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It's been reported that soaring demand for rare earth metals will likely drive prices way up. This concept of demand = increased prices is supported by numerous individuals and firms. First, there's the report from Metal-Pages, which indicates that the price of neodymium, an element used in electric motors, doubled in 2010. Then there's Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry, who indicates that "prices will gyrate upward, adding cost to any automaker building hybrids." Finally, Roskill Consulting states that demand for rare earth metals will outstrip supply within four years, leading to exorbitant prices. Needless to say, the idea that rare earth prices will soar is a theory supported by many.

Fortunately, researchers in Japan have discovered vast amounts of rare earth-rich mud in the Pacific Ocean. This discovery could keep prices of rare earth metals in check. The research group, led by Yasuhiro Kato, associate processor at the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Engineering, found that the amount of rare earth metals in sample areas of the Pacific Ocean is approximately 1,000 times more than the amount that exists on land.

The newly-found rare earth-rich mud is unique in that it hardly contains any radioactive elements and, despite being some 11,500 feet below the water's surface, is claimed to be easy to mine using existing technologies. However, there seems to be one issue: the rare earth-rich mud is in international waters, which means that any country interested in mining the area will need to gain approval from the International Seabed Authority. Hat tip to David!

[Source: Tech On]


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  • 26 Comments
      tantareanujellob
      • 6 Months Ago
      The only thing carpool lanes do is cause traffic and raise the level of SMUG.
      jeepmover
      • 4 Years Ago
      Activists think electric cars are the answer. People that invented a vehicle that can move passengers on battery power were innovators, in the early 1900's. Meanwhile, coal-fired power plants are scourged. What are we going to burn to produce the juice to keep them charged?
        GoodCheer
        • 6 Months Ago
        @jeepmover
        I suppose it would be more useful to point out that pure coal electricity is about as dirty as gasoline, though easier and less expensive to make cleaner, while gas turbines and nuclear are far cleaner than gasoline, and loads that could be applied flexibly in time like vehicle batteries could actually be used to facilitate integrating more renewable energy, which is far cleaner than nat gas.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 6 Months Ago
        @jeepmover
        What else are we going to do when the oil wells 'round the world are dry in 25-50 years ?
        GoodCheer
        • 6 Months Ago
        @jeepmover
        Hydro, wind, sun, geothermal, wave, tide...
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yay, let's get desperate and start releasing sledge/heavy metals into the ocean. Have i mentioned that i'm not having kids? this planet doesn't seem to be getting any less torn up by human activity.
        Chris M
        • 6 Months Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        "releasing heavy metals"? Quite the opposite, they'll be removing heavy metals from the ocean floor, that's what these "rare earth metals" are, after all.
        Marco Polo
        • 6 Months Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Could I interest you in a Tata, Mixmaster, or a cocktail fridge, Sahib??
      jeepmover
      • 4 Years Ago
      Forget rare Earth minerals. Where is the oil?
      Nick
      • 4 Years Ago
      Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe there are a number of EV motors that require no rare-earth metals. Why not switch to these?
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Nick
        Not sure why you were down rated. You have a great point and i think we should be moving to those as soon as possible.
      tantareanujellob
      • 6 Months Ago
      And I should care about this because...?
      Delumen
      • 4 Years Ago
      If they do this that will be the finishing blow to the Ocean and then our species. Its predicted at this rate of pollution and fishing that there will be no more fish by 2050, I think its more like 2030 or sooner if that digging starts. Its great for you guys to be doubting electric and all but do you have a better idea? There is money out there for all of the renewable resources to be built and the entire world to run without using a single drop of oil but no one will care until our entire species is threatened to extinction.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Delumen
        The real problem is cars... not really what drivetrain they have. They use so much energy to get us to and fro, it is rediculous.
      bscmth
      • 6 Months Ago
      Efficient internal combustion engines still seem like the best bet. Perhaps electric might be best left to large congested cities. People need to take common sense approach. So many despise the internal combustion engine, but it has lifted so much of the world out of poverty since its invention. Don't think just cars. Think of all the application where an internal combustion engine utilized.
      HVH20
      • 4 Years Ago
      Please don't destroy my oceans by tearing up the bottom layer. It remind me of bottom trawling except instead of just grazing the surface its literally tearing into the ground and ripping it apart.
        Ryan
        • 6 Months Ago
        @HVH20
        Of all the places of the world to mine, I would think that this would be the least noticeable, and the quickest to recover. There isn't much down there in most of the ocean.
          letstakeawalk
          • 6 Months Ago
          @Ryan
          "There isn't much down there in most of the ocean." Correction: We don't know much of anything about what might be down there. There might be giant colonies of unknown organisms... some might be beneficial, and some might be pathogenic. http://gispark.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/genomic-studies-of-deep-sea-sedimentary-bacteria-and-filamentous-fungus/ I think it's great they've discovered these resources, but let's not rush to muck up another part of our plant just because we can't the damage that we cause. Calm and thorough precautions should be taken.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Proper controls would be needed, but concerns about pollution seem rather overblown to me for several reasons. For a start the notion that we can in some way have a reasonable standard of living without pollution is false. Even solar panel production entails pollution of several kinds, and if we moved to different types of electric motors that would entail it's own consequences. So the question about pollution is always: 'How much?' not 'Does it produce any pollution?' To get an idea of the relative size of the pollution from this, we should compare with the natural levels of 'pollution'. For instance the sea--bed vents which created this resource in the first place are continually belching out all sorts of nasties, which form an entirely natural part of the oceanic environment. You then have to look at how much of it you would need to take. The very vastness of the resource means that relatively little needs to be extracted from a limited area. This in turn means that we can stay well away from the ecologically sensitive areas immediately around active vents, instead exploiting the much less life-rich areas around extinct vents. Sea bed trawling by contrast sweeps vast areas of the ocean, and is in my view far more damaging than this is likely to be. At the moment and for the next hundred years we are going through crunch time, with the population continuing to rapidly expand and, hopefully, living standards for billions rising. The critical resource in my view is energy, which enables all else. Fortunately we have abundant energy, as opposed to oil, resources. A combination of nuclear and solar will do the job fine for 10 billion people at a high standard of living. Uranium from the sea can be obtained for around 3 times present costs, and with more efficient reactors which we will have in future would not increase costs above the present trivial level of around $0.003, or a third of a cent, per kilowatt hour. Since the uranium in the sea is continually replenished by continental erosion the supply is sufficient for 10 billion people even if they each used 10 times present American levels of energy for hundreds of millions of years, and so is effectively a renewable resource, as much so as is s To assist this we need to be able to manage and store electricity, and rare earths are vital for this. The pollution produced in the process is manageable, and hugely less than from extracting fossil fuels, above all coal, which accounts for 95% of all mining activity, with iron making up most of the rest. Moving on from fossil fuels and from iron to carbon fibre etc will enormously reduce the total impact on the planet, even with all 10 billion people having a high standard of living. There also appears to be a natural process which means that over a certain standard of living the birth rate falls below replacement levels, so that even the greatly reduced impact from eliminating fossil fuels and perhaps much iron use would over a long period fall.
      Ryan
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hopefully the Japanese whaling fleet will switch to recovering and processing metal instead of hunting whales...
        Woody Becker
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Ryan
        Good Point Ryan, the whaling fleet and the Japanese have much to answer for!
      Marco Polo
      • 4 Years Ago
      As usual, LTW sums it up extremely well. Mining the oceans may or may not be harmful. Obviously a good deal of research and study needs to be done to determine the exact repercussions. The knee jerk reactions of those who oppose such a process have no idea of the science or the vast size of the oceans. I have just witnessed the hysterical opposition to the dredging of a harbour channel. The dredging was completed, despite dangerous, and violent protests by activists, supported by all sorts of well-meaning experts who claimed that the marine life would be extinct and the whole bay would die. In fact the opposite occurred, the deeper channel improved marine life and the bay has never been healthier. Several species who had long since deserted the bay, have returned and are now thriving. Calm rational decisions backed by good science and careful research, not hysteria is whats required. I should declare that I have an interest in not developing ocean rare earth recovery, since I am a substantial shareholder in Australian rare earth deposits.
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