Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rare Earths: Japan Finds Huge Undersea Deposits; German Industry Dubious; Stocks Droop (AVL; MCP; REE)

Stocks trade generally mournful and reflective.
In early premartket, Molycorp is down, $1.54 (2.57%) at $58.30, Rare Element is down 2.65% at $10.64 and Avalon is down 2.92%
Auspicious update, below.

The big question: Can they be mined economically?
From The Guardian via the Hindustan Times:
Huge deposits of rare earth found undersea
Japanese scientists have discovered huge deposits of "rare earth" minerals, crucial for making electronics products such as smartphones, tablets such as the iPad and flat-screen TVs, on the floor of the Pacific Ocean around Hawaii - and they say they are easy to extract. The discovery could expand the known deposits of the materials by a thousand times, immediately reducing concerns about supply.

"The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one sq km of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption," Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo, said....MORE
Here's the paper, published online at Nature Geoscience July 3:
Deep-sea mud in the Pacific Ocean as a potential resource for rare-earth elements

From Deutsche-Welle:

German industry is skeptical about major rare-earths find
A recently-published paper by Japanese researchers reporting vast deposits of rare earth elements in the Pacific has made headlines across the world. In Germany, the news is being met with skepticism....

Deep underground
Off-shore mining rig, pictured at sunset. 
Off-shore mining is a costly and dangerous business
...The deposits are between 3,500 to 6,000 meters below sea level. Although the scientists say that extraction will be easy due to the high concentration of minerals, most experts agree that it will be a number of years before mining can begin.

"A mine like this takes five to seven years to start up, said Professor Franz Meyer, mineralogist from the University of Aachen. "Underwater mining can take even longer to get going."

There has been no indication from the researchers as to when mining could begin, and it is unclear who will have ownership of the reserves.

Kato said the samples were especially rich in the more valuable heavy rare earths such as gadolinium, lutetium, terbium and dysprosium....MORE
UPDATE: The techies at The Register:
Pacific rare-earth discovery: Actually just gigatonnes of dirt
Take a lot of acid and it might seem valuable

Finally a geopolitical angle from The Telegraph:
Rare earth minerals find in Pacific could spark Japan-Hawaii stand-off
...The sought-after deposits could spark a battle between Japan, Hawaii and Tahiti, which are near to where the minerals have been located....
From the Daily Yomiuri: