Discussion of Rare Earth Metals Is Stunningly Rare

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No, it’s not a late April Fool’s joke: The world’s development of renewable, so-called “clean” technologies might be fatally threatened because we don’t mine the materials we need to make them. Those who support wind and solar power, but abhor mining altogether, might not be able to build wind turbines and solar panels if we don’t begin aggressively mining rare earth metals. It’s tragic irony.

PACE credits the Western Business Roundtable and its leader, Jim Sims, for championing the issue of rare earth metals. I became interested in the topic after hearing Sims speak on the issue in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Business Summit of the West. My question? Why have Congress and the  mainstream media taken so long to become aware of this startlingly basic problem?

We cannot build wind turbines, solar panels, and hybrid vehicles without rare earth metals. How much of those metals do we mine in the United States? Zero.The issue is not only energy independence, but also resource security.

Almost all of the world’s rare earth metals–97%, in fact–are mined in China. And at a March 16th hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, officials learned that China’s demand for rare earth metals soon will match its internal supply, leaving the rest of the world to fend for itself. Today, Molycorp Minerals, Inc., is the only company in the Western Hemisphere producing rare earth metals. The company is currently looking to to re-start production in Mountain Pass, California.

So, there will be one company and one operation to supply metals that will drive the U.S. renewable energy sector. That’s the problem with the energy conversation we’re having in America–we only hear about the benefits of some technologies, but not their significant complications.

It’s time to start talking seriously about mining for rare earth metals.

Read more about the rare earth metals problem at Power-Gen Worldwide.