Any report on mineral availability that starts with “a semi-infinite deposit” should be taken with great caution – it reminds of when Julian Simon said that we have oil for “six billion years”. About this report on rare earths, I’d say that calling it “clueless” is way too kind. But there is nothing to do: the term “rare” in the concept of “rare earth minerals” rattles so much inside people’s minds that they imagine both a non-existing crisis and non-existing solutions.
So, what do we have here? A grand claim about rare earth resources that comes from a paper recently published in Nature. Let’s go see it.
The term “tremendous” in the title of a scientific paper should ring more than a few bells in one’s mind, but let’s go to the meat of the paper, what did the authors found, exactly? Basically, that the concentration of rare earths and yttrium (that they call REY) in the mud of some areas at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is larger than the average concentration in the earth’s crust.
So far, so good. Then the authors go on to calculate the total amounts of rare earths that could be found in the large areas examined and conclude that these can be considered as “semi-infinite” resources. (the term is straight from the paper, it is not an invention of the journalist of the “Financial Post.”).
At this point, you would ask at what cost these “semi-infinite” resources could be recovered, but this question is wholly ignored in the paper. The only instance where the term “cost” appears is when they say:
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…