Re: A monopoly is all we need
"Which sounds like an excellent idea really. There's a limited amount of capital in the world, profit is the measure of how much value is being added by deploying that capital. Thus we *want* people to be deploying their capital where it makes the largest profits."
No. That's what sociopaths who only care about profits want.
Human beings capable of emotions like sympathy, compassion, curiosity and wonder want investment to be made where it makes the greatest benefit for the greatest number. Profit generation does not meant he greatest benefit for the greatest number. Profit generation usually means finding regulatory loopholes and dumping externalities onto citizens.
The tantalum mine thing is a great example. The fact that a tantalum mine exists which could extract tantalum doesn't make it equal to the next. There are all sorts of considerations beyond the mere availability of ore. What's in that ore? How does that affect the cost of refining it? Where are you getting your labour (both for extraction and refining) from? What is the environmental impact of extracting and refining the ore? What is the stability of the country, the labour force, the regulatory environment, etc?
These are all factors that have effects on both profit and the ethics of making that profit. Both things - profits and ethics - are very important to those of our species that aren't sociopaths.
Of interest to me also are the two mines you mentioned. Tanco and Sons of Gwalia.
Sons of Gwalia was both a gold mine and a Tantalum mine. The company operating it mad a bunch of really stupid hedges and stock market moves and gold volatility subsequently tanked the property. Demand for tantalum had nothing to do with it: greed and ineptness ensured the downfall of that property independent of any other considerations.
Currently, there are a lot of people trying to get the red tape resolved ASAP and willing to sink a fair amount of money into that mine to get it back up and running. The demand is there for the tantalum it produces. The dog and pony surrounding getting it back up is another story.
Tanco is a completely other issue. The tantalum that comes out of there isn't exactly top quality, nor is the mine set up to be a tantalum mine. Tantalum is an afterthought: the real goal is cesium. The tantalum there has a lot of radioactives and refining it is a bitch and a half. Every gram of refined tantalum coming out of that mine would end up costing about double what the blue river mine would be producing it for.
Tanco is still an operational concern. They just don't feel that hauling tantalite out of the ground at scale and then refining it is worthwhile, given the costs of doing so from that source. Which is - quite frankly - more than fair enough. As mines go, it's an expensive, messy proposition to mine that ore in a safe and environmentally acceptable fashion. To say nothing of the cost of refining. Put bluntly: Canada has a lot better properties for getting Tantalum.
If all we were concerned about was profits then we should just be raping and murdering our way across Africa and using Tantalum from there. It's cheaper than anything any western or eastern mine could produce. For that matter, why don't we just go back to slavery? It's economically efficient. We should jettison environmental regulations and consumer protections...the list goes on.
There's more to it than "the greatest profit." There's obtaining an ethical profit. Ensuring the long term stability of your revenue stream. There are environmental considerations. Labour considerations.
You say "get the most profit possible for your investment." I say "get profit from a stable source that does the least possible amount of damage, even if it isn't the highest profit you could obtain."
Now, admittedly, I'm not a billionaire industrialist so it's easy to argue that my opinion is completely invalid in the context of making money. On the other hand, I'm also not someone running mining/drilling/venture companies into the ground with stock market (or materials market) manipulation schemes...something that seems to be standard operating procedure for the overwhelming majority of companies in the mining industry, including the owners of one of the mines you mentioned. (Sure as as hell stock market scams and manipulations are a very prevalent part of the Canadian minerals scene.)
Thus I come back to my original statement: there's a perfectly good mining property here that could produce all the tantalum anyone could want. It can do it cheaper than any other except the African rape-and-murder mines. It would do far less environmental damage and occurs in a place where the regulatory and labour environment are stable. It just wouldn't produce enough profit, and so it isn't of interest to the very same people screaming loudly that "there isn't enough rare earths availability."
In other words: the greedy sons of bitches screaming about rare earths availability can shut the fuck up. They can have all the rare earths they want as soon as they decide to obtain them. They can even have them at decent prices. Their whinging isn't about availability or even source. It is about their constant desire to increase profits, no matter the human, economic or environmental costs.
I hold those people - and anyone who defends their way of thinking or behaving - in nothing but the absolutely highest of contempt.