products, rather than raw materials, and make more money themselves.
    Japan, The EU, and the USA have gotten together for the first time in history to complain to the WTO about this-
    EU Joins U.S., Japan in Challenging China

    But the fact is, many countries, including the USA, have deposits of many of these elements- it justs costs more to mine here, and to pay US wages. So we can get em here, just not as cheap.

    The choice seems to be to let the market dictate realistic prices for Prius cars, I Phones, and various electronic products, or to subsidize inefficient US companies so we can feel good.
    There are certain industries where we have historically paid big bucks to keep manufacturing in the USA- the Heavy Press Program is a historic example- where we, the taxpayers, paid for machines and gave them to private industry.
    But raw materials like this are going to find their own price, on the worldwide market- just like gasoline does- so world demand and supply sets prices, and, no matter how much we pay to US mining companies, if the world price is higher, we will pay higher prices.

    Therefore, I would agree its silly to pay to mine here just on principle. If world prices go up enough to make it economically viable to mine here, we will. If not, we use somebody else's stash first, and save ours for later.

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    With the rare metals its not so much the mining but the refining too. Its not easy - cheep to do in a environmentally friendly way. A lot of rare earth deposits have a lot of other contaminates some of which are highly toxic. Add in the open cast mining to get at them and its no wonder its easier - cheaper to just buy it in from some were that does not worry as much about such things!

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    And there is the rub, The BIG E, environmental. Try to open a hole anywhere that you do not already have one and the earth firster are on you like a duck on a June bug. Add in our mining safety regs to the wages and voila! It is cheaper to get it overseas. Just wait until they start to label these things 'Blood Minerals" just watch the price climb then.

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    Ah, shit, I F*d the posting up. No explanation.

    The point IS, that the Company they are buying is a Chinese Company, actually headquartered IN Canada, that will send ALL the rare earths TO China for processing. As you MAY recall, year or so ago, the Chinese put a quota on the quantity that could be sold out country.

    "Colorado-based Molycorp Inc., owner of a huge rare-earth mine in California, announced a $1.3 billion plan on Thursday to buy Neo Material Technology Inc., which converts rare-earth raw materials into commercial powders, primarily in China.

    Chief executive officers for both companies said in a conference call on Friday that their representatives are talking about the deal with regulators in Beijing and Washington.

    Although most of its factories are in China, Neo Material is headquartered in Toronto, where its shares are traded.

    Link: Rare earths deal likely to 'set off alarm bells' at Defense - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

    "Molycorp promised a "mine-to-magnets" approach in America since it went public in 2010. How much of that it can accomplish within U.S. borders is unclear. An earlier deal to accomplish that by cooperating with Japan's Hitachi fell through.

    Business considerations will determine whether to put any of Neo Materials' technological expertise into practice within the United States, Smith said.

    Somewhere in that article, the expert says sending rare earth material TO China is easier than getting it back out, as finished product. These ARE Strategic Minerals, WARS cannot be fought without them, Modern War, anyway. You can still grab a club and have at them.

    arfffff,

    "Add in our mining safety regs to the wages and voila! It is cheaper to get it overseas. Just wait until they start to label these things 'Blood Minerals" just watch the price climb then."

    The price climbed then. MUCH more than doubled. Shortage.

    You simply do not understand how THEY do stuff. Gold mining companies consider a mine "lucrative" if it gets 1/16 ounce per ton or soil lifted and leached. .

    All them mines working In the US, are paying a bit more than a buck an hour, but, of course, all in "Right to Work States', so maybe they DO make less than a bulldozer operator in a Unionized State.

    Regardless what you Anti-Union people like to spew, LABOR is the least part of any well prepared operation. Do some homework, you all have computers, you can determine how much your help costs you. 10 bucks a ton in US Steel, 500 a ton steel, and EACH process adds about 50 bucks per ton.

    Nucor must be down around 6 bucks.

    George

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    Quote Originally Posted by gmatov View Post

    Regardless what you Anti-Union people like to spew, LABOR is the least part of any well prepared operation. Do some homework, you all have computers, you can determine how much your help costs you. 10 bucks a ton in US Steel, 500 a ton steel, and EACH process adds about 50 bucks per ton.

    Nucor must be down around 6 bucks.

    George
    Google Nucor wages please.

    " Sixty-six percent of a steelworker’s weekly pay is tied to performance. Up to 20% of this total comes from Nucor’s profit sharing program, which takes 10% of operating profits and divides them among all employees (excluding senior officers). This program led to an average 2005 salary of $99,000 for Nucor steelworkers—after a $2,000 bonus given to all employees due to record profits and $18,000 in profit-sharing."

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    Here's an intersting Wall Street Journal article on the issue. Business Asia: The Next Rare-Earths Trade Case - WSJ.com The best part is there prediction. This year we will likely sue them for selling at a price too high. A few years from now we will likely sue and claim they are dumping! There article will do a far better job explaining than I so I will refer you to the article.

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    toolroomguy,

    " Sixty-six percent of a steelworker’s weekly pay is tied to performance. Up to 20% of this total comes from Nucor’s profit sharing program, which takes 10% of operating profits and divides them among all employees (excluding senior officers). This program led to an average 2005 salary of $99,000 for Nucor steelworkers—after a $2,000 bonus given to all employees due to record profits and $18,000 in profit-sharing."

    I could parse that and say, you say "salary" and "steel workers" are not "salary", they are wages, so just, MAYBE, the AVERAGE SALARY WORKER made 99 grand. I don't think the average Nucor worker made 99 thou

    I will tell you that I WAS a Steelworker, but Maintenance, fixed rate.

    I will also tell you that long time ago, I was in a Co. that had a pretty good Adder, but a piss poor base rate that Incentive was based on. At say, 9 bucks an hour, 7.50 was "adder", 1.50 was that on which my incentive was based. If I did 200%, 16 hours machining in 8 hours, I got 10.50.

    When I went to the steel mill, I found that doing 50% more pass through could be 10 bucks an hour more in the week's pay. Many made MORE than that. It all works out for the Co. You can get MORE out of your present work force, you don't have to hire more people.

    I would REALLY like to hear from someone in HR if the poor schmuck working 8o hours is getting screwed. You work 40 hours, Health Insurance is covered. You cost XX bucks per year. If you work 80 hours, you do not get twice the Health Care. I have never heard that you get that buck or 2 an hour from your pay package in your overtime hours. They take MORE from you to pay for the same thing?

    George

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    George,
    Anti union I am not. Labor is actually a fixed cost. X number of workers at X $$ per hour can be budgeted for. It is the changing regulations and conditions that drive cost (IMO). I also understand manipulation to generate profit and if it is not done carefully, then it gets investigated for the posibility of crimminal action at least in this country. If there is a large demand for a known scarce item, or one that is exceedingly difficult to obtain, yes it will cost more.You mentioned gold as an example. Back in 1972, while at the Philmont Scout Ranch, they told use that there was an estimated $10 million in that shiney yellow metal left in Mt. Baldy, but that it would cost at least twice that to mine it out. I would think that the ratio is still the same today, even with newer equipment and techneques. Hard rock mining is still hard rock mining. As for the safety regs. I am of the opinion that if you do it both right and safely, it is more profitable than trying to cheat at it in hopes that you won't get caught in an inspection or due to an accident. Fines and litigation can kill a company. The same goes for the envioronmental regs. They aren't making any more land so poisoning what is left any further just does not make sense. It is just that some of these rules seem to be made up on the spot by people who either have no clue about what they are regulating, or are of the group that would have us return to hunter gatherers to save the planet. And then the fixes just makes it more complicated to follow. None of them ever seem to go away.

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    adama,

    "With the rare metals its not so much the mining but the refining too. Its not easy - cheep to do in a environmentally friendly way."

    See, that is a falsehood. We no longer HAVE the capacity TO make finished product from "rare earth" . THAT all moved to China.

    As to Non-UNION, the Molycorp mine, the largest in the country is in California. I THINK California is NOT Right to Work.

    Here is Part 2 of the Lou Kilzer series, in my local paper. Government fumbles opportunity on processing rare earths - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

    "A decade ago, Molycorp extracted rare earths from its California mine, refined them into oxides and then sent them to companies that performed the critical manufacturing steps.

    One of those companies was Indiana-based Magnequench, which made bonded neodymium-iron-boron magnets once produced by General Motors.

    In the early 2000s, Molycorp, faced with fierce price competition from China and environmental concerns, closed its Mountain Pass mine. Magnequench soon looked for other suppliers and relocated to China. Then Hitachi Metals pulled out of Edmore, Mich., in 2005, leaving America bereft of neo-magnet manufacturers.

    Few worried. Foreign-made magnets were cheap."

    "A decade ago, Molycorp extracted rare earths from its California mine, refined them into oxides and then sent them to companies that performed the critical manufacturing steps.

    One of those companies was Indiana-based Magnequench, which made bonded neodymium-iron-boron magnets once produced by General Motors.

    aarrff,

    "Back in 1972, while at the Philmont Scout Ranch, they told use that there was an estimated $10 million in that shiney yellow metal left in Mt. Baldy, but that it would cost at least twice that to mine it out. I would think that the ratio is still the same today, even with newer equipment and techneques. "

    AND, with gold at 35 bucks an ounce, THEN, and gold at a high of near 2 thou in the past year, AND gold at near 1700, right now, it would be 500 to 600 million of gold extracted. Do a Google and see if Mt. Baldy has finally been mined out.

    "I also understand manipulation to generate profit and if it is not done carefully, then it gets investigated for the posibility of crimminal action at least in this country."

    NOT in THIS country, else oil would be back to 40 bucks. AIG announced 20 BILLION in profit, the company we bailed out with 68 BILLION. One of the biggest players in the CDOs. They have no place else to put their money, they CERTAINLY do not lend to YOU. They trade oil Contracts, and made 20 BILLION in profit.

    I filled my tank, tonight. 60 + bucks, and I was not dry, 16 into a 20 gal tank.

    toolroom,

    I did Google Nucor, and the best I found were "puff pieces". I would like to hear from Nucor employees how much they make. I do not think they AVERAGE 99 thou!

    George

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    Quote Originally Posted by jscpm View Post
    The whole strategic minerals thing is one more boondoggle to waste taxpayer dollars. If the Chinese want to sell us cheap minerals, fine.

    There is some idea that somehow not having a domestic supply of these minerals is somehow dangerous. This is a completely false notion. If the Chinese raised their prices all that would happen is the 15 million other suppliers around the world activate their supplies. For example, take lithium. We buy lithium mostly from Chile, because that is where it is cheapest now, but if Chile suddenly imploded into space or blocked the export of lithium all that would happen is other lithium sources would be used. For example, in the US we have small active lithium mines in the Carolinas and literally dozens of inactive sites containing lithium all over the country.

    There is absolutely no reason for us to be giving millions of dollars to some random mineral company. It is just making a few well connected guys rich at the expense of the tax payer. We should just drop the pretense of "mining" and just write checks to those bozos for a $5 million each. That would be a lot cheaper than funding their bogus companies.
    Lithium isn't a rare earth.

    The real problem isn't the mines, it's the knowledge of how to extract and make useful stuff on an industrial scale.

    What's more if it WERE possible for the rest of the world to step up they would have when China cut off supplies. The problem with you free market zealots is that you think there is such a thing. There ARE no free markets. All markets are distorted by monopoly and information asymetry.

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    Miguels,

    Goddamn, I don't know if you KNOW that we either INVENTED the "Rare Earth Magnets", or perfected the process. We ain't neophytes at this stuff.

    "What's more if it WERE possible for the rest of the world to step up they would have when China cut off supplies."

    We MADE them. We SOLD the process TO China, actually, we sold the COMPANY to China that MADE it here, and they shut it down and TOOK it to China. Just as so many other product lines we used to make, here.

    Ries,

    "But raw materials like this are going to find their own price, on the worldwide market- just like gasoline does- so world demand and supply sets prices, and, no matter how much we pay to US mining companies, if the world price is higher, we will pay higher prices."

    That is totally inappropriate, the gasoline part. The demand for gasoline is down to 1997 levels. We are pumping more than 50% of our oil usage, and selling it worldwide, and I do understand that POSSIBLY we have better oil. It is also possible, like the old joke, that if you strand 2 Chinese in a Mare in the Moon. they will both get rich selling rocks to each other.

    Gasoline and oil prices are manipulated BY Goldman-Sachs, and their ilk. My local gas has gone to 3.95 per, today, with oil at about 108. Under Bush, it hit 4.08 when oil was 147.

    Traders trade. Gas is not locked to oil. They are traded separately. 80% of Futures are traded by them who have no intention of taking physical delivery, unlike Airlines, Trucking Cos., fuel oil dealers, Railroads. They all USE fuel oil. You have Airlines that are raising rates because the fuel cost has gone insane, BECAUSE of Speculators.

    Goldman made 20 BILLION bucks, last quarter. LENDING is still is not happening. Mortgages are still mostly underwater, they lost TONS of money, became insolvent, the USA bailed them out, and they SCREW us?

    Independent Bernie Sanders has either introduced, or will introduce a Bill to make that less able to be done, BUT, he is a Dem, so probably not to be passable, with the 43 or so Reps in the Senate, and a Majority in the House.

    IF Speculation were out of the equation, I would say gasoline would be 2 bucks or less, and crude would be well under 50 per BBL. I think it once hit 8 bucks, under Bush, but I would have to look that up.

    George

    Edit,

    Nah, I was wrong.

    January 16, 2009 $36.51, according to this:

    http://www.nyse.tv/crude-oil-price-history.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by gmatov View Post
    Miguels,

    Goddamn, I don't know if you KNOW that we either INVENTED the "Rare Earth Magnets", or perfected the process. We ain't neophytes at this stuff.

    "What's more if it WERE possible for the rest of the world to step up they would have when China cut off supplies."

    We MADE them. We SOLD the process TO China, actually, we sold the COMPANY to China that MADE it here, and they shut it down and TOOK it to China. Just as so many other product lines we used to make, here.

    Ries,
    That's what we did 15 years ago, the Chinese have improved on the original techniques at the same time our institutional knowledge has declined and the machinery rusted.
    What's more the rare earth magnet manufacturing tech has improved since it left our shores.

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    Search around the web, extracting rare earth elements efficiently is a well understood technology. Its no secret, its just basic chemistry. machinery and processes to do this on a industrial scale cost industrial sums of money. Add in the environmental costs of doing this in a modern western country! Most of the technologies for using rare earth and new materials are developed in the research institutions of the western world. China is not as yet a leader, more a follower and applier of western technologies. That will undoubtedly change in the next few decades! thats when were really going to have to up our game plan. Other wise the kids in china's next generation will be having made in America of the UK stickers on the bottom of there horror freight shopping purchases!

    As to the machinery rusted in 15 years, you clearly have never worked in a ore handling facility let alone processing. Most of the stuff gets so worn up its replaced every few years any how! There's a molybdenum refining company about 30 miles from me here in the uk running right now in fact! I forget the source of there ore but i seam to remember its mainly uk produced. Im sure if we can do it in the uk you guys over there can too!

    Just like people here setting up there own shop when they see a viable market opportunity so will the mining companies. Problem is they probably have a very clearly defined cost a lb that the element has to get to before they can make money running the plant! Let alone justify the purchase cost of setting it up! Let alone bother digging it out of the ground.

    Rare earth magnets are sintered metal products, there not magic! It also is a well understood common knowledge process.

    Equally if a big war comes and it becomes a issue that threatens the powers that be, you can bet that mine will be opened and operational in record time!

    Hence please quit the scare mongering, it just makes you sound like people that need loo rolls with pictures of how to use on every sheet. A lot of us can and do work out how to fix our own problems. We don't all have to be breast feed the solutions from our higher ups!

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    "We don't all have to be breast feed the solutions from our higher ups!"

    I agree, but I do rather miss it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by adama View Post
    Search around the web, extracting rare earth elements efficiently is a well understood technology. Its no secret, its just basic chemistry. machinery and processes to do this on a industrial scale cost industrial sums of money. Add in the environmental costs of doing this in a modern western country! Most of the technologies for using rare earth and new materials are developed in the research institutions of the western world. China is not as yet a leader, more a follower and applier of western technologies. That will undoubtedly change in the next few decades! thats when were really going to have to up our game plan. Other wise the kids in china's next generation will be having made in America of the UK stickers on the bottom of there horror freight shopping purchases!

    As to the machinery rusted in 15 years, you clearly have never worked in a ore handling facility let alone processing. Most of the stuff gets so worn up its replaced every few years any how! There's a molybdenum refining company about 30 miles from me here in the uk running right now in fact! I forget the source of there ore but i seam to remember its mainly uk produced. Im sure if we can do it in the uk you guys over there can too!

    Just like people here setting up there own shop when they see a viable market opportunity so will the mining companies. Problem is they probably have a very clearly defined cost a lb that the element has to get to before they can make money running the plant! Let alone justify the purchase cost of setting it up! Let alone bother digging it out of the ground.

    Rare earth magnets are sintered metal products, there not magic! It also is a well understood common knowledge process.

    Equally if a big war comes and it becomes a issue that threatens the powers that be, you can bet that mine will be opened and operational in record time!

    Hence please quit the scare mongering, it just makes you sound like people that need loo rolls with pictures of how to use on every sheet. A lot of us can and do work out how to fix our own problems. We don't all have to be breast feed the solutions from our higher ups!
    Molly isn't a rare earth either.
    At least try to understand what you are talking about.

    The separation technology currently being used is not what was used 15 years ago.
    It's better, faster and cheaper.
    The MGa of magnets has gone up as well...that is not American IP.
    Just getting the dirt out of the ground is trivial, making useful stuff is not.

    I live in the state with the largest known molly reserves, 5 years ago you couldn't get any because it was all going to China...strategic elements and skills are important. Thinking that the market can make up for a decade worth of neglect is naive and dangerous.

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    Miguels,

    "What's more the rare earth magnet manufacturing tech has improved since it left our shores. "

    Yes, it probably HAS improved, and partly from GM shutting down their Delco plant and shipping THAT to China. I am sure their Engineers and Scientists are still working to improve magnets and sending the updates TO their China subsidiaries.

    Adama is right. These places are not Swiss watches. Monstrous machines to pulverize ore and extract/leach each element they are trying to extract. AND, that ton of ore is not discarded after they get all the this or that out. I would bet that they treat to extract ANYTHING of value, just as a refinery will sell everything down to the crud that sticks to the walls of the cracker. Oil coke. They sell every part of the pig but the squeal.

    Magnequench was sold in '96, under Clinton, 5 year guarantee to keep it in the US. 5 years to the day, China shut it down and relocated to China.

    US Cos. greedily sell to wherever they can get the best deal.

    Hey, look at Mitt Romney. He's being jacked about by Santorum and Gingrich for Etch-a-Sketch. Romney, the supposed saviour to be of out nation, "I'll keep jobs HERE!", bought Etch-a-Sketch, as Bain Capital, and shut down the Ohio factory and relocated to China NOW, with everybody jagging him about it, Etch-a-Sketch seems to be having a booming sales burst. He might get even MORE money to finance his own campaign.

    Gas and oil, again. Latest BS is that gas will possibly hit 8 bucks, this Summer, SUPPOSEDLY because of the tensions with Iran. They are going to close the Strait of Hormuz, according to the fear mongers.

    I should look into speculation, so many people are buying into this shit. I know nothing about it. Apparently lots of money to be made, with oil expected to go to 240 per BBL. Ain't gonna do anything till I study it, though.

    George


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