I wanted to call your attention to the growing controversy over export restrictions on rare earths from China.
I’ve been on about this topic for about 2 years and it seems that China has finally realized the political and economic clout that arises from being the sole supplier (or at least damn close) of vital minerals that keep the modern economy operating. China has over the last couple of years become increasingly reluctant to export rare earths and several other vital metals required for alloying high end specialty steel. In some cases this was just pure industrial self interest but more and more its starting to look like a political tool to punish other nations who offend them.
Here is just a sampling of what some of these vital elements facing embargo are used for
Lanthanum – a cracking agent used to increase refinery yields by up to 10%
Cerium – a catalyst used for pollution control and more efficient combustion
Neodymium- permanent magnets in wind mills and hybrid car’s brakes, computers, cell phones, cd players etc.
Europium- computer/TV screens and florescent lighting
Yttrium – fuel efficiency, microwave communication, lasers
Erbium- fibre optics
Dysprosium- smaller faster electronics
While not rare earths and not totally concentrated in China’s control, Indium and Gallium vital for Photovoltics could also be restricted tightening the external market and giving China another price edge. This is not just idle speculation but the logical extension of the existing trend since China is already defending both tariffs and limits on magnesium and manganese exports at the WTO to maintain their edge in steel alloy production.
It’s well known that our current government didn’t see a recession, a credit crisis or a 50 billion dollar deficit staring them right in face. They didn’t see that people cared about prorogation, the census, the gun registry and torture. They certainly didn’t see how playing chicken with the UAE would turn out anymore than they realized how their Conservative policies would tarnish Canada’s international standing. This Government has absolutely no credibility in forecasting the future and there is no reason to believe they will notice the coming threat of international industrial blackmail or take it seriously.
In fact this issue has being brewing for some time yet almost no one has been taking it seriously except the Green Party of Canada which passed a policy this year at convention calling for an audit of supply/demand for industrial minerals in Canada and the creation of a strategic reserve for “at risk” materials. It matches nicely with the strategic oil reserves we want and clearly shows that our long term vision is a hell of lot more focused on real issues and solutions than the day to day posturing we get in the HOC. This however is more than just a simple I told you so issue but one that will greatly impact our economy so partisanship aside I hope someone else also speaks up on this issue.
Canada is a very mineral rich country and there is no reason that we shouldn’t have a stable supply of minerals needed for modern technology, especially green power generation and pollution control. It might come down to building up reserves (as the GPC proposes) to ride out short term supply glitches or it may require bolder steps such as the nationalization of a vital resource but the fact is we cannot be reliant on a suppliers who don’t believe in the free market or international trade rules.
We are entering an era of resource depletion where water, energy, specific minerals and even food may be in short supply; surely we need a discussion on this issue.Recommend this Post
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Posted by Kubera Jones, AKA several other guys. at 1:18 PM