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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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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