Grey Havoc

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9 October 2009
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...The Critical Minerals Policy Act takes commonsense steps to facilitate increased mineral production here at home. Importantly, the bill authorizes funding to improve the United States’ permitting process, which industry analysts at Behre Dolbear have ranked as worst in the world at getting applicants a timely “yes” or “no” response. Such delays strand capital and have contributed to an ongoing decline in America’s share of private investment in exploration, which dropped from 10 percent in 2000 to 7 percent in 2013 according to the Metals Economics Group. In response, the bill brings some needed accountability and resources to the federal agencies considering these permit applications.

The bill also recognizes the importance of geologic surveys, which can jump-start mining activity. The supply chains for mineral commodities begin with entrepreneurial geologists who go out and find this stuff. Sometimes they do it on their own; other times they use government data to get going. Murkowski’s bill places a particular emphasis on the latter, and it should. Up north, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada has found that every public dollar spent on geologic data generates approximately $5 in privately-funded exploration work. That’s a pretty good rate of return, even for those who balk at treating government spending as an investment.

Finally, the bill provides new direction to ongoing federal research. It is in response to these provisions that Kemp hits the mother lode of irony. His column basically block quotes the writing of government-funded scientists as a wind-up to criticizing them. Yet it is largely thanks to their work that we know any of the more salient facts found in Kemp’s column. And it has been public servants at the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other federal agencies ringing the alarm bell over our mineral supply problems. At least in part, it is now on Congress to fix them.

America’s reliance on foreign mineral commodities is impeding growth in a wide range of domestic industries, and in some cases it is jeopardizing our national security. Congressional testimony, corporate annual reports, federal agency publications, and news coverage all provide ample evidence of this.

As if to emphasize this point, the same week Kemp’s column ran, the Chinese government announced further restrictions on rare earth exports. That matters because China controls almost the entire global supply of these elements, which are found in just about every form of modern technology.

This is an area where placing some faith in the government to act is warranted. For rare earths, the Obama administration and others recently won a ruling from the World Trade Organization that Chinese export practices violated their rules. And Congress proved its mettle in October by passing legislation to avert a supply crisis for the helium gas used in medical imaging, precision welding, satellite launches, and semiconductor production.

For all the commodity-specific challenges that we face, they are mere symptoms of a broader lapse in policymaking that has seen the U.S. lose control over the very foundation of our innovative energy, computing, vehicle and defense manufacturing capabilities. As the focus on growth through exports persists, it is becoming clear that a country lacking raw materials has a harder time winning the global competition to host the factories that put them to good use....

About time this was addressed. Unfortunately for the last twenty years the West's universities have been churning out "Earth Scientists" rather than geologists with the skills in mineralogy, mapping, geophysics and structural geology. These are the skills required to find 'stuff'. Then you need mining geologists to exploit the stuff that the exploration geologists find and then you need the metallurgists and process engineers to turn the found stuff into raw materials.

Pass all the statutes you like, but with no-one to find the stuff, the Chinese will have us by the short and curlies. They've bought up Africa. The environmentalists have killed the US rare earth industry and the earth scientists are too busy looking up at the weather to go and find anything.

Me? I find stuff all the time. But I get my weather forecasts from the earth scientists.


An oldish (May) post from another thread:

So i guess regarding this critical rare Earth mineral... the environmental regulation regarding mining of such would be relaxed ?

When not enough new materials are available...


I'm not optimistic, though...
I'm absolutely positive that US investors were not blind to certain opportunities in the global metals market.

Not long ago, I watched a few Americans with a group of African tribesmen on TV. They told them to look for certain rocks that looked like the samples they were holding. If they found them, they would be given money. These rocks were needed for cell phones. I should point out another TV program that showed African tribesmen with a large animal on a long pole. One of them scanned the ground for a few rocks, and with quick precision, he struck them together. He selected a razor-sharp shard and with quick precision, removed the animal's pelt for further use.

A little checking reveals that the United States has a good supply of mineral resources but if a company can't make money taking them out of the ground, they stay there. So no, the only "chokehold" China has is the same one American investors flocked to: cheap labor and cheap materials prices.

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On a tangent:

Reducing dependence on China​

In talks in Brussels on Friday, EU leaders discussed ways to reduce their dependence on China for tech equipment and the raw minerals used to make items such as microchips, batteries and solar panels.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said the EU was “witnessing quite an acceleration of trends and tensions” with China. The week-long Communist Party congress has shown that Mr Xi will continue to reinforce China’s “very assertive” and “self-reliant” tendencies, she added.

“Clearly, China is continuing a mission to establish its dominance in east Asia and its influence globally,” she said. “The Chinese system is fundamentally different from ours, and we are aware of the nature of the rivalry.”

The EU talks came as US authorities accused Beijing of an “outrageous” attempt to forcibly repatriate a member of the Chinese “elite” who fled Mr Xi’s oppressive regime, as they charged seven people over a campaign of harassment and acting as agents of a foreign government.

The US attorney’s office said that a Chinese national living in America was threatened repeatedly over a number of years as part of “Operation Fox Hunt” which the FBI dubbed an illegal global effort by China to locate and repatriate alleged fugitives who flee to foreign countries.

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