Thursday 23rd of September 2021

rare earths to become rarer...


Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief for the Global Times, has been tweeting dramatic updates Wednesday morning claiming the United States is shifting from protecting its interests to destroying China.

The Global Times is a Chinese tabloid that has been accused in the past of having a pro-Chinese government stance.

US crackdown on Chinese companies including Huawei is no longer like a trade war. The US is shifting from protecting its interests to destroying China. It increasingly resembles air striking Chinese high-tech companies. China is mulling qualitative change in countermeasures.

Reuters reported Beijing is “seriously considering” restricting exports to the U.S. of rare earths, 17 chemical elements used in high-tech consumer electronics and military equipment, the editor in chief of China’s Global Times said on Tuesday.

The information the account has been sharing has been insightful for someone outside of China to get some perspective on what the view is like from inside China.

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shooting the competition...

It’s been a busy few days for American diplomacy, with three dozen nations ending up at the receiving end of threats, ultimatums and sanctions this week alone. And it’s only Friday.

Mexico is the latest target, slapped with 5 percent tariffs on each and every export, gradually increasing to 25 percent until it stops the flow of Latin American migrants into the US, thus fulfilling one of President Donald Trump’s election promises. Most of those migrants aren’t even from Mexico.

On the other side of the world, India is reportedly about to be forced to face a choice: ditch the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems or face sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA, Washington's go-to cooperation enforcement instrument).

Turkey is facing a similar ultimatum: abandon S-400s (something Ankara has repeatedly refused to do) or lose access to the F-35 fighter jet program. This threat was repeated on Thursday by Kathryn Wheelbarger, US acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Ankara has already invested some $1.25 billion into the super-expensive American fighter, but with a lot of its parts being made in Turkey, it’s still an open question who would be the bigger loser.

The entire European Union could be facing punishment if it tries to trade with Iran using its non-dollar humanitarian mechanism to bypass the American embargo. Having worked hard on the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, which has repeatedly been confirmed to be working, EU member states are not ready to ditch trade at Trump’s whim – and US Special Representative to Iran Brian Hook on Thursday reaffirmed the threat of CAATSA sanctions.

Cuba, the rediscovered scapegoat of the Trump administration’s newfound anti-socialist drive, is being called out for supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. On his Thursday visit to Canada, US Vice President Mike Pence said Ottawa must stop Havana’s “malign influence” on Caracas’ affairs – despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s meek objections that it could play a “positive role” in settling the crisis there.

That’s 32 countries bullied, threatened or sanctioned in one day (counting the 28 EU members). Years’ worth of gunboat diplomacy, packed into a busy few hours in Trump’s signature “my way or the highway” style.

Mentioning Iran (which was “almost certainly” behind a recent inept attack on oil tankers near the Persian Gulf), China (which dares to buy Iranian oil), Russia (which has “probably” restarted low-yield nuclear tests) and Venezuela (where the ouster of its elected president is the only result of long-awaited talks with the opposition that Washington will accept) – is almost an afterthought. There’s hardly a week passing without the Trump administration churning out half-a-dozen accusations and threats against one or all of those – and this week, the gears were grinding as hard as ever.

Here’s a visual aid: every nation the US has threatened this week, colored in on a map.


What the map does not show is that many other countries have already cowardly folded at the knees, say like Sweden in regard to Assange... or countries that are already in the US pocket like Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the Gulf States, Japan... etc the list is long, including Ukraine bought with dollars to the Kiev Nazis.


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trump: "who is wu or wu is who... whooooo..."

Beijing has warned the US not to underestimate its resolve to protect its sovereignty, just as the acting Pentagon chief effectively accused China of undermining regional stability and urged allies to boost their defense budgets.

Amid unprecedented tensions between US and China, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan held brief talks with Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Friday in Singapore to discuss an array of security issues. The Chinese side used the opportunity to slam Washington’s repeated 'freedom of navigation' trips through the Taiwan Strait and urged the US to abide by the 'one-China principle,' which views the island nation as an integral part of the mainland.

“The Chinese side resolutely opposes the recent series of negative actions by the US on Taiwan issues,” Chinese defense ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Wu Qian said after the meeting.


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The US idiots are at it again... Hold your breath...

misunderstanding the tactic...

Trump was eager to boast about Moscow’s withdrawal of its troops from Venezuela, but it turned out that he or someone else in the administration just made it up:

The Kremlin said on Tuesday it didn’t know where U.S. President Donald Trump had got the idea Moscow had removed most of its military specialists from Venezuela, who it said continued to work there.

Trump tweeted on Monday that Russia had told the United States it had removed “most of their people” from Venezuela, where Moscow has maintained close military and economic ties with socialist President Nicolas Maduro. 

Trump’s Venezuela policy is a shambles, and Russia previously brushed off his ultimatum to remove their forces from the country. It isn’t surprising that he would try to spin any development in his favor, but in this case it seems that he just invented something out of thin air so that his Venezuela policy wouldn’t look quite so feckless. He has no genuine successes that he can talk about, so he has to have pretend victories instead. The original tweet is still up:


Claiming that “Russia informed” him of this thing that didn’t happen makes it even sillier, because it immediately prompted the Russian government to announce that they couldn’t have informed Trump about something that hadn’t occurred. Now that Russia has corrected the record, the president looks even more ridiculous than usual.


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Whoever wrote this piece (DANIEL LARISON) misunderstood the deliberate tactics of deception. The simple TACTIC of Trump's (lying) tweet WAS TO FORCE MOSCOW TO ADMIT RUSSIA WAS STILL IN VENEZUELA. This would thus encourage the press to malign Russia some more and denigrate Maduro... Comprende?



The best defence against this crap would be for the Russians to go "no comment" and secretly up the ante by increasing the support. This would force the CIA and other US spy agencies to tell the world that "they know that the Russians are increasing their presence" in Venezuela, thus exposing the US to an "anti-Trump" position rather than let the Russians do it and getting "hammered by the Western media in the process". This "no comment" position has been at the core of Israel's "successful" diplomacy.

difficult to separate...

Rare-earth minerals form the central building blocks of our modern world — they're used to manufacture smartphones, construct fighter jets and develop cancer treatments.

Key points: 
  • Rare-earth minerals are actually abundant, but are difficult to refine and to duplicate
  • China is the world's most dominant producer of rare earths essential to tech devices
  • Beijing has threatened to restrict their production in retaliation over US tariffs


But now, China — the world's dominant producer of rare-earth minerals — is threatening to strangle global supplies in retaliation for tariffs imposed on imports into the United States amid its escalating trade war with President Donald Trump.

Last week, after President Xi Jinping visited a rare earths processing facility, China's National Development and Reform Commission — Beijing's guiding economic agency — quoted an unnamed official questioning whether the rare earths trade could be China's "counter-weapon" against the US.


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Having worked in a rare-earth extraction factory, the "Rare-earth" minerals are actually abundant, but are difficult to refine and to duplicate" is a bit glib. They do exist everywhere but in various small concentration such as 5 parts per million for some. Duplicating "rare earth"? Stupid statement. Refining? One refines sugar. With rare earth, one has to "separate" them. Chemically they have similar properties and the processes to "separate" them are complex.


Rare earths:

rare-earth element (REE) or rare-earth metal (REM), as defined by IUPAC, is one of a set of seventeen chemical elements in the periodic table, specifically the fifteen lanthanides, as well as scandium and yttrium.[2] Scandium and yttrium are considered rare-earth elements because they tend to occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides and exhibit similar chemical properties. Rarely, a broader definition that includes actinides may be used, since the actinides share some mineralogical, chemical, and physical (especially electron shell configuration) characteristics.[3]

The 17 rare-earth elements are cerium (Ce), dysprosium (Dy), erbium (Er), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), holmium (Ho), lanthanum (La), 

lutetium (Lu), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), scandium (Sc), terbium (Tb), thulium 

(Tm), ytterbium (Yb), and yttrium (Y).

Despite their name, rare-earth elements are – with the exception of the radioactive promethium – relatively plentiful in Earth's crust, with cerium being the 25th most abundant element at 68 parts per million, more abundant than copper. However, because of their geochemical properties, rare-earth elements are typically dispersed and not often found concentrated in rare-earth minerals; as a result economically exploitable ore deposits are less common.


As well, extraction processes often have to deal with highly radioactive material such as Thorium. Extracting all these leave an enormous amount of low radioactive tailing dirt...


If my memory is correct, Cerium oxyde is the smallest "molecular dust" (that is not a liquid) and is used to polish glass.

functionally a madman...



Wolff said that the president is "functionally a madman" and those who have spent the most time with him describe him as "vile and ludicrous."


"Everything in this book is something that I concluded is accurate and true," Wolff explained. "And that's a process of 'Do I trust my source?' Number one. And remember, I'm not beginning at ground zero here. I've written one book that has been, I think, largely confirmed by all subsequent accounts. So I'm pretty familiar with, if not extremely familiar with, everybody I'm talking to here. And then I like to hear it a couple of times and in the situation of people I trust of hearing things more than once and then it gets into the book."

"When I went into the first book, I thought that there was some rationality about Donald Trump," Wolff said. "A method to his madness. I no longer believe that... The narrative when this administration began is that he was a right-wing despot and thug who would bring terrible policies to the United States. I think there is probably less of a chance of that because everything shifts from moment to moment and he has no grand intentions here. Whatever irrational moment he has now might as well be reversed by another irrational moment to come."


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Unfortunately, Trump acts like a monkey trying to crush a nut with a heavy stone. When the beast succeeds it only have crumbs to pick up from the debris...

the wrong approach...

BERKELEY (Project Syndicate) — In a recent issue of The New York Review of Books, the historian Adam Tooze notes that, “across the American political spectrum, if there is agreement on anything, it is on the need for a firmer line against China.” 

He’s right: On this singular issue, the war hawks, liberal internationalists, and blame-somebody-else crowd all tend to agree. They have concluded that because the United States needs to protect its relative position on the world stage, China’s standing must be diminished.

But that is the wrong way to approach the challenge. In the near term (one to four years), the U.S. certainly could inflict a lot of damage on China through tariffs, bans on technology purchases and other trade-war policies. But it would also inflict a lot of damage on itself; and in the end, the Chinese would suffer less. Whereas the Chinese government can buy up Chinese-made products that previously would have been sold to the U.S., thereby preventing mass unemployment and social turmoil, the U.S. government could scarcely do the same for American workers displaced by the loss of the Chinese market.


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make your own...

China has hinted it may starve the U.S. of essential materials for tech products. That could backfire.
Only one American mine harvests rare-earth elements, which are used to produce high-tech goods, such as smartphones and fighter jets. But the mine represents the United States’ hope of weathering a Chinese trade threat.

Mining is one thing... Processing is another. Setting up a factory in the US to process rare earths is feasable... but it could be killed by China releasing cheaper products at will... See what happens...

lanthanum and its other inseparable friends...

Beijing’s apparently cavalier attitude towards soil, water and air pollution is giving it an edge in the market

If you have a phone, camera or an electric car, chances are each of these devices are wholly dependent on key minerals that, at the moment, are processed only in China.

For much of the past two decades, this has been fine: a status quo that rewarded low-cost production in China with exports around the world. The global economy was growing, more smartphones were being sold than there were people and the electric vehicle market was burgeoning.

Now, as supply lines shrink, geopolitical tensions rise and the world’s dependence on these minerals for everyday use surges, policymakers are coming to terms with a gaping hole in the world’s development of rare earths that threatens to hit militaries as much as it does consumers.

There are 0.15 grams of palladium in an iPhone, 472 kilograms of combined rare earths in an F35 fighter jet and four tonnes in a Virginia-class submarine.

Says federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt: ‘‘Some of these things the government stockpile levels are very, very small in terms of weight. They are kilos compared to tonnes. That is how rare the element is.’’

Europium oxide, which is used to produce the colour red in household TVs, comes from a global europium stockpile of just 20 tonnes. Stock of ferro dysprosium, used in some magnets, is less than 500 kilograms.

But it is graphite, a key component of the lithium-ion batteries in phones, laptops, military and medical equipment and electric cars, that has sparked the most heated minerals race. Turkey, China, Brazil and Mozambique have the world’s largest graphite reserves but only China has the technology and scale to purify the mineral into graphene and other battery anode compounds to make it useful.

Says Andrew Spinks, managing director of EcoGraf, an Australian company set to become the first local processor of graphite in the country: ‘‘There is no other supplier in the world except China producing this material.

‘‘It is the most electrically conductive mineral known. The next most conductive mineral is gold.’’

China has declared graphite a strategic mineral. It has 195 mining areas across 20 provinces that account for 70 per cent of the world’s exports of processed graphite resources. Its dominance and proliferation-brand of state-linked companies has sharpened the concerns of governments that in the event of a shortage or a military dispute in the South China Sea, the tap could be turned off.

‘‘It does not matter if you are importing loaves of bread or anything else, if you only have one supply line, that is an increased risk,’’ Pitt says in an interview in Canberra.

In the last few months of 2019, China had begun winding back its exports, well before its relationship with the US, Australia and Europe was pummelled by the coronavirus and China’s crackdown in Hong Kong. From August to September 2019 alone, rare earth exports from China to the US dropped by 18 per cent.

Australia, which has historically focused on more common, highly profitable exports like iron ore, is sitting on a graphite reserve in South Australia of 200 million tonnes.

Says Professor Dusan Losic: ‘‘You are touching my nerves.’’

Losic, director of Australia’s graphene research hub, which collaborates between five Australian universities including the University of Melbourne and the University of Adelaide, says: ‘‘We have very huge reserves just sitting down there. But nothing can be done with a lack of investment.’’

The government has committed $125 million to exploring two 2500 kilometre long corridors in the hope of hitting another rare earths payload. One stretches from the Gulf of Carpentaria down to the borders of NSW, South Australia and Victoria. The second runs from Darwin to the Great Australian Bight. It has also invested $4.5 million in critical mineral research and development through the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia but industry figures say it is not enough. Losic says the cost of starting up a single graphite processing plant is $60 million.

Perth USAsia Centre research director Dr Jeffrey Wilson says Australia has abundant geology and technical capabilities, but the investment risk is higher than the private sector can manage.

‘‘China holds a global monopoly on the production of rare earth minerals, which are used across the civilian and defence technology ecosystems,’’ he says. ‘‘With China applying trade sanctions to many countries in early 2020, there is a real risk the rare earths weapon may be deployed in the coming months.’’

Australia signed a strategic partnership in June that will allow for Australia to supply rare earth resources to India. Another deal with the US followed in July after Australian rare earth miner Lynas announced it would process the minerals at a Texas facility in partnership with the Pentagon. Australian resources company Syrah is also establishing a production line, in the US state of Louisiana, that will be the first to completely transform graphite into the active anode material used in electric vehicles outside of China.

Pitt says the world is watching Australian right now. ‘‘I think every Australian will recognise how critical this is in terms of our nation. It is also about our strategic partnerships as well. That is why we are working very closely with South Korea and Japan and the US, Europe and a lot of other countries,’’ he says.

‘‘They recognise it is in their interests to have a diverse source of materials into their countries, not just a single one.’’

Lynas says COVID-19 has heightened the focus on resilient supply chains and securing a diverse supply of critical minerals.

A Lynas spokeswoman says: ‘‘It’s only when there is a risk that a component like rare earths will not be available, that it comes to the attention of business leaders.’’

One of the reasons for China’s dominance in processing graphite is its use of highly toxic chemicals in the purification process, which other countries have been reluctant to replicate. China’s processors use hydrofluoric acid to remove impurities. The chemical is highly corrosive and discharges chemicals into surrounding land and water. Processing graphite also produces air pollutants that can cause respiratory illnesses.

Pitt says there is no intention to change any environmental controls to allow for more mining or processing. ‘‘If you work within that framework, you reduce the risk substantially.’’

EcoGraf has spent the past three years developing an eco-friendly purification process that will avoid hydrofluoric acid and the discharge of air pollutants. Its new plant, the first graphite purification facility in Australia, is set to be established in Kwinana, Western Australia, after the company secured investment from Export Finance Australia and the German government to source graphite from a mine in Tanzania.

Spinks says the establishment of an Australian Critical Minerals Office, headed by Jessica Robinson, a former senior official in Treasury and Prime Minister and Cabinet, is a sign of how seriously the government is taking the rare earths supply challenge. But he says more government support is needed to buttress the significant upfront costs of mining and processing the material.

‘‘If we don’t, we will just see battery minerals being shipped offshore for 1/100th of the price and then we have to buy it back,’’ he says. ‘‘That just doesn’t make any sense.’’

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Please, do not blame China for the rarity of rare earths… Any chemical plant in the USA or in Europe can produce these at whatever cost. I know. I used to. I have the feeling that the Russians produce their own and do not share. We gave the technology to produce rare earths to the Chinese and now we’re stuck. Any dirt on earth contains “rare earths” in various minuscule amounts. It’s a matter of collecting the dirt and processing it over and over until the concentration of the semi-conducting metals of the rare earth family is pure enough. In the richest rare earth deposits, one has to process 15 tonnes of dirt to get one kilo of “rare earths”. These are expensive, sometimes more than gold, but hush, it’s a very dirty process and we were happy for the Chinese to do it. The processes involve the use of nasty acids, such as oxalic acid and fluoridric acid at various stages of the production. At one stage chloridric acid is also used for refinement.
Considering the situation, it would be useful for any governments to invest in “rare earth” extraction as a matter of “national interest” or do it partnership with other governments.

The extration/filtration/processing systems of rare earths are old and not copyrighted. Beware, some of the elements extracted in parallel to the rare earths can be highly radio-active such as thorium. Easy.

If you have forgotten how to "make rare earths", you can buy a chemistry book about for about $700 on eBay...

Hello?.... And the processes of refinement can be AUTOMATED...