Feeds

Australia to world: Ploughman, dig our rare earths

Maybe it's time to call them 'slightly rare earths, courtesy of supply and demand'?

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Last year, the world noticed with more than a little trepidation that China was hoarding rare earths.

The Middle Kingdom owns an awful lot of the world's known retrievable deposits of Scandium, Yttrium, Europium and Erbium that are often used in minute-but-critical quantities inside all manner of gadgets, and had made it rather hard for other nations to get their hands on them. China also conducted something of a go-slow on the mining front, keeping rare earths in the ground rather than letting them reach the market.

Such was the concern about China's behaviour, which saw the nation mine slowly to keep supply low and prices high, that the World Trade Organisation was called in to set things to rights.

The WTO may not have been needed, because as we've previously noted , China's attempts to control the global market didn't work out as planned, largely because it was not the only entity to spot a likely increase in demand for rare earths. Those other entities got their mines up and running, got product to market and gave suppliers alternatives that made China's plan redundant.

Enter Australia, which last week emitted a document titled Critical commodities for a high‑tech world: Australia’s potential to supply global demand (PDF) that says the island nation is home to lots of rocks that will interest gadget-makers and others who like rare earths and other useful stuff for making high-tech stuff.

For rare earths, the report says Australia possesses deposits in the uppermost category of potential.

That assessment is partly based on an assessment of global demand for resources that includes ratings for risks to supply. Australia's political stability means it is a reliable supplier, so it may be that the nation's rare earths deposits aren't stellar but that the likelihood of steady supply is very high.

Whatever the likelihood of rare earths coming from Australia to the world, it's important to look at the report through the prism of Australia suffering as investment in mines for gas, coal and iron ore declines markedly, in line with global prices for the first two commodities. That investment slowdown has helped to slow Australia's whole economy. Anything that shows Australian mining has a stonking future, as this report does, plays well domestically.

The source of the report: Geoscience Australia (GA), the geoscientific data collection agency for Australia's federal government, also has a barrow to push. GA maintains a remarkable archive of geoscientific data: its Canberra data store holds many petabytes of recently-replatformed tapes and is often held up as an exemplar of how to manage data so it is accessible, not just protected. While the agency can be justifiably proud of that asset, it's natural for it to talk it up, and the report does that to a degree.

Whether actual miners can translate the data mining in the report into actual mines is therefore uncertain.

Perhaps the best reason for that uncertainty was divined by Mark Twain, who is reported once to have defined a mine as “a hole in the ground with a liar on top.” ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.