Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rare Earth Element: Ecology!

Stringer Shanghai/Reuters - A man works at the site of a rare earth metals mine at Nancheng county, Jiangxi province on October 20, 2010.

Two years after China limited its exports of “rare earth minerals,” unnerving developed countries that depended on them for industrial uses, production is expanding at sites outside China.

And as new sources of rare earth minerals have appeared, that has meant new jobs — including in the tiny town of China Grove, N.C., where Japan’s Hitachi Metals is planning to produce high-tech magnets from rare earth minerals.

Alarmed over Chinese restrictions on rare earth exports, the United States, the European Union and Japan filed a World Trade Organization complaint alleging that China was using its monopoly over the minerals as a political and economic weapon — for instance, to punish Japan over its claims to contested islands in the South China Sea and to entice companies to relocate factories inside China by offering a cheaper supply of rare earth materials.

One of the top non-medical posts:

“No, we are not getting the Prius anymore.”

“Why, isn’t it supposed to be green-er!”

“Not according to my daughter. She told me that it uses REE and is not as ECO friendly as we first thought.”

REE? Whatever is that, so I Googled it and found the USGS site:

The rare earth elements (REE) form the largest chemically coherent group in the periodic table. Though generally unfamiliar, the REE are essential for many hundreds of applications.

Chemical periodic table delineating the 16 rare earth elements (REE): the lanthanides, La through Lu, plus Y, whose geochemical behavior is virtually identical to that of the heavier lanthanides. Promethium has no long-lived isotopes and occurs naturally on Earth only in vanishingly small quantities. An represents the first 14 actinide elements; Lr is the last actinide.

Then from Channel 4:

Green campaigners love wind turbines, but the permanent magnets used to manufacture a three megawatt turbine use about two tonnes of 'rare earth'.

Wind turbines on the Silk Route © 2008 Am Ang Zhang

Champions of a low carbon future have yet to wake up to the environmental price Chinese workers and villagers are paying. At Copenhagen politicians talk of cutting carbon emissions, but they cannot meet any targets without 'rare earth' – that means a sustainable supply and not all from China.

Each Toyota Prius motor uses 1 kg of neodymium, and each battery 10- 11 kg of lanthanum, both 'rare earth' elements.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use europium, terbium and yttrium. Without these, they don't work.

Hard discs, LEDs, I-phones and various military technologies also need rare earth minerals and metals.

The Independent: On the main Inner Mongolian city of Baotou-capital of REE.
The development of Baotou into the global capital of rare earths, which occupy their own obscure corner of the periodic table, is due to two things: its proximity to the Baiyunebo mine, a vast open pit that is the world's largest rare earth mine, and Beijing's deliberate policy of at least two decades to turn this "Mother Lode" into a stepping stone towards status as an economic superpower.
As a result, Baotou has rapidly become of great interest to the outside world. China, which by accident of geography holds about 50 per of the world's rare earth deposits and currently produces 97 per of global supplies, has made no secret of the nature or scale of its ambitions, summarised by former premier Deng Xiaoping when he said: "The Middle East has oil. China has rare earths."

No comments: