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Old 07-08-2013, 04:19 PM   #1
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Unobtanium (rare earth metals)

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It is a source upon which the Western world has become dependent. In 2008, China supplied 139,000 tons worldwide, 97 per cent of the world's total rare-earth production.

snip:
China's decision to cut export quotas has already set alarm bells ringing. The United States imports all its rare-earths and more than a billion dollars' worth of goods consumed in America every year contain rare-earth elements.

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It is a situation China already seems aware of. After a recent visit to Japan, where he met executives from electronics firms such as Panasonic-Si Hu, of the Baotou Rare-Earth High Tech Zone Committee, told the official China Weekly magazine that the Japanese were 'dying for rare-earths'.



http://globalwarming-arclein.blogspo...obtainium.html
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Old 07-08-2013, 05:27 PM   #2
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China restricting rare earth metal exports isn't new. They did it last year too.

http://www.pmbug.com/forum/f13/rare-....html#post5676
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Old 07-08-2013, 07:16 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by PMBug View Post:
China restricting rare earth metal exports isn't new. They did it last year too.

http://www.pmbug.com/forum/f13/rare-....html#post5676
the reason I posted this article was because of our member named unobtanium
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Old 07-08-2013, 09:04 PM   #4
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...

I have been following, not thoroughly but still..., for a few years. What I wonder (suspect?) is that maybe the Pentagon (etc.) really don't care.

There has been enough time for .gov (as well as, say, GE, Toyota, etc.) to line up rare earth supplies, or just buy Molycorp or any of its rivals with real deposits.

So to me, something is not adding up right re rare earths...
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Old 07-10-2013, 09:48 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Jay View Post:
the reason I posted this article was because of our member named unobtanium
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Old 07-10-2013, 03:29 PM   #6
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I just noticed that the USA's big miner of rare earths (Molycorp, ticker: MCP) was up 16% today. I have not read the news to know why.
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Old 07-12-2013, 01:10 PM   #7
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Even silver bullion is hard to get nowadays. It's so rare, I'm surprised.

I read news about how rare physical silver is, little did I know that my own dealer will tell me the product I ordered is out of stock. It's surprisingly rare.

The problem with rare earth elements is that they are almost impossible to sell for an ordinary guy. Too bad!
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Old 08-29-2013, 09:09 PM   #8
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Heard a couple months ago they found some sources of the rare stuff in Cali. that they should be able to get to at a reasonable price.
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:24 AM   #9
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Rare earths aren't rare, the name is a misnomer. The issue is that they are always found with thorium (radioactive) and our EPA made it too expensive to run mines - what to do with all that nasty radioactive tailing? Since thorium isn't fissile, you have to breed it into U-233 which is - and is also nearly the nastiest stuff on the planet - very fissile, bomb grade, trivial to separate chemically, so it's a huge proliferation risk, and that's why there are no thorium breeders around. The other reason is that no breeder hasn't melted down in all history so far. The theory is nice, but practice is a bear.

The Chinese took over that biz on pure pricing basis, as at first they didn't mind making a mess that killed a few people - they have plenty. Now that various forms of pollution are biting them in the nether regions, and expectations for a good life are rising, they're cutting back on production.
Further, they want to sell the added-value of making them all the way into magnets and motors - smart of them.

This is why they are cutting back exports except in the odd political case. We have plenty here, just are afraid to mine/refine them.

The various RE elements, about 13 of them (memory, I might be off), are really hard to separate chemically, but only a few are good for anything, so they get expensive due to processing costs, and dealing with those tailings.


FWIW, we used to call technetium unobtainium, as it's the only hole in the periodic table - none exists in nature, it's radioactive and short half-life. So it's all artificially made, and FAR more expensive than any other metal out there. Of course, that's what hospitals use for PET scans...the med business is rarely interested in lowering costs, as they charge cost + %, so they have a disincentive to do anything cheap, ever, as things are now, and the ACA is only going to make that worse. On top, the main source of TC-99 was the Chalk river reactor in Canada, which has been permanently shut down (it really was past end of life, it was a good move to close it). So hospitals use multimillion dollar cyclotrons with huge maintenance expense to make micrograms of the stuff.

The way they do it is dumb, IMO - and they have real safety issues with the thin foil that lets the beam out of the cyclotron. It's a cobalt alloy, and they wind up making it into cobalt-60 - really nasty stuff - and that diaphragm ruptures regularly, so they have a nasty cleanup job on their hands regularly. This is an inertia problem - they know how to do the chemistry for TC-99, and don't want to use another isotope of something as they'd have to spend a pittance on re-training the rad-chem techs to save billions a year. Why should they? Cost + % is a win if the stuff is super expensive.
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Old 08-30-2013, 09:22 AM   #10
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If the real issue is thorium in the tailings, why not simply put it back in the hole they got it from when the mine is depleted?
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Old 09-01-2013, 06:31 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by 11C1P View Post:
Heard a couple months ago they found some sources of the rare stuff in Cali. that they should be able to get to at a reasonable price.
Price is not the issue. Overkill regulation is the issue.

Originally Posted by ancona View Post:
If the real issue is thorium in the tailings, why not simply put it back in the hole they got it from when the mine is depleted?
Too simple. The stuffed shirts in the government would be out of a job.
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Old 09-01-2013, 09:04 AM   #12
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It's not that simple, guys. For one, who says they pulled it out of a hole? Seams, strip, etc are all other ways of mining the stuff - in some cases its just monzanite sand (frequent in India and other places - on the beach!). Raw, even that is a bit dodgy, but made into pure Th-compound, a lot nastier.

The thorium is chemically precipitated out as a compound - a very fine powder, that is somewhat water soluble unless it's chemically altered - but it's still a fine powder (huge surface area/volume ratio) so it tends to be easy to wash into ground water and so on. Or breathed in - more or less fatal.

I have the chemistry some place in a book I have, I'll have to look it up again, but it's non-trivial as a problem, especially with the worriers looking on. Thorium oxide is pretty inert, but that's not what they get out of the separation, IIRC.

Better, like many or most other industries, to find a use for the Th so there's just no waste. But Th is quite nasty stuff to use as nuke fuel. It's not fissile, it has to be bred into U 233, which itself is far nastier than U 235 (and bomb making material). There's a lot of BS going around about Th reactors that are supposedly clean, but the numbers just don't add up if you do real analysis on them - lots of sins of omission by the fans of that one.
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Old 09-01-2013, 12:09 PM   #13
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Actually, I think it is fucking awesome to have someone with your knowledge base on this site. The clear, concise and obviously intelligent responses on all conversations nuclear has cleared up numerous misconceptions, and created a motivation [in me anyway] to seek out unbiased information on the subject[s] at hand. Thank you DC.
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Old 09-04-2013, 08:07 AM   #14
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I think it is China's right to cut the exports of rare earths since they need them to maintain their industry.
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Old 09-04-2013, 08:50 AM   #15
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ancona - and anyone else interested. You can get most of the good nuclear stuff from a book by Halliday written back when they were more trying to actually impart understanding than impress you with their command of esoteric jargon ( like all books and papers now - it's a sign of stagnation in pure science).

Sample:



It won't make your head hurt compared to almost everything else out there, and despite being written for Asians in the '50s - even his guesses (and he says when he's guessing) turned out to be confirmed through this century.

All my sci pals have a copy, and if you're patient, used ones show up in the $12 range now and again. Edit - I've also seen these as high as $70...

You don't realize it, but I just saved you several grands worth (at least) of buying bad books if you really want education on this stuff. The right books are key (not only in science) - the wrong ones, you won't read through, or won't get anything out of. Waste of both time and money.
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Old 09-04-2013, 06:36 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by DCFusor View Post:
ancona - and anyone else interested. You can get most of the good nuclear stuff from a book by Halliday written back when they were more trying to actually impart understanding than impress you with their command of esoteric jargon ( like all books and papers now - it's a sign of stagnation in pure science).
That's a good thread topic we should cover some time. Good luck finding a scientist today who can explain something to you in English. "Look at all my graphs, my maths, my citations!!!" I've always associated the lack of ability to explain something in simple terms appropriate for the audience with a lack of actual understanding. All of the really brilliant people I've encountered could explain their fields to to anyone, even other scientists.
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Old 09-04-2013, 08:56 PM   #17
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ddB - you just came sooo close to a direct quote of Richard Feynman I wonder if you're read him or watched/heard his lectures? He was quite a wild-man on the side.

He was famous for that saying, and being one of the very few who could explain science to anyone.
One of my personal heroes. I've got his lectures somewhere (but not yet online, you know, that copyright stuff).

About the only thing you can't quite explain in English is quantum wave function stuff. This is probably because Schrödinger’s wave equations aren't derived in the first place - they were guessed at - a long chain of "assume this, then assume that, then, don't the answers look like what we think we observe?". Richard Greene's "The Elegant Universe" (the best of his books IMO) has a go at how to intuit all that - but it's more of a decent attempt than a true success. It's also the best general/special relativity explanation I've ever seen, really makes it seem like you can "get it". All the while talking about string/brane theory, which is well, kind of out there (but I hope some version is right as it implies a lot of neat things - faster than c travel for one, teleportation, and bunch of things guys with a reputation at stake will never mention... If there really are N extra dimensions rolled up small - then in those we are already everywhere at least in those, and the Buddhists were right in a sense - and them collapsing could have provided the energy for X,Y,Z and time to expand... which again no one with a rep they worry about will say, but it's obvious if you study the theories.)

What I find disturbing in the one book I have that explains the chain of logic behind those wave equations
(which takes 15 pages) is that at the end, they throw away the phase of a complex number, keeping only the amplitude.

Then the rest of science says "since we don't know just where something is (phase), then god plays dice". Well, duh, if you toss out the info, why complain when you don't have it? Sooner or later someone (maybe me, with some math more-expert help) will fix that little problem...

The analogy is if you change a time series to a frequency series (Laplace or Fourier analysis, change a wave form into a spectrum) you get a set of complex outputs (A + Bi) - The root sum of squares is the "amplitude" and the arctan(A/B) is the phase. Discard that, and change back, and you don't get the original waveform at all - time matters!

I'm a huge dead-tree book fan, and find that the earlier books are in general better - we've had too many generations of the blind leading the blind now. All the new stuff is so specialized and off in some corner they think they've invented stuff we've known since 1940 - I see this many times a year. At some point I should make a list of the really good ones, but they are so rare - it's an issue.
I find them at used bookstores and estate sales, not Amazon. Man, some of those old guys were darn clever - imagine making a steam engine with almost nothing but cast iron and horsehide (piston rings!). Now we have stainless steel and teflon and can't do it much better....I could go on and on and on about that one - self regulating/restarting arc lamps, you name it, and with crap for raw materials. They were head and shoulders above most current scientists.

Back in the day, they knew this stuff - and rather than try to dazzle you with BS and jargon and esoteric math - they tried to get an understanding of it into you and succeeded a lot better.

Of course, a standing joke around here is that a PhD spends around 7 years solving one problem (it used to have to be an original problem, but that's been relaxed to almost plain engineering), while an engineer solves many problems a week and writes a weekly report about them all....
I don't have much dog in that fight - I'm both.


It also seems that for almost all time, physicists have an allergy to writing either pi or c. So they mix electrostatic, electromagnetic, and SI units in their equations (which have those constants hidden in them) - and then they don't tell you which units each input is in. Halliday is honest, and provides working cases you can check your own math against - I've even built a small cyclotron off the math in that book, it's simple now that I know how they tend to "cheat" to make the equations look elegant.

You guys might actually enjoy reading that one...it's well written, you'll have fun learning how things work at the very deepest level, I think.

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