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Digging In: Why powering a green future means more mines

Digging In: Why powering a green future means more mines

“It’s absolutely ironic. But to save the planet, we are going to need more mines.”  Government geoscientist

Around Australia new mining operations are being established and old sites, shuttered decades ago, are being brought back to life.  These miners aren’t digging for coal or gold, they’re hunting for other lucrative commodities – known as critical minerals.

“Critical minerals (are) everything you use for electric vehicles, for transport, for manufacturing.  We’re really at the start of what could be a new mining boom.”  Minerals lobbyist

If you own a mobile phone, if you power your home with renewable energy or drive an electric vehicle, then these minerals are already playing a key part in your life.

And they will play a vital role in all our futures.

But there is a hidden cost?

“We have to decide as a country. How valuable is a place and is it worth risking for mining?”  Research scientist

On Monday Four Corners investigates the new critical minerals mining boom and finds Australia is in the box seat to exploit a surge in worldwide demand.

“Australia is still the luckiest country. Last century we were the luckiest because we had all the coal and a huge amount of natural gas… what we know the future needs is things that Australia also has in spades.”  US energy policy adviser

From lithium mines in WA and the NT, to cobalt operations in NSW and tin mining in Tasmania, these critical minerals are not just making major profits, they’re playing a part in the super power rivalry between America and China.

“China has always known the value of critical minerals.  We are moving into a period now of geopolitical competition, everybody is looking for leverage. The Chinese are quite explicit about that.”  China analyst

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Critical minerals problem: Supply chain issues come to the fore

Critical minerals problem: Supply chain issues come to the fore

It seems that all of a sudden there is talk of mineral shortages and two metals which are thought to be plentiful in the Earth’s crust, nickel and zinc, have been added to the list of minerals now deemed critical to the United States, a list recently updated by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Partly, the concern is that the United States is not producing enough of its own nickel and zinc to rest easy over the availability of these metals on world markets. Nickel’s new status stems in part from its emerging role in electric vehicle batteries. There is only one operating U.S. nickel mine. The situation with zinc is less concerning since there are 14 mines and three smelters.

There has long been concern about Rare Earth Elements (REEs) crucial to the computer and renewable energy infrastructure. Part of the concern is China’s domination of the production of these minerals. Chinese mines supplied 55 percent of all REEs mined worldwide in 2020 and its REE refineries produced 85 percent of all refined products.

What has always lurked in the background in the form of “critical” and “strategic” minerals lists is the use of these minerals in military as well as commercial applications. The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency has long maintained a strategic materials stockpile “[t]o decrease and preclude dependence upon foreign sources or single points of failure for strategic materials in times of national emergency.”

But the trouble with minerals is they have a habit of concentrating in places far from where they are needed and under the soil of countries without the factories to utilize them. If it were just a question of, say, turning agricultural produce into a value added product such as cotton clothing from cotton grown in the same country, that would be one thing.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Beijing Threatens Damaging Rare-Earth Export Ban As Trade Fight Intensifies

Beijing Threatens Damaging Rare-Earth Export Ban As Trade Fight Intensifies

Once dismissed as a “nuclear option” that would only be invoked by Beijing as a last resort in the burgeoning trade war with the US, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Communist Party might impose an export ban on rare-earth metals, creating serious supply-chain issues for American producers of everything from microchips, to batteries, to night-vision goggles.


After Global Times editor and Trump Twitter foil Hu Xijin warned on Tuesday that a ban was being ‘seriously considered’ (which followed a visit by President Xi and Vice Premier Liu He to a rare-earth mine that was widely seen as a threatening gesture), China’s powerful state-planning body threatened to use rare earths as “China’s counter-weapon against the US’s unwarranted suppression”…while a host of state-controlled media organizations used rare threatening language intended to convey that Beijing isn’t playing around.

As BBG explained, an editorial published in the People’s Daily on Wednesday used the phrase “don’t say I didn’t warn you”, which is loaded with historical significance. That specific wording was used by the paper in the early 1960s before China fought a brief war with India; it was also used before conflict broke out between China and Vietnam.

The newspaper’s commentary included a rare Chinese phrase that means “don’t say I didn’t warn you.”The specific wording was used by the paper in 1962 before China went to war with India, and “those familiar with Chinese diplomatic language know the weight of this phrase,” the Global Times, a newspaper affiliated with the Communist Party, said in an article last April. It was also used before conflict broke out between China and Vietnam in 1979.

On rare earths specifically, the People’s Daily said it isn’t hard to answer the question whether China will use the elements as retaliation in the trade war.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Skeleton In The Electric Car Closet

The Skeleton In The Electric Car Closet

The number of electric vehicles is increasing rapidly, but at great human cost.

You probably have not heard anything other than praise for electric cars in the mainstream media. They are sexy and environmentally friendly too, we are told. The first may be true, but not the latter. Batteries are not good for the environment, and their raw materials are mined at the expense of human health.

Rare Earth Metals

Rare earth metals are needed to make efficient batteries. The minerals are found in low densities in the earth’s crust, and tons of rock need to be mined, filtered, and transported in order to find the amount required to make a vehicle battery. Typically, the energy needed to create them exceeds the amount that they store during their lifetime. That is why they are so expensive.


Mining for cobalt in the Congo.

Cobalt is one of the ingredients needed to make batteries. In 2018, 70% of this mineral came from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa. The metal is mined by poor Congolese people who work under conditions that would have been unthinkable and highly illegal in any Western country. Accidents are common, sometimes killing the miners.

Little attention is given to those who toil to make wealthy Western environmentalists happy. It is not uncommon for green ideals to be at odds with human health. DDT is a miracle chemical that was used to eradicate malaria in America and Europe, but environmentalists were able to de facto ban it in the 1970s, resulting in tens of millions of unnecessary deaths in developing nations.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rare: The High-Stakes Race to Satisfy Our Need for the Scarcest Metals on Earth by Keith Veronese

Rare: The High-Stakes Race to Satisfy Our Need for the Scarcest Metals on Earth by Keith Veronese

Preface.  Capitalism believes there’s a solution for everything due to Man’s Inventive Brain, but when it comes to getting metals out of the earth, there are some very serious limitations.  In parts per billion, there’s only 4 of platinum, 20 of silver, and less than 1 part for many important metals. Yet they are essential for cars, wind turbines, electronics, military weapons, oil refining, and dozens of other uses listed below.

China controls 97% of rare earth metals.   Uh-oh.

The overwhelming majority of Earth’s crust is made of hydrogen and oxygen. The only metals present in large amounts within the crust are aluminum and iron, with the latter also dominating the planetary core. These four elements make up about 90% of the mass of the crust, with silicon, nickel, magnesium, sulfur, and calcium rounding out another 9% of the planet’s mass.

Our civilization is far more dependent on very rare elements than I’d realized, which are extremely scarce and being dissipated since so few are recycled (it’s almost impossible to recycle them though, the cost is too high, and many elements are hard to separate from one another).

So in addition to peak oil, add in peak metals to the great tidal wave of collapse on the horizon.

What follows are my kindle notes.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical PreppingKunstlerCast 253KunstlerCast278Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


Keith Veronese. 2015. Rare: The High-Stakes Race to Satisfy Our Need for the Scarcest Metals on Earth. Prometheus books.

Scientifically, metals are known for a common set of properties. Almost all metals have the ability to transmit electricity and heat—very useful properties in the world of electronics.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Hot Economic Warfare: Scrambling for Rare-Earth Minerals

Hot Economic Warfare: Scrambling for Rare-Earth Minerals

Hot Economic Warfare: Scrambling for Rare-Earth Minerals

Just like the gold rushes of California between 1848 and 1855, Canada’s Klonike of 1896 to 1899, and Western Australia’s of the 1890s, the world is experiencing a frenzy to obtain mining rights in pursuit of today’s “gold,” namely rare earth minerals. Used for components of electric vehicle batteries, mobile telephones, flat-screen televisions, flash drives, cameras, precision-guided missiles, industrial magnets, wind turbines, solar panels, and other high-tech items, rare earth minerals have become the type of sought-after commodity that uranium and plutonium were during the onset of the atomic age.

Rare earth minerals do not easily roll off one’s tongue in the same manner as gold, silver, and platinum. For example, yttrium oxide and europium, while sounding unimportant, are what provide the red hue in color televisions.

Nations around the world are scrambling to secure reserves containing rare earth minerals. China, where one-third of the planet’s rare earth minerals are currently found, has severely restricted the export of the minerals to friends and competitors. One of the largest known reserves of rare earths is the Bayan Obo deposit in China’s Inner Mongolia.

China’s export restrictions have sent nations around the world on search missions to secure both known and untapped rare earth deposits. One such mother lode of rare earth minerals has been discovered in the eastern southern Pacific Ocean. The estimates are that the deep ocean region contains twice the amount of rare earths than found in China.

Some of these deposits are in undersea geologically active zones, where deep sea floor vents spew rare earth minerals from expulsions of lava and hot gases. The discovery that the South Pacific region is rich in rare earths has led European nations, including France and Britain, which maintain colonies in the area, re-staking their colonial footprints.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trump Unwisely Escalates Trade War: Expect a “Rare Earth” Response From China

Trump’s imposed more tariffs on China. If China retaliates, Trump will respond with tariffs on all imports from China

President Trump, emboldened by America’s economic strength and China’s slowdown, escalated his trade war on Monday, saying the United States would impose tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods as punishment over Beijing’s trade practices.

The fresh round of tariffs comes on top of $50 billion worth of Chinese products already taxed earlier this year, meaning nearly half of all Chinese imports into the United States will soon face tariffs. The new wave is scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 24, with tariffs starting at 10 percent before climbing to 25 percent by the end of the year. The timing will partially reduce the toll of price increases for holiday shoppers buying Chinese imports in the coming months.

The White House also said that the United States was prepared to “immediately” place tariffs on another $267 billion worth of imports “if China takes retaliatory action against our farmers or other industries.”

Unlike the first round of tariffs, which were designed to minimize the impact on American consumers, this wave could raise prices on everyday products including electronics, food, tools and housewares.

American businesses — which have warned that tariffs could hurt profits, force job cuts and, in some cases, destroy companies, said the taxes were going to hurt the United States more than the administration realized. The National Association of Chemical Distributors released a study this month that predicted nearly 28,000 chemical distributor and supplier jobs would be eliminated because of higher prices from the $200 billion round of tariffs.

Response Coming

The question not whether China responds, but how.

I would expect China to immediately pull out of Trump’s recently initiated trade talks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New Rare Earth Resources: A Non-Solution For A Non-Problem

New Rare Earth Resources: A Non-Solution For A Non-Problem

Above: the report on the “Financial Post” of April 13, 2018. The study that the report describes is not just a bad paper, but something highlighting the shortcomings of our whole society in understanding and managing mineral depletion.

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…

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