Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wind: "China, Japan on collision course over rare-earth metals"

A subject we've been pounding the keyboard over, this time presented from a geopolitical perspective. I'll link to prior posts below this article from the Times of London via The Australian:
JAPAN'S increasingly frantic efforts to lead the world in green technology have put it on a collision course with the ambitions of China and dragged both government and industry into the murky realm of large-scale mineral smuggling.

The robust international trade in illegally mined, quota-busting rare-earth metals highlights China's near monopoly on the raw materials for environmental technology - a 95 per cent dominance of world supply that is likely to become more widely noticed as China tightens its grip.

The weight and magnetic properties of rare-earth metals have made them important for wind turbines, essential to hybrid cars, and indispensable if the world ever hopes to covert to fully electric vehicles.

One mining company president told The Times that governments that had promised a way out of economic turmoil with bold schemes to subsidise green cars, solar panels and other environmental technology had "spoken without understanding the upstream of modern products".

Don Burbar, the chief executive of Avalon Rare Metals, said: "The crux of the matter is that there are now a lot of technologies that can't work without rare earths, and China is currently in effective control of the global supply. China has positioned itself to retain control, and meanwhile politicians around the world do not appreciate how the supply side of green technology works."

In Japan, the world's biggest importer of rare-earth metals, more than 10,000 tonnes per year about a fifth of the country's total annual consumption are thought to enter the country through a thriving black import network without which Japan would already be in a severe supply crisis, a senior government official said....MORE
Prior posts on rare earths:
China tightens grip on rare earths

With a Name Like Inner Mongolia Baotou Steel Rare-Earth Hi-Tech Co., it has to be good

Wind: So Why the Interest in Rare Earths?

Wind: Why rare earth metals matter