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DN Insight: What Rare Earth Shortages Mean for Engineers, Part 2

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: Dig baby dig
Rob Spiegel   3/26/2012 3:56:29 PM
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That's a good question, Cvandewater. In my brief searching on the question, I couldn't find any actual examples of recycling in this area. So it remains a good questions. And it makes sense that you put "rare" in quotes. These materials are listed as "rare earths" on the periodic table, but they are anything but rare.

cvandewater
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Re: Dig baby dig
cvandewater   3/26/2012 3:30:44 PM
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Always fun to see an old discussion being moved back to the front of the stage... The only issue was that very little hard data was presented during that discussion, so my question is still if this recycling is indeed happening or not and whether it would be a meaningful contribution to the short-term scarcity of "rare" earth material (until the previously abandoned mines/non-China suppliers come back online).

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Dig baby dig
Rob Spiegel   3/26/2012 12:51:38 PM
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This question is addressed in this posted question that produced a ton of responses:

http://www.evdl.org/archive/index.html#nabble-td2966854

Seems that recycling could make sense even if it is not currently done systematically.

cvandewater
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Re: Dig baby dig
cvandewater   3/24/2012 2:06:47 AM
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With all the talk of scare resources, I wonder if magnets are recycled to feed back into the resource stream

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Dig baby dig
Rob Spiegel   3/23/2012 3:35:06 PM
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Yes, that's pretty much what I learned in my reporting. It's an expensive ramp-up, so the only mine in North America, Molycorp, went public and raised $394 million to get going. By now they may be delivering materials. Not sure.

Here's a February article from the Atlantic that spells out the history and brings you up to date:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/02/a-visit-to-the-only-american-mine-for-rare-earth-metals/253372/

David12345
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Re: Dig baby dig
David12345   3/23/2012 3:18:28 PM
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So, if I understand this answers correctly, 

A) the rare earth material availability shortage is a short term (roughly 2 years) issue. 

B) Because of the shortage there will be a spike in market price due to demand, but the price will start to come down as these other mining supplies come on stream.

C) the price will come back down and level off at a level somewhat higher than the previous "depressed price", when China was flooding the market with cheaper rare earth materials.

Another question: Does this include Beryllium mining in the USA too?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Dig baby dig
Rob Spiegel   3/23/2012 2:30:09 PM
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Good question, David12345. I covered rare earths last year for EDN and was surprised to find that North America has plenty of rare earth materials. The problem is that over that past two decades, these materials have been so cheap in China that is hasn't been cost effective to dig baby dig. Now with China rationing rare earths, it has become profitable to dig. But there is a time-consuming ramp-up. So it will be a couple years before all of these materials are flowing again.

TOP
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Re: Dig baby dig
TOP   3/23/2012 1:20:00 PM
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Don't let the term "rare" fool you. Neodymium for instance is quite prevalent in nature but not necessarily in an economically extratable form.

Yes we have them and Canada has them. Extraction of REO is typically from tailings resulting from Uranium, Thorium or Iron mining.There simply isn't as much as in China but it is substantial and US mines are being reactivated. Some of these mines were shut down as a result of Chinese undercutting the market.

Rare Earth Mining

World Mine Production and Reserves: Reserves data for Australia, China, and India were updated based on data from the respective countries.
                                                                                      
                                        Mine production                        Reserves
                                       2009          2010
United States                             —              —                     13,000,000
Australia                                 —              —                      1,600,000
Brazil                                  550            550                         48,000
China                               129,000       130,000                      55,000,000
Commonwealth of Independent States       NA             NA                     19,000,000
India                                 2,700         2,700                       3,100,000
Malaysia                                350            350                         30,000
Other countries                         NA             NA                      22,000,000
   World total (rounded)            133,000       130,000                     110,000,000

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/rare_earths/mcs-2011-raree.pdf

Florida is thought to have an undiscovered reserve of REO that is quite large.

http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/rare_earths/mcs-2012-raree.pdf

David12345
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Re: Dig baby dig
David12345   3/23/2012 10:06:33 AM
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Do we even have appreciable quantities of these raw materials available to consider mining in the United States?  I thought that some of these "rare earth" materials had only been found in a very few places on earth.

TOP
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Dig baby dig
TOP   3/23/2012 9:57:12 AM
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One obvious conclusion is to start digging on US soil for these materials. As I understand it China eventually will consume the entire supply of REO it is producing for it's wind power industry. We are just funding the construction of these mining operations and developing the technology to use these materials. Once they are in full swing they will have no motivation to sell these materials outside their country.

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