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This expertise in government and services can be exported. Indeed, Australian banks are already operating in China and Australian experts have advised in a range of areas, for example, in urban development and health financing. The development of manufacturing in Asia has been a major reason for Australia's failure to compete in many areas of manufacturing.

As China moves up the value chain, more industries will be subjected to this competition. This may be ameliorated by a shift in the focus of the Chinese economy away from exporting to domestic consumption. Australia has niches where it can compete with the best in the world. It will be important to retain what lead it has in education and in the sophistication of the workforce.

Australia relies heavily on foreign investment. On the other hand, there is evidence that Chinese businesses are keen to invest in Australia, particularly in infrastructure projects. Australian businesses have benefited from low interest rates worldwide which have been driven by the large amount of Chinese savings available for lending, both directly to Australia, but also internationally. As these are reduced, interest rates will rise, putting downward pressure on the profits of Australian businesses, revenue and growth.

While Chinese savings will probably remain high enough to fund domestic expansion, there will be room for Australian companies to invest in China. This would be a useful way for business to learn about Chinese tastes and preferences, as well as business culture. One great advantage Australia has in industries providing sophisticated goods and services is the large number of Australian speakers of Mandarin.

Another is the base of knowledge and contacts built up through the trade in resources. Yttrium Y and scandium Sc , though not lanthanoids, have some properties common to lanthanoids.

Rare earths: Is there a case for government intervention?

A look at the electronic structure provides some explanation for the similarities between REEs. A brief and simplified primer on the general electronic structure of atoms is provided to help with the discussion.


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Electrons occur at specific quantum level inside of atoms with levels being numbered sequentially from 1. An electron will spin in an orbital of a specific shape such as s , p , d , and f around the nucleus of the atom, while maintaining its energy level. Each orbital accommodates up to two electrons spinning in opposite directions. The energy level of an electron is a function of both the quantum level and orbital. Generally, the higher the energy level of an electron, the farther it is from the nucleus of the atom.

The electronic structure of lanthanum atomic number 57 is [Xe]5 d 1 6 s 2 , which means that it has 3 electrons beyond the closest stable form, that of element xenon. These 3 outer electrons are as follows: 1 electron in energy level 5 d and 2 electrons in energy level 6 s. Outer electrons are important as they can be dislodged for chemical bonding. The valence electrons those available for bonding for an element can change based on conditions. Cerium is next in the periodic element, with atomic number Its electronic structure is [Xe]4 f 2 6 s 2.

The electrons in the 4 f orbital then steadily increase, and almost sequentially, to 14 as one moves along the periodic table 10 all the way to lutetium atomic number These electrons happen to be placed in a part of 4 f orbital that is well protected from neighboring orbitals. Additionally, despite the increase in electrons, the ionic radii do not increase, as is common for non-REEs.

The electronic structure also explains some of the other properties. Pairing of electrons is initiated once the 4 f orbital is half-filled at gadolinium. As pairing occurs more and more, magnetic moment reduces all the way to lutetium, which has no magnetic moment. Elements lanthanum atomic number 57 through gadolinium atomic number 64 are considered LREEs and have unpaired electrons ranging from 0 to 7, respectively.

Yttrium is included in the HREE due to similarities in some properties. Scandium is in neither category.

An alternate classification 14 of the REE splits them into light lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, and promethium , medium samarium, europium, and gadolinium , and heavy REEs terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, lutetium, scandium, and yttrium.

As with other metals, the supply chain of rare earths involves four basic stages. The first stage is exploration, i. The second stage is the act of mining including obtaining permits. These two stages are very similar for all mineral sources. The third stage processing can be very simple or very complicated based on the minerals being targeted.

How China Could Shut Down America’s Defenses

For rare earths, this stage is very complicated and consists of two phases: concentration and separation. The metal is produced from the compounds in the fourth stage of rare earth production, though it may also be alloyed with other elements depending on intended use. The United States Geological Survey produces annual statistics on various aspects of rare earths in its Minerals Yearbook. The global production of rare earths have increased dramatically since the s Fig.

The United States was the primary producer of rare earths until the s, when China first started producing rare earths. As recently as , when it produced mt, the United States was the leading producer of rare earths outside of China.

Neodymium Is In Demand And China Controls Its Supply

Mountain Pass is the largest known rare earth deposit in the United States. Figure 1. Historical production of rare earths.


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  • The United States consumed 16, mt of rare earths in The details on REE use are given in Table 3. Table 3. Pattern for rare earths use in the United States in Obtaining reliable REE-related reserve or production data from China is difficult 19 and, therefore, it is not clear if the official figures of China include rare earths that are illegally produced. The world production went down to , mt in from , mt in The countries that produced rare earths in besides China are Australia 14, mt , Russia tons , India mt , Brazil , and others less than mt total. China, Brazil, and Russia have the most declared rare earth reserves at 44, 22, and 18 million metric tons Mmt , respectively, while the US reserve stands at 1.

    Thus, a lack of reserve does not mean a lack of minerals. It simply means that there has not been sufficient due diligence, or that a deposit is not feasible economically at a given price. China is also a major user of rare earths, though the use is primarily for the products it manufactures for the export market. REEs are not rare Figs.

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    Yet, they are times more abundant than gold. It is worthwhile to compare the crustal abundance concentration of the REE 85— parts per million with that of zinc 70 parts per million and copper 55 parts per million. While not rare relative to many other commonly mined elements, deposits of REEs that are large enough and concentrated enough to mine economically are very rare. The REE is a group of 17 elements and, therefore, the individual concentrations are much lower.

    Then There Were None: Chinese Demand for Critical Materials in the Coming Decades

    The few locations where REE concentrations are high are those that have become mine sites. Figure 2. REE deposits in the Americas and Greenland. Figure 3. REE deposits in the rest of the world. Table 4. Estimated crustal abundance of REEs. In a typical mine, the commodity of interest is often locked in a specific mineral.


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