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back to article China has another go at rare earth dominance

China's having another go at controlling the world's market for rare earths, the substances essential to the manufacture of many high technology goods. China claims it has more rare earths in the ground than any other nation, and has been reluctant to export them in large quantities. Many have interpreted that behaviour as an …

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Not learning from history?

From what little I know (by reading about it), I understand that the senior figures in the Chinese government are 'technocrats' and so you'd think that they'd do their research and understand what is likely to happen when a 'free market, capitalist' economy is unleashed onto a previously 'socialist' society. They have the recent example of the USSR to consider. They also have access to a hundred years of records of what happens in the traditionally capitalist societies of the West when politicians pass laws to modify people's economic behaviour.

So, is it because becoming a politician makes people stupid and arrogant, or is it only stupid and arrogant people who want to become politicians?

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Re: Not learning from history?

"So, is it because becoming a politician makes people stupid and arrogant, or is it only stupid and arrogant people who want to become politicians?"

Yes.

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Silver badge

Re: Not learning from history?

"Many have interpreted that behaviour as an attempt to get the laws of supply and demand running in its favour, by pushing up prices."

It's more likely that this interpretation is wrong. Wouldn't surprise me.

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Stop

Re: Not learning from history?

"So, is it because becoming a politician makes people stupid and arrogant, or is it only stupid and arrogant people who want to become politicians?"

You realise that on a global scale China is kicking our asses at capitalism, right?

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Re: Not learning from history?

China's stated objective in getting rid of the illegal mines is environmental, not economic - and seeing the amount of pollution from western mines I can understand why.

Of course one of the main issues (huge piles of thorium) would be negated if a thorium economy is ever kicked off. Let's hope that's sooner rather than later - and that chinese Rare Earth mining is regulated AND ENFORCED sufficiently to prevent poisoning everything in the vicinity/downstream.

FWIW I don't believe the chinese ever wanted to corner the market on rare earths so much as not wanting to become a giant version of Love Canal. Environmental awareness is a rapidly expanding issue amonst the chinese population and there's a lot of pressure to shut down sources of major pollution.

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Boffin

Re: Not learning from history?

"So, is it because becoming a politician makes people stupid and arrogant, or is it only stupid and arrogant people who want to become politicians?"

No, what you call stupidity is not actually stupidity, it’s a characteristic of sociopaths, a type of arrogance, a belief that they are right, and when it’s wrong its somebody else’s fault. Personally I think a very high proportion of politicians are sociopaths.

Here are some of the most common characteristics of a sociopath:

• Conventional appearance, dark suit & nice tie.

• Glib, superficially charming, often highly verbal

• Promiscuous sexual behaviour

• Manipulative and cunning

• High sense of entitlement (have the moat cleaned at taxpayers expense)

• Lacks a sense of moral responsibility or moral conscience

• Shallow emotions

• Callousness, lack of empathy

• Lying without remorse, shame or guilt.

• Interested only in their personal needs or desires, without concern for the effects of their behaviours on others.

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Re: Not learning from history?

"understand what is likely to happen when a 'free market, capitalist' economy is unleashed onto a previously 'socialist' society."

If western politicians and bureaucrats and citizens have no clue about free market economics, why would the powerbrokers in a Communist nation get it?

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Re: Not learning from history?

>FWIW

I'm sorry, but that is being too generous.

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Re: Not learning from history?

"China's stated objective in getting rid of the illegal mines is environmental, not economic - and seeing the amount of pollution from western mines I can understand why."

Huh? Really?

Is this the same nation who has millions of tons of underground coal currently burning with no plans to bother putting any of it out? And the same one whose industrial heartlands are choked with smog? Rivers polluted?

I'm not convinced, due to the amount of evidence that seems indicative of China not really giving much of a shi!t about poisoning the population.

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I think it's a burning desire to be famous and powerful, rather than being just stupid.

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Same thing shirley?

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The Solution

There is a technology that will solve a large part of this. A major problem of rare earth mining is its contamination with thorium. A thorium reactor will not only allow the 'manufacture' of these rare earths such as neodymium but will 'burn' the thorium to make oodles of electrickery as well.

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Re: The Solution

Unfortunately the western world is still stuck in the "radiation bad WHHHRRRBBLLGLBLLG. just don't use nuclear power. It's bad. WHHRBBLBLGLGLBBLLFBLFBLFBBLBLBFBFBBBBB" and thus very few if any investments are made into thorium reactor development. Meanwhile China and India are well on their way to developing commercial thorium plants.

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This bit ain't true either

"China claims it has more rare earths in the ground than any other nation"

It's got more reserves than anyone else, that's true. But a reserve is a deposit that has been drilled, measured, weighed, a fluffy cake baked out of it and we know that we can extract the minerals using current technology at current prices and still make a profit.

A mineral resource is where we're pretty sure all of those things are true but we haven't actually proven it (ie, not baked the cake yet).

More rare earths in the ground is a measure of total availability.

China has more reserves because it's done more cake baking than anyone else. It's got a good chunk of the mineral resources as well for the same reason, it;s looked harder than most others.

Total availability? Rare earths are so common (most, individually, more common than copper) that it's share of that is going to be around and about its share of the land surface of the globe.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: This bit ain't true either

Additionally, they have more because they do it cheaper than any one else. This is because they have little regard for the environment or human life.

And, why do people insist on calling it the "Middle Knigdom", when it can be just as accurately translated as the "Central Kingdom". The Chinese consider themselves as the center of the world.

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The hard bit

The hard bit with rare earths isn't finding them (they ain't all that rare) and it isn't digging them up (routine stuff); the hard bit is refining the raw material into useful, salable concentrate. The process chemistry is challenging, the plant expensive, the environmental effects nasty if you don't get the first two right.

The Chinese have most of the rare earth market because they spent the money on plant (never mind the side-effects), and historically they haven't cared about their environmental disasters so long as a profit was to be found for someone. It seems that this is starting to change now.

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Wet Emulsions

Tannin - even though you are wooden - yup, its the extraction and purification that the difficult bit, and we in Non China have been able to get just enough no investment in plant has been made.

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