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US steps up efforts to limit China’s control of critical minerals (mining.com)
97 points by jonbaer 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

It is reasonable to have a second source for everything you need. Also if this takes off and the trade war ends at some point it will drive down prices which is always good. This will also drive the tech needed to mine and refine the materials. An example would be the shale gas production in the US. When it stated the tech said you had to be at $80-100 per barrel and now it is as low at $30 (for good or bad).

They should also set up a national reserve of that stuff. It's practically the new oil, your econ halts.

If they exist in friendly countries, and they do, then it's just a matter of setting up the infrastructure. So what it costs, say, $1.8, more per smartphone?

There is a strategic cache. It does not seem large enough to sustain consumer production. In timescales where only consumer production matters I think the market is self correcting. I apologize, I can not find the source atm, but it is an Army report.

Not sure it would matter, since we wouldn’t have the infra to make 100mil iPhones a year to utilize the mineral reserve. Manufacturing is sooooo much bigger than the raw materials

A strategic cache is typically set up not to support normal economic activities or consumer manufacturing, but war time supplies of military equipment.

As I recall, the US strategic oil reserve was tapped by Clinton, Bush, and Obama and various times, specifically to support normal economic activities.

Which they would probably not have done if they had expected a (conventional) war any time soon.

The US has a huge rare earths mine in California.[1] Great technology. Non-polluting. Even the Sierra Club signed off. Bankrupted by cheap rare earths from China. Then, when rare earth prices went back up, hurt by Trump's tariffs. The current management hopes to be self-sufficient by next year, not needing to ship to or from China.

[1] https://www.scmp.com/business/commodities/article/3011687/ca...

Wouldn't tariffs help a U.S. domestic rare earth mine? Unless the assumption is that China imports the majority of global rare earth production, even after being a huge rare earth producer.

In response to Trump's tariffs, China imposed tariffs. So they can't export. Mountain Pass only does basic processing right now; further refining requires a plant that's still being built. So they were exporting to China.

Tariffs only motivate big, long-term projects if you're sure the tariffs will be around for a while. If they're just a temporary bargaining point, building giant plants isn't a safe bet.

And after the trade wars are over, the new motto will be Reaganesque "trust but diversify". And everyone (with the possible exception of China) will be better off because of that.

Depending on how far "trust but diversify" goes, some countries could be worse off (OPEC would be harmed by a serious effort at energy source diversification, US by currency diversification, Netherlands by diamond supply chain diversification, China by manufacturing diversification, etc.). Whether they will be better or worse off in the end depends on how much external near-monopolies hurt them, versus how much their own cornering of a market helps them. China would likely lose out because manufacturing is such a large component of the Chinese economy, but it is not obvious that all other countries would gain.

By "everyone" I meant "everyone involved in the current trade war", e.g. US government, businesses and China (there's no differentiation there between government and businesses at the moment). I don't see why the US should care about not hurting the Netherlands or OPEC countries at its own expense. I was under impression the Netherlands have a functioning government and can stand for themselves. Same with OPEC countries.

A major problem with mining rare earth minerals in the USA is the 1983 legislation to manage the Thorium that comes along with the RE ores.

So, just as important is Senator Rubio's legislation to set up a "Thorium Bank" as a cooperative to transfer the liability from the miners to the bank who will store it for a wee fee and make it available at cost to the co-op.

This will also create a "guaranteed stream" of rare earth minerals to all involved.

Apparently, foreign governments and companies will do all the funding. Which is nice.

(Although given Hauwei's recent problems with US suppliers, I think foreign government might not put much stock in the 'guaranteed' bit)


The USGS maintains information on the source and risks for various resources we use, at their National Mineral Information Center:


I attended a public talk in 2017 at USGS where someone from the NMIC explained the kind of information they gathered:


Indeed, many of our strategic minerals come from unreliable partners. The US doesn't produce much of that stuff internally for economic and ecological reasons. However, potential internal sources for some (not all) are kept mothballed in case we need to switch to them.

It was really interesting watching how geopolitics influences local industrial decisions.

Plenty in Australia, drill baby drill!

Southern California too. I wouldn't worry too much about it medium/long term. The conditions in Inner Mongolia make for cheap prices because they come from loose clay.

Probably also from cheap labor too.

Good. China is anti-democratic and a persistent threat to Western Democracies.

Maybe so, but please don't post unsubstantive comments here, especially not ones that take threads further into political or national flamewars.


Interesting to see where YCombinator stands on this. I assume you are an official moderator on HN?

Correct, dang is a HN moderator. This is a tech news website, and obviously politics and technology do intermingle, but let's not make a sensitive situation worse by encouraging tribal thinking.

Being clear about and resistance against totalitarianism and isn't making it worse. That's old chestnut that gets trotted out a lot -- it just isn't true.

I am, but that comment says nothing about "where Y Combinator stands" on anything except whether HN users should follow the HN guidelines. We stand for yes.


Mentions of China and the US could be swapped in that paragraph, the only thing out of line would be the population estimate.

Let's try that:

"China does not tolerate any competing power structures. The chances of US to fall in line with 300 million people is not that high. This trade war is never going to end until US is reduced to such a level that it can no longer fight and gives up and joins the world order as a subordinate state."

That doesn't seem to make much sense.

The current "world order" is the American authored post World War II international regime. UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO, and the Petro-Dollar are all made in USA. China was expected to join this order without ruffling American leadership feathers.

My impression has long been that the Western strategists that decided to raise China from its dysfunctional state and jump start it as an industrial and economic power were gambling that the ruling Communist Party of China would lose its grip on the Chinese once the Chinese masses got a taste of Western quality of life and exposed to Western culture. They also likely hoped that Chinese ruling elite and their children would be willing to trade their political hegemonic grip on the Chinese nation with a seat at the international 1%'s table.

That didn't work out, so now we have an administration that (at least superficially as communicated to us plebes via "twitter") is bent on dismantling the very same global structures that are the foundation of "Pax Americana" cum "American Empire".

>They also likely hoped that Chinese ruling elite and their children would be willing to trade their political hegemonic grip on the Chinese nation with a seat at the international 1%'s table.

And how very naive they were! Instead what we got is a Chinese Elite with a seat at the international 1%'s table, using that power to continue ruling China as they see fit. Who could've seen that coming?

>That didn't work out, so now we have an administration that (at least superficially as communicated to us plebes via "twitter") is bent on dismantling the very same global structures that are the foundation of "Pax Americana" cum "American Empire".

If we have an "Empire", then why don't we get paid like one? The Imperial comparison has some logical foundations in there, but if we really did run a global "Empire" then I'd expect everyone to shell out some cash every once in a while for things like keeping major shipping lanes generally open and safe. Perhaps we have an Empire and don't know it, or don't have the guts to act like one.

> If we have an "Empire", then why don't we get paid like one?

I sympathize with the frustration you express and the cognitive disconnect you are experiencing. I live in New York City, "the Empire State", where if the subway lines work it is a good day. It is decidedly 3rd world.

This term "empire" was first tacked on US by the British. I don't recall the name of the wanker in question but there was an English chap ("historian") who did the corporate media circus rounds a bit after 9/11 urging us to look to the British Empire as an example on "how to run an empire". Someone with access to LexisNexis can likely dig up the provenance of that appellation.


My own pet theory, based on highly consistent historical precedents, is that the empire of the day is recognizable by their architecture. Now if some aliens were to scope out various cities on this planet, most certainly NY and the rest of US look like yesterday's news. But then look at London, Paris, and major cities in China.

It is a Banker's Empire. [We're the muscle.]

Yep, can’t find a way to disagree. The last time I was in London I got this weird feeling, walking around and looking at beautiful old buildings with “modern” additions seemingly growing out of them like a cancer.

“Banker’s Empire” is apt. I just wish the muscle got paid more for it.

avocado4 17 days ago [flagged]

If China stops harvesting organs from Uyghurs, harassing foreign companies with arbitrary law enforcement, dumping fentanyl in Europe and the US, blocking foreign online services, manipulating currency, stealing IP, building out Orwellian monitoring infrastructure at home and abroad, forcing joint ventures, waging cyber attacks against every other nation, murdering families of reporters, dumping trash in the oceans, building fake islands in neighbors' territory, cheating in every agreement it signs on to, and giving speeches about literal ethnic supremacy of Han race during politburo meetings, it would be a good start for integrating with the rest of the global community peacefully. Until then it makes sense to use multilateral economic pressure from global community on the CPC. And no, "what about Murica bad" is not a valid way to address any of the mentioned concerns. Those are global problems, not US problems. Nobody wants to go back to mercantilism from 1800s.

Please don't take HN threads further into nationalistic flamewar. They're all the same, all wretched, and all break the site guidelines.


Edit: we've had to ask you this several times before, and several times before that with a previous account. Would you please stop doing this so we don't have to ban you? (No, we're not secretly communists or spies, and yes, someone doing this with opposite politics would get moderated the same way.)

I've been doing business in China for over 20 years as an Asia Pacific leader in cyber consulting. HQ in the US always pushed hard to take market share in China. These execs are like deers blinded by headlights. The actual market in China for foreign companies is miniscule. In my experience and anecdotally from all my peers in non cyber firms, China is a huge time, money, energy time sink and ethical / compliance minefield. Although we did succeed with very large deal with a GSIB Bank the project ended up being negative margin due to outrageous complications. On several occasions I had to pull consultants off client site due to verbal abuse and profanity from the client. In another instance I was literally offered to win a client deal if a certain red Porsche was magically delivered in his wives name. It's the wild wild East.

> if a certain red Porsche was magically delivered in his wives name. It's the wild wild East.

Welcome to China :)

The art of finding a good client in China is all about finding what is in his head.

It's all true that people who earn to be party officials, don't make good company execs, as they try to run companies like their party committees.

If the guy is 50+ he is just a lost cause most of the time

> The actual market in China for foreign companies is miniscule.

That's simply not true. China is a massive market for a huge number of foreign firms. VW has the largest share of the Chinese auto market. Starbucks has thousands of stores in China. Chinese supermarkets are filled with Western brands you'd recognize. I'm not just cherry-picking examples here: you could go sector by sector in the Chinese economy and see massive foreign investment in many of them.

Thanks for that info I’m not familiar with non tech based firm performance and I should have been more specific.

For Tech, the % gap between real and perceived opportunity is far wider than any other country in Asia Pacific.

Note that I worked for NASDAQ listed companies with Sarbanes Oxley compliance requirements. A large % of opportunities outright non-compliant (e.g., wanting a Porsche).

Another frequent client requirement was warranty terms on consulting engagements. That might expire 12-24 months after service completion. So you can’t recognise revenue until then.

And finally a signed SOW and terms carries some legal gravity in countries outside China. Scope creep is a huge problem in China, good luck with change requests or referring them to the SOW.

Total opportunities - non compliant deals - delayed revrec deals (or similar issues) - scope creep = minuscule %.

Also I’d argue that revenue and EBIT are better indicators of actual opportunity than total foreign investment.

In firms like mine, China is a “strategic market” where investments are being made because these conditions may change one day. If your competitor is present when that happens and you are not, then HQ will think you failed.


Please don't take HN threads further into nationalistic flamewar. They're all the same, all wretched, and all break the site guidelines.



Tell us more about how Chinese organ harvesting from Falun Gong and undesirable ethnic minorities is fiction.

This could be our generation's cold war. Even back to prosecuting Communist sympathizers (even though China is not Communist)

What exactly is it then?

Why should we not take the CCP's description of their own system of government at face value?

2019 China is not like anything else ever seen before. No one could have predicted it. It's just a unique place.

> Why should we not take the CCP's description of their own system of government at face value?

Because it's a government of lies.

So you believe that the label "Communist" is a deception? Akin to their inflation of economic indicators?

More of a tradition. China is clearly a free market economy in most important ways. Though with an amoral state calling all the important shots.

They have to keep calling the system "Communist" because that is tradition. That's all.

>China is clearly a free market economy in most important ways

>An amoral state calling all the important shots

Help me understand how these statements are not contradictory?

a) Chinese citizens are more or less free to start a company that makes and sells widget X, and freely compete with anyone and everyone else making and selling X, for almost any X. That's the free-market economy part.

b) For some values of X, or for some strategic Chinese goals related to X, the Chinese government has opinions. They may ask the company to do (or refrain from doing) certain things. When this happens, the owner of the company needs to do as they're told, or bad things will happen to them. That's the amoral state calling shots part.

The lines are not the traditional all-of-society-must-fall-into-one-category-or-the-other capitalism vs. communism, but the boundaries are pretty clear.

There is certainly tension/contradiction there, and the state does stomp in, has the final word, and do what they want from time to time.

It is a grotesque hybrid of Marxism, Maoism and Fascism.

This description rings most true for me

They describe themselves as Marxist-Lenninist. Lmfao. OK sure.

Do you also believe that china is a democracy?

"Also"? I haven't stated any of my beliefs.

Ok let’s say China isn’t communist.

what is communist?

Is anything communist?

A Kibbutz maybe?

How about on the nation-state scale?

Was China communist under Mao?

Was the Soviet Union communist?

Castro’s Cuba?

Edit: Any Platonic ideal undergoes distortion when manifested in the material world.

North Korea is a Democratic Republic. North Korea is a totalitarian nightmare. Democratic Republics are therefore bad.

I actually think the No True Scotsman Fallacy, is itself, not a very good argument to make.

We should just pay no attention to what any state calls itself. It's irrelevant.

Communism is both the name of the ideology and of a form of society (well defined in theory), and you need to make a distinction between the two. These countries you mentioned above were (some still are) run by communists, but were never even near communism. Nor they ever claimed that they were, most of the Eastern block countries had socialism in the name in order to make the distinction clear. Socialism is considered a transition into the real communism - which is, from all that we know now, just unachievable utopia at any larger scale than a few hundreds people.

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