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Friday, June 22, 2018

The "REEson" for peace with North Korea

MintPress News in Minnesota believes President Trump has a more practical reason for denuking the Korean Peninsula: Rare Earth Elements.

Rare Earth Elements. China controls 95% of the market for these keys to 21st century manufacturing -- and nearly 40 percent of its supply is in North Korea.

The site is very anti-American. Consider these cartoons.

But it is an interesting angle.

"This may not be about condos on North Korean beaches after all. Arguably, the heart of the matter in the Trump administration’s embrace of Kim Jong Un has everything to do with one of the largest deposits of rare earth elements (REEs) in the world, located only 150 km northwest of Pyongyang and potentially worth billions of US dollars," the site reported.

The site estimated China's reserves at 55 million tons, which includes 20 million tons in North Korea.

However, the United States has 13 million tons of REE deposits that remain largely unmined because China used subsidies to lock up the market. And with no economic incentive to look for more reserves, we really don't know the potential the United States has.

The idea that this is the reason for President Trump seeking peace is far-fetched but the site did a service by showing there is potential for the North Korean economy. South Korea, however, would be the best candidate to help North Korea develop its industry.


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  1. Agree, Big D. Let the SoKo’s take the lead. Good first step towards reunification.

    BTW, Rare Earth was a really good unsung band. Celebrate is a helluva song.

    1. Agreed. South Korea will/should benefit enormously in many dimensions from normalized NK relations, or unification.

    2. "I Just Want to Celebrate"

      "Celebrate" was Three Dog Night.

  2. Actually, Japan struck the rate-earth gusher back in April.

  3. One of the traits of genius is that sometimes it doesn't seem genius ex post facto. What Trump did with NK now seems common sense and you wonder why it wasn't done years ago.

    1. Scientists of various stripes call simplicity "elegance". I think they use this word because of the inherent bias they have toward complexity, and to use the word "simple" would throw too much complimentarity toward people they consider rubes.

      Thus an elegant solution to a problem, or an elegant experiment that reveals new information or concepts, is in reality a simple one that was previously overlooked. By geniuses, no less.

    2. Or the undefinable concept of "Quality," as in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?" - Elric

  4. And here from your headline I thought that you meant that the purpose was to trigger the "Reeee" brigades (

  5. I was thinking Syngman Rhee...

  6. Ah, sweet Mr. Rhee of Life....

  7. The MintPress article is a load of rubbish.

    I work with REE amongst other metals. The largest deposit is Olympic Dam in Australia, which contains about 80 million tonnes of REE. You rarely hear of it because Olympic Dam is also a very large copper, uranium and gold mine, so REE are well down the list. If the operator ever bothered to extract REE from the ore the prices would collapse instantly.

    Then there is the vast, if a bit smaller, Kvanefjeld deposit in Greenland. It alone has enough REE to supply the world for centuries.

    The only reason China has the REE market sewn up is because processing REE ore is very complex. It needs about 120 separate and different solvent extraction steps since the 17 RE elements are so similar in chemistry. China has lots of cheap chemical engineers, so they can afford to run a supremely complex SX circuit with a large team of chem eng people whereas in the US those chem eng graduates cost big bucks.

    REE are not rare. Gupta lists over a hundred known but undeveloped deposits.

    This whole story is just like the steel tariffs one. China undercuts the US on processing of steel, aluminium, copper...and REE. Trump sees the strategic vulnerability this opens up.

    That is another story. But as I said, that MintPress article is a load of fluff and nonsense.

    1. China has lots of cheap chemical engineers, so they can afford to run a supremely complex SX circuit with a large team of chem eng people whereas in the US those chem eng graduates cost big bucks.

      Mechanical Turk

  8. Good luck opening any mine in the US these days. I retired from Montana's biggest private employer last year, a palladium/platinum mine. There is no way on God's green Earth that this mine would be permitted now even though it has been a bonanza for our area for 30 years now.