Military's rare earth concerns
A rare earth mineral mine in China
March 13th, 2012
02:08 PM ET

Military's rare earth concerns

The Obama administration case against China's handling of exports of rare earth minerals is not just because of business concerns, it is a national security concern, as well. China's dominant position in the production of rare earth minerals has long-reaching implications for the U.S. Department of Defense. As our Laurie Ure reported back in 2010, there is widespread use of rare earth materials in defense systems, including precision-guided munitions, lasers, communication systems, radar systems, avionics, night vision equipment, satellites and more.

A coating of yttrium, which can withstand high levels of heat, is used inside jet exhaust systems. Samarium, which is resistant to radiation, is used in magnets inside missiles and other weapons.

A 2011 Pentagon report said that the defense demand is seven percent of the overall global market for the minerals.

"Faced with increased RE prices and a decrease in China’s export quota, the biggest issue facing domestic RE consumer companies is the need for a stable non-Chinese source for rare earth oxides (REO)," according to the report. "It is essential that a stable non-Chinese source of REO be established so that the U.S. RE supply chain is no longer solely dependent on China’s RE exports."

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Filed under: China • Military • Obama • Pentagon
soundoff (26 Responses)
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    May 17, 2012 at 1:32 am | Reply
  2. desert voice (troubledgoodangel or Nathanael or Bohdan or Voiceinthedesert)

    It's not race, stupid! It's the presence of ununiformed security guards in a nation polarized by race! Impose mandatory uniforms on all security guards in the country, and the problem will go away! And don't buy cheap uniforms in China. America can provide that!

    April 4, 2012 at 6:05 am | Reply
  3. krehator

    Stop exporting consumers to them in return.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:46 am | Reply
  4. krolus

    All i can say is you only need to look at who's profitting from this shift of world ecomomics.
    Things happen because thats what they want to happen.

    March 14, 2012 at 7:11 am | Reply
  5. TJBPHOENIX

    The real joke is on the U.S. Government. What happens is they (US and NATO) go in and secure countries, Then the Chinese go into the country and bid to mine their material after the areas have been secured by those other countries. The Chinese do nothing to support any of these efforts to help these counrties. Other then to take their natural resourses after their presents in those countries is secured by US and NATO dollars. Smart thinking China. And people said the US was fighting and financing in these countries for profit.

    March 14, 2012 at 3:10 am | Reply
    • dered olson

      Correct me if I am wrong.

      Currently China is digging out Afghan minerals and the USA and NATO armies are protecting the Chinese in Afghanistan.

      March 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Reply
  6. dered olson

    Exactly why should China be obligated to give REE to anyone, if China can utilize the REEs themselves?

    Why shouldn't ROW (rest of the world) mine and manufacture their own REEs. "Ride their own REE horse" in this high tech race?

    Exactly why would China be obligated to help bail out the socialist big spenders in Euro zone?

    Exactly why would China give rare dysprosium to anyone that is a potential military adversary to China or its surrogates ( does Iran pop into anyone's mind?).

    Exactly why would China give "star wars" REEs to anyone who puts REE laden spy satellites over Chinese sovereign soil?

    Wake up?

    Smell the exploding dysprosium guided missles?

    March 14, 2012 at 12:41 am | Reply
  7. Aristocles

    The sooner we reopen the Mountain Pass rare earths mine, the better. When it opens, we will become self-sufficient in rare earths, if not becoming an exporter again. We're even expanding the mine this time. Google it. Try "Molycorp" too; they're the company that runs the Mountain Pass mine (in California) and is planning on opening a couple of other mines in Australia and Malaysia.

    March 13, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Reply
  8. TheLastIndependent

    $%&#!!! Our military is dependent on minerals from China, too?! Now, we are screwed.

    March 13, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Reply
    • dered olson

      The Chinese do not want to sell REE metals, they want to sell finished products.

      Perhaps the USA military could buy Chinese made dysprosium/neodymium smart bombs from China?

      Or perhaps see how the Iranians fire the Chinese made smart bombs?

      March 14, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Reply
  9. will laing

    They are stock pileing a hell of alot of rare earth material to make sure all those jobs stay in china so they can keep makeing all the crap we buy off them.

    March 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Reply
  10. Lloyd Lofthouse

    Amazing. In a recent poll, a majority of Americans believed China is an enemy of the United States second only to Iran. However, America depends on China for these rare earth minerals for its high tech weapons used around the world in the US war against Islamic terrorists.

    Huh?

    If rare earths are so important to America's defense, why has the US allowed itself to become dependent on China? Evidently the US government doesn't see China as an enemy as so many American citizens do.

    If China were a threat to the US, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that America would make it a priority to produce a supply of rare earths at home since the US has an ample supply in the ground if needed?

    In addition, China basically helped bail the US out by investing more than two trillion US dollars (of its money) in America. In June 2011, the NY York Times reported that China holds an estimated $1.5 trillion in American government debt.

    In December 2011, China was listed as the number one holder of America debt with Japan in second place and very close to China. The United Kingdom was in third place followed by "Oil Exporters" and then Brazil in fifth place with more than $200 billion.

    In fact, most of the more than $4 trillion in US debt held by foreign nations is owned predominantly by Asian economies.

    March 13, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Reply
    • Dr David Hill - World Innovation Foundation

      That's the big problem long-term Lloyd. Are we the monkey or the organ grinder?

      Regards,
      David

      March 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
    • dered olson

      "The question is; are we prepared to pay the price to become independent of Chinese REEs?

      Short answer: NO.

      This week USA DOE meeting Washington DC: 40 million USD designated to do REE "research". Do we only have DC beltway idiots? Oh that's right Obama has Panetta running the DOD?

      Solution possibilities:

      1. Whole heartedly depend on our world banker and REE monopolist China?

      2. Heavily fund the few real REE miners ready to produce within 6 months: Lynas and ? By the way any dysprosium rich non-Chinese rare earth site is of special interest to the Chinese.

      3. Prepare for a world dominated militarily by China and its surrogates? (Does Iran pop into anyone brain?) What is the smell of Chinese made dysprosium/neodymium smart bombs?

      4. The Angela Merkel (German company) approach: 10 years to production? Angela Merkel and 10 German companies are raising 1 billion euros to search for rare earth resources. Expected date of successful mining and manufacture of usable REE products is 10 years away?

      Any good short term answers?

      Perhaps that's why USA, EU and Japan's WTO action.

      What is the universal word for DESPERATION? WTO?

      Kind regards,

      March 14, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Reply
  11. Dr David Hill - World Innovation Foundation

    Not that long to go now before Natural Resources become a Big Problem for Humanity, especially 'rare' elements

    It is a decade and a half since the World Innovation Foundation was created to bring nations together. What has changed over the last fifteen years? China has marched on as we warned that it would in our first scientific discovery newsletters. No-one took any notice and where in less than 10 years time it will be the largest economy in the world and will thereon become the mightiest economy ever seen by 2050. We predicted that this would come to pass in 1996. But no-one again will take any notice of what the ramifications will be in 2050 and how it will affect the lives of the 1.2 billion who live in the West presently and especially for our young now. Fifteen years ago the financial world was continuing to build its vast debt in the West, but surprisingly not in the East. We wonder why this was even when the East was starting to grow at three times the rate of the West and where the East has not been hit likewise in economic terms? Indeed there is now a school of thought emerging that the West’s financially institutions had an interest in the East bringing the West to its economic knees. Whether this is correct only history will eventually recall. But it is very strange how the East has been given the unassailable lead now and where eventually, according to several leading economists, will probably control 75% of the global economic pie by 2075. How will the people in the West survive is the big question therefore when it only controls 25% of the global turnover of the world. You don’t think that this will ever happen? In 1990 some leading economists thought that China could never be as large as the US Economy and that the EU would go on from strength-to-strength. Look how very wrong they got those two economic prophecies. In another 15 years time the Foundation predicts that with hugely diminishing natural resources and particularly ‘rare’ elements, emerging wars will start to become the norm to protect them. Not the WIF saying this, but the world’s most influential security think-tank the National Intelligence Council (NIC) based in Washington, DC. Indeed in 2009 they even stated that tactical nuclear weapons would most probably eventually be used for this purpose. Will China and Russia care about the outcome? You only have to look at their support for the Syrian regime to answer that one. But will anyone take any notice of the WIF and the NIC until this comes to pass as well? We very much doubt it, for humans are not that intelligent really when it comes to their pluralistic long-term survival?

    Dr David Hill
    Chief Executive
    World Innovation Foundation

    March 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Reply
    • Choco monster

      It was impossible to predict that our politicians and diplomats would sit on their thumbs while China manipulated their economy for a straight decade right in front of our faces.

      It wasn't that we weren't watching, it was that the government completely failed to protect us from this threat, and is now playing catchup. Also those business MBAs that think they're so damn smart at crunching numbers, and cannot see anything else (such as hostility) as factors in economics, rightly screwed us as well.

      We are now in the process of fighting back. We should fight long and hard and with zero consciencious objecdtion. We've given China every single possible benefit of the doubt. The results are in and its clear their intentions are the wort case scenario. Let's give them hell. We still got this. Let's do it.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Reply
  12. steve

    There's lots of Rare earth in northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.
    Canalaska Uranium has found some while looking for Uranium 308. (cvv.to)
    With Rare Earths in North America, and unemployment at current high levels, why are we not mining these metals in North America ?

    March 13, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  13. MicheleG

    There are 17 rare earths distributed globally. China is hardly the only source. I guess the real issue is preventing China from selling these ores to UN friendly countries.

    March 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply

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