As many countries in the world race to achieve a variety of renewable energy goals time has to be set aside to determine just how those goals will be achieved. With a rivalry that feels almost like a remnant from the Cold War reignited, China and the United States both seemed to be going at it to prove that they can be the renewable energy leaders of the world. China, however, seems to have a bit of an advantage with the immense amount of resources available to them. The presence of large deposits of rare earth materials in China has also made huge headlines in recent months as it became clear that many of those metals would be needed in order to continue developing renewable energy technologies and that China had the hold on the market and was planning on cutting down their exports in order to bolster their own technological development. With some figures placing China’s dominance in rare earth supply around 97%, it became clear that something would need to be done if the supply from China began drying up.
To answer the potential crisis in the renewable energy community, many countries have started looking into reopening their own rare earth mining projects that had either been cut back or shut down due to the ease of acquiring the resources at lower prices from China. Molycorp Inc., a Colorado based rare earth mining company with mines in California, announced that they would be upping the amount of work done in their own mines in order to ensure that the flow of rare earth materials continue once the supply from China diminishes. In a bid to promote Molycorp Inc.’s plan, Japanese rare earth magnet manufacturer Hitatchi Metals Ltd. Plans to form a partnership with Molycorp to use the rare earth materials mined by Molycorp in order to continue making magnets and other alloys crucial to the development of renewable energy technology.
Since rare earth materials are so crucial to the development of renewable energy technology it is interesting to see just what kind of metals are considered rare earth materials and just what uses that can be found for them. The mine that is operated by Molycorp, called the Mountain Pass Mine, is capable of providing Cerium, Lanthanum, Neodymium, Europium, as well as other minerals. The materials in questions can be used from anything ranging from electric batteries, wind turbines, magnets, and catalysts to reduce automobile carbon emissions.
Since the Mountain Pass Mine is capable of yielding such an incredibly large quantity of rare earth materials it is good news to know that China’s decision to cut back on exports will not hurt the development of renewable energy technologies in other countries. Now, with the knowledge of another ready source of rare earth materials preparing to come to the forefront it can be hoped that the United States will try and use the materials to reach their renewable energy goals in the years to come.
Article by Richard Cooke, appearing courtesy Justmeans.