Decline in Rare-Earth Exports

Posted: October 20, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Rare earth elements aren’t all that rare.  The issue is they are seldom concentrated into economically exploitable deposits.  As such, extracting them is expensive and environmentally messy, which is perfect for China with…shall we say…competitive labor costs and shall we say…relaxed environmental restrictions.

From the New York Times:

China’s curtailing of rare earth exports is causing so much concern in Germany that industry and government are joining forces by appealing to the European Commission and the World Trade Organization to intervene, industry officials said Tuesday.

China’s exports of rare earths declining by as much as 40 percent worldwide over the past ten months, according to the Federation of German Industry. That decline has set off alarm bells in Germany, one of the world’s largest export-driven economies and whose industry relies heavily on rare earths.

And later

Germany imports between 3,000 and 5,000 tons a year of rare earths, mostly from China.

“China runs a virtual monopoly. There is real need to develop new sources,” said a B.D.I. official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the issue.

Then there’s this from the Beeb:

Analysts say without these elements, much of the modern economy would shut down.

China accounts for about 97% of global rare-earth production. The BBC’s Paul Mason says the rare earth story goes to the heart of China’s relationship with the West.

For digital Rare Earth, consider personal favorite Big John Is My Name.


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